Judge orders CYFs to put autistic teen into motel

By Alecia Rousseau at Manawatu Guardian -
Child, Youth and Family were today ordered by a judge in the Palmerston North District Court to place the teen in a motel. Photo / Google
Child, Youth and Family were today ordered by a judge in the Palmerston North District Court to place the teen in a motel. Photo / Google

A 14-year-old autistic boy who spent two nights in a police cell and could only speak to his parents through glass, will be temporarily housed in a motel after a judge ordered Child, Youth and Family to find suitable accommodation.

The boy, whose name is suppressed, appeared before Judge Gerard Lynch in the Palmerston North District Court this morning. This was his third appearance after being arrested last Wednesday evening for assaulting his mother.

Under pressure, the court had initially ordered the teen to stay in Ward 21 before being transferred to the Rahatangi Adolescent Inpatient Unit in Porirua. But, both facilities were unable to take him as he did not fit their criteria.

He was subsequently put into the care of Child, Youth and Family overnight before an empty home without support staff was offered by Idea Services. The 14-year-old spent this past weekend there being cared for by his father.

The court heard this morning the organisation was happy for this arrangement to continue but, Judge Lynch said this was unacceptable. Defence lawyer Tony Thackery said the family were unhappy with the home, which the boy's mother described as unliveable.

Thackery said there were ongoing conversations taking place between intellectual disability service providers as they attempted to source funding, support staff and permanent housing. He said a meeting between Enable and NZ Care was due to take place today or tomorrow to find a more permanent solution.

The boy's mother told the Herald she called police after her son became violent.

"There was just no way of calming him or bringing him back to Earth," she said. "I ended up having to ring the police like I do every other time. This time around, the only option they sort of gave us was that I charge him with assault and that he be arrested . . . he was then in the cells all night."

They visited him the following day at the police station but could only speak to their son through a panel of glass.

"He was just, tears in his eyes. That was a massive thing for him to go through, to be in a police cell, he's never done that before."

Judge Lynch said the young man, his father and any support staff were to be placed in a motel in the short-term and he would review the case again on Wednesday afternoon.

But he added the case could be brought back to court any time.

He said although he had considered putting the boy into the care of Child, Youth and Family's chief executive, he had been persuaded to direct the teen be put into the custody of any person approved by a social worker.

"I appreciate this is a difficult matter... this is a situation where lateral thinking is required," he said. "Decisions made over the next few days will be critical to the future well-being of this young man."

He said police were likely to drop the assault charge once an appropriate placement was found.

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