Adjournment of interim care order hearing to allow mother engage with CFA – 2024vol1#5

The District Court granted a short adjournment of an initial interim care order hearing for four children, with the voluntary care arrangement in place to continue on the mother’s commitment to engage with the Child and Family Agency (CFA).

An emergency care order had been granted in respect of the four children two months previously, having come to the CFA’s attention following a “vicious assault” on the mother perpetrated by the father of the youngest child. He was currently incarcerated for the offence. The court was told the children had been repeatedly exposed to violence, emotional neglect and substance misuse by the parents. There was an elder child who was sadly deceased.

The mother had not been contactable for a number of weeks and had failed to show up for access, nor had she been providing urine samples as previously agreed.

The mother’s barrister accepted her client had not engaged in recent weeks, but had previously provided clean urine samples and had been present in court. She was seeking one final opportunity to re-engage with the social work department. She asked the court to consider adjourning the application for a period of four weeks with a direction that a calendar be provided to her client which would outline in detail what she needed to do.

The mother would commit to attending an addiction service and would also provide urine samples on a weekly basis. She would also agree to the attendance of a key worker at her home once weekly. She said the mother had lost her mobile phone two weeks ago which had led to difficulty in contacting her, but she intended to get a new phone straight away.

The barrister said her client had a number of hurdles to overcome, but if the court allowed the voluntary care arrangement to continue for the next four weeks, this would be one last opportunity to prove herself. If the proposed four-week schedule did not work out, the CFA would be within its right to push for the interim care order and the mother would have “very little to contest at that point.”

Both the CFA solicitor and the solicitor for the guardian ad litem (GAL) said the mother had already been given ample opportunity to engage but had failed to do so. She had attended meetings with the social work department where she had been given a clear plan of what she needed to do and had also been offered significant supports, but she had failed to take any of these up.

The matter was let stand and when it was re-called, the CFA solicitor said agreement had been reached that the voluntary care arrangement could be extended for one month and the ICO adjourned to the same date, on the strict understanding that the mother purchased a mobile phone immediately, remained contactable and submitted urine samples weekly.

The mother’s barrister said her client recognised that although she was a victim, she was not helping herself and knew this was “one last chance” for her.

The judge adjourned the matter for four weeks and said it was critical the mother engaged as best as possible in that timeframe.