Application for access by grandmother refused – 2015vol3#24

An access application by the grandmother of a child (A) who was in the care of the CFA was refused by a District Court judge. This was one of a number of applications heard during a day in the District Court in a provincial city.

The grandmother said that it would be nice to see her grandchild more and to take him places that he had never been. The CFA solicitor argued that the grandmother was mixing her own needs with those of her grandchild and made the point that access was the right of the child and not of the adults in A’s life and that A’s interests must always come first. The CFA solicitor pointed out that A had a difficult history and as a result he had complex needs including his deafness and he needed “consistency, structure and supports.”

When the CFA solicitor pointed out that the grandmother had turned up for unannounced access, the grandmother said that she had not intended to be disrespectful. The CFA solicitor said that A was a child who thrived on routine, and when a child comes from a neglectful background, routine and structure were very important. When the solicitor said that A was quiet and “unnerved” after the unannounced access by the grandmother, the judge asked whether the child had verbally expressed any concerns and the solicitor replied that he had not.

The CFA solicitor asked the grandmother whether she was facilitating her son seeing A but the grandmother said that she was not and her son was living in another country. She said she would not jeopardise access with her grandchild by allowing her son to see A.

The solicitor for the CFA said that attempts had been made to increase access between A and the grandmother but this had not been beneficial to the child and it would be better, in the view of the social work department, for the access to be limited to once every two months. The grandmother said that she would like to see him more than that. The social worker also said that the grandmother had become “challenging and confrontational” at A’s communion when she wanted to take him in her car.

A social worker said that her concern was that the grandmother lacked the ability to put the child’s needs first and that she circumvents access arrangements that are in place. She also had concerns about the content of the cards the grandmother sent to A, in that there appeared to be emotional manipulation at play and “guilt-inducing language”. For example, the social worker said that some letters had said “your dad loves you and wants to cuddle you”. The solicitor argued that this type of language was not appropriate where the child appeared to be afraid of his father.

The judge asked the social worker what the child’s views were on the matter and the social worker replied that the child did not speak very directly and was a quiet boy.

In another case a review of a Care Order took place during which it was heard that access of the child with his mother was going well. The CFA solicitor said that there were references in the social work report to risky behaviour on the part of the mother but that the disability service was working with the mother and she also had an advocate. The CFA solicitor said that the mother had access with the child twice a week and a supporter accompanied her each time. She also said that the mother was due to undergo a parenting course tailored to her needs and the early stages of the course indicated that it was going well.

Another review was heard of two boys who were in care until 18. The CFA solicitor said that access was going well in respect of one boy but not the other. The boys had telephone contact with their mother but this had been inconsistent, the social worker said. The mother felt that a psychiatric evaluation of one of the boys might be useful as he had been acting out and had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A date was given for a Care Order hearing in a case where the mother’s alcohol abuse was a problem and the mother was posing a continuing risk to the child, according to the CFA. The child was in care on foot of an Interim Care Order. After an overnight access with the mother the boy had apparently come back to his foster parents and had said that his mother had been drinking and that he had woken up with a stranger in the bed.

The social worker said that the boy had been doing particularly well in his foster placement since access had been changed. She said that he had no extra needs, was a very well-adjusted boy who was very loving in nature but who needed reassurance around his long term care needs. She said that he had asked a lot in recent months whether he would be going home as his mother had said she was getting a new house. The social worker said that the mother was subtly trying to undermine the placement.

The social worker said that the issues, which were present at the time the child had been taken into care, remained the same. The mother was continuing to abuse alcohol, appeared to be homeless and had also been in a relationship with a violent partner, according to a social worker. The social work department had said that the mother was displaying a lack of ability to protect her son while maintaining a relationship with such a violent person. The solicitor for the CFA said that her client was seeking the child’s passport because the foster family may wish to bring him on holiday but also because of a concern that the mother may abduct the child.