Judge appoints solicitor appointed for 16-year-old girl – 2014vol4#25

During a review of a Care Order for a 16 year-old-girl the judge appointed a solicitor to represent her, rejecting the view of the Child and Family Agency that she should have a guardian ad litem. The girl was originally in voluntary care but was now in care on foot of a court order. The court heard that the child’s placement had come to an end and the girl was temporarily residing in a residential centre but would like to return to her previous foster carers’ home.

The social workers did not agree with this proposition however, as they were unsure if it would be in her best interests. The social worker was of the view that a GAL should be appointed but the girl wanted a solicitor to act on her behalf. Under the Child Care Act 1991 both a solicitor and a GAL cannot be appointed simultaneously in respect of a child.

The judge asked the girl about the behaviour that caused her to leave the foster home and the girl replied that she had learnt her lesson. The judge joined the girl as a party to the proceedings, directed the appointment of a solicitor and granted the solicitor discretion in taking instructions. The judge further said that if it seemed that a GAL was needed he might terminate the solicitor and appoint a GAL but “because you are 16 I will do things your way.”

An application for the extension of supervised access with his son by a man with a conviction for sexual assault was among a number of the other applications heard. The mother supported the extension of supervised access as the child enjoys time with the father she said. The judge adjourned the matter pending an assessment of the father.

A review of a Care Order was heard relating to two brothers in care. The judge noted that the boys had been asking about the reasons they came into care and were curious about their mother’s whereabouts and noted that the social work report before him did not refer to that issue at all. The solicitor for the CFA did not know whether that issue had been addressed, she said. The judge read the report and directed that a review of the intellectual levels of the boys take place prior to secondary school to ensure that they had adequate resources. The judge also noted that neither of the boys had expressed a desire to meet their parents.

An Interim Care Order was granted on consent in a case where the parents’ behaviour was becoming a major issue in the case. A social worker gave evidence that she recommended that access between the child and her father be supervised. When the judge asked why the access needed to be supervised the social worker replied that a constant assessment was taking place of the father to “see where he’s at.” The judge directed access to take place and directed the father to call the gardai if mother showed up at access.

Another review of a Care Order took place of a boy who had been in care since he was seven weeks old. The CFA solicitor told the court that the child was very distressed about not seeing his mother, for example he was urinating in a lunch box and kicking it under the bed. He was however doing well at school and was receiving occupational therapy. He is also involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities, the court was told.

The child’s upset at not seeing his mother was compounded by the fact that the other foster children in his house had regular contact with their birth families. The judge noted that the mother had more insight than many people in her situation. The social worker told the judge that she wanted to explore contact with the mother with a hope to establishing some contact rather than none. The judge relisted the matter for three months’ time to see if the mother could take steps to meet the son. The judge observed that it was possible that if mother was now sober and organised she may feel very guilty about her child being in care.

During a review of a Supervision Order the court was asked to allow the mother have a friend with her in court for support. The judge permitted the lady to accompany the mother. The judge joined the girl to proceedings and appointed a solicitor.

An application for a Supervision Order was adjourned where the boy in question had assaulted and threatened his mother. The Judge asked the boy to give an undertaking until the next court date that he would obey the rules in his mother’s house and not smoke inside.

An Interim Care Order was granted on consent for three months. The mother said she would attend addiction meetings and the father was to attend a parenting course. The boy was present in court. The judge asked how the boy was doing and he said he was doing well with his relative. The judge asked the parents to be careful over Christmas.

A review was heard of a Care Order of a teenage girl whose siblings were looking after her in circumstances where the parents were both dead and had alcohol issues preceding their death. All the solicitors present as well as the judge commended the adult siblings in how they had looked after their sister and noted that they too had had a difficult upbringing.