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Voice of the Child: Parents’ Wants vs Children’s Needs

By: Denise Kirwan | Posted on: 22 Nov 2021

District Court Judge Mary Larkin recently held that the wishes and views of a teenage child in care were central to her decision to override the views of his mother regarding his vaccination against Covid-19.

The 15-year-old boy in question expressed his wish to receive the Covid-19 vaccine via his allocated social worker and told her that he would like to have the ability to go to the cinema and into town again.

This article written by Denise Kirwan, Partner, CKT and Saoirse Coughlan, Intern, CKT gives an overview of the case and the Courts ruling.

Background

The teenager, who has a range of medical issues and a mild to moderate intellectual disability, has been in foster care since 2010. The young boy’s life has become limited to his foster home and his respite carers since March of 2020 due to him being rendered ‘more susceptible at developing complications should he contract Covid-19’.

While the child in question does not see his biological parents, his biological mother had expressed that she does not want her child to receive the vaccine.

The case

While listening to the evidence presented to the Court, Judge Larkin asked the social worker assigned to the boy if she believed the boy should be vaccinated to which she responded that it would be in his best interest as the restricted lifestyle he is living is affecting his mental health and that he ‘finds his life very limiting’.

In her judgment, Judge Larkin referred to both the ‘tenor and thrust of all medical data and evidence is that people with underlying needs have greater need to be vaccinated’ and that the age of the boy in question meant that ‘the voice of the child’ in the proceedings had to trump the view of others with different views.

Judge Larkin granted the order authorising Tusla – the Child and Family Agency (CFA) under Section 47 of the Child Care Act 1991 after receiving a report from the teens GP stating that due to his disabilities the boy was “at risk of serious and potentially fatal complications should he contract the Covid-19 infection”.

The Court has used a provision in the Child Care Act to allow the Child and Family Agency proceed with the vaccination process.

Conclusion

This case highlights that the welfare of children in care is paramount and the voice of the child must be heard and taken into account in such decision making by the Court.

The social worker in this case brought an application under section 47 of the Child Care Act 1991 on a question affecting the welfare of a child in care.

If you have any questions relating to this article, please contact a member of our Child Care team

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