CFA seeks change of placement for non-verbal child where abuse alleged – 2023vol2#28

An application from the Child and Family Agency (CFA) to change a child’s placement was adjourned in a District Court in a rural town. The CFA was concerned about the welfare of the child, who was non-verbal, and later these concerns included possible child abuse following reports of bruising on the child.

At a previous hearing in the summer, a different judge to the one hearing the case had made a number of directions and a further section 47 application was brought by the CFA. The directions included that monthly updates be provided to the child’s mother. Psychological assessments were to get underway and an application to dispense with the mother’s consent to change the child’s GP had been brought. The assessment service was to provide updates to the social worker who was then to provide them to the mother.

The mother had raised issues regarding unexplained bruises on her child and she made a complaint, following which a CFA investigation commenced and a number of recommendations were made in late summer, following which the mother was to be told and explanations given. In early September the school noticed bruises and the CFA were notified.

In September, the mother had received at once all of the updates from May to September, rather than receiving them monthly. The CFA solicitor acknowledged the shortcoming in relation to that matter.

The court heard that the mother’s consent to undertaken life story work with the child had been dispensed with but the life story work had not commenced. In addition, the mother’s consent had been dispensed with in relation to toilet training but still the training had been put on hold. The CFA solicitor said that the training was paused until a full meeting took place towards end of September. The meeting was scheduled and the mother did not attend.

The mother again noticed bruising and asked the school about them and the school said they had not happened there and the school named the assessment unit.

Following the welfare concerns, which were then reported as suspected child abuse, the Gardaí were notified. The CFA were parallel planning at that stage and looking for another placement. The toilet training did not commence due to the requirement for a full investigation, there was a pause until an update was received.

The CFA said that they were treating the matter seriously and a safety plan was devised.  Any further bruising would be notified to the mother, the CFA and the guardian ad litem (GAL). There were also concerns raised regarding biting and medications.

The solicitor for the mother said that the mother was concerned about all of the information that had been relayed to the court. The monthly reports which were to be provided to the mother each month had all been received together. The service provider had not provided information to the mother. The court was told that communication was a live issue in the case.

The mother’s solicitor said she appreciated that the court was not familiar with the bruising issues but that concerns had been raised since the start. What had commenced as welfare concerns had escalated into concerns of child abuse. There were longstanding concerns regarding the bruising. The mother had raised issues over a sustained period and she did not feel either heard or listened to. Her solicitor said she was eager for the matters to be kept before the court.

The court was told that the HSE were carrying out a psychological assessment which was not yet fully completed but was at an advanced stage.

The GAL gave evidence and he said that there had been earlier reports regarding the bruising which were completed and closed. However, recent reports had triggered further inquiries. The GAL was supportive of the CFA looking for another placement for the child. The court was told that a referral had been completed and issued and an update was awaited.

The judge said that there was a need to move on this case as quickly as possible and listed the case for four weeks’ time.