Care orders extended where parent had history of drug use and criminality – 2019vol1#34

Care orders were extended in Dublin District Court in respect of four children. The care orders were granted three years ago but there had been difficulties serving the father. The father spent long periods in prison and had been recently released. There was a lack of engagement on the part of the mother. The parents had a history of drug misuse and criminality.

There had been difficulties serving the father with the application. The Gardaí released the last known address of the father after the CFA to persuaded them that a care order hearing was going ahead. The father was served with the application at his last known address. The father participated in the initial three-day care order hearing three years earlier and was aware of the process. He made promises to the judge during the hearing but failed to keep any of them.

The social worker spoke to father on the phone and he indicated that long term orders should not be made. She called to his residence but he was not there.

The solicitor for the CFA said: “We are trying to balance his [the father’s] procedural rights.  He should be given a further short period to engage. Given the time of year, it would be of benefit to the children to have a long-term order to allow them to settle.”

The judge said the father should be sent a letter setting out the intention of the CFA to bring the children into care and if the father wanted to be there he should attend. The letter should include the information that the GAL had been reappointed.

The solicitor said: “I am not looking to push [the matter] on. If he does not get representation, papers will be made available to him.”

The social work team leader said the children ranged in ages from four to nine years. They came to the attention of the CFA in 2013 and there had been limited contact with family since the care order was granted.

The family previously spent a period of time in the United Kingdom and came to the attention of the social work department there. The youngest child, child D, was born in Ireland and received into care at her birth. There were further concerns about the mother’s drug use. The social workers had not been able to work with her to consider a reunification plan. The social worker said neither parent was in a position to care for the children due to their care history, lack of engagement and non-attendance at visits.

The GAL said the purpose of the three-year order was that it was to act as a road map to help the parents re-engage. He said none of the goals of the road map were met. Child A was of concern as he had memory of the parents and life in the United Kingdom. Child A was worried about the review and was afraid he would be returned to the parents. The children were settled and had made massive improvements in care. The GAL said: “[The father] has not engaged or enquired. I believe children should not be piggy backed on to parents who have not engaged.”

The judge said the court was concerned that the father had the opportunity to do what he wanted to do.  Child A should be assured whatever happened, that he would be kept safe.

The care order was extended for a period of one month.

Care Review re-entered

In another case in the same court a child in care review was re-entered. The child had been previously fostered by her paternal grandmother but moved to another placement in the family when the grandmother took ill.

The solicitor for the CFA said there was nothing adverse against the grandmother.  She could not be a long-term foster carer as she no longer felt capable in herself and it was not a case of anyone else telling her she should not be a foster carer. The partner of the father’s brother had been proposed as a foster carer. The solicitor for the CFA said the rules allowed for more tenuous relations to become foster carers. She said: “Whether that is good or bad, she [the proposed foster carer] is emergency approved.”

The judge asked: “What is the connection between the [proposed foster carer] and the child?”

The solicitor for the CFA said: “She [the child] knows her [the proposed foster carer] well and they consider each other friends. She [the child] lives close to the foster carer and would be able to attend the same school.” The child considered the son of the proposed foster carer to be her cousin.

Counsel for the mother said the matter had been re-entered as the child had not been long-term matched. The matter was not re-entered in terms of her change of placement. The mother had regard for the foster carer but had a difficult relationship with the father. The mother recently gave birth to a baby and was engaging in all the tasks associated with a new baby and was not in a position to attend court. Counsel said the mother may consider looking for variation or discharge of the care order.

The solicitor for the father said the father would wish for the child to stay within the family dynamic rather than be taken into an emergency placement.

Given that the child was in a non-approved placement, the GAL was eager to have the assessor to carry out the assessment of the proposed foster carer. The child wanted to stay with the foster carer as she was “happy there and doing well.” The GAL was satisfied that the child was appropriately placed.

The judge said: “The father’s position is he wants the kinship placement in broad terms. The mother has just given birth. There is a period that is recognised in law that she needs to have to make legal decisions. She is entitled to at least six weeks.”

The judge adjourned the matter for clarification as to the identity of the person to carry out the assessment and the timeframe of the assessment.