Children “not dolls to be thrown around” by the CFA: Mother – 2016vol2#19

The District Court in a regional city granted an application for a care order in respect of two pre-school children until their eighteen birthdays. The children initially entered care under a voluntary arrangement in March 2015 and subsequently remained in care on extensions to an Interim Care Order (ICO). A guardian ad litem (GAL), appointed for the two children in March 2016, was legally represented in these proceedings and supported the Child and Family Agency’s application for a care order.

The respondent in the case was the mother, who was legally represented. The children have different fathers who are have not been involved in their lives since their birth and do not have guardianship rights in respect of the children. The mother has six children, none of whom were in her care at the time of the hearing, which concerned her two youngest children. The court heard the two oldest children were in the full time care of a relative in a private arrangement assisted by the CFA and the two middle children are in foster care under a full Care Order since July 2014.

The legal submissions focused on the mother’s capacity to parent the children. A number of witnesses were called including four social workers, a family support work, a public health nurse, an access work and a psychologist. The mother and the GAL also provide testimony.

Historical care of children already under a care order

The social work team leader who worked with family from 2008 to 2012 provided testimony on historical issues relating to the mother’s care of her third and fourth child. The family first came to her attention given concerns for the mother’s mental health, homelessness and physical abuse of the children. In 2010, the children were placed on the child protection notification system following a child protection conference. At this time the mother and her sons were accessing emergency homeless accommodation. Social worker A said the boys displayed behaviour management and anger issues. For example the seven years old child was described as being out of control with behaviour that was very extreme for a child of his age. The mother was “unable to manage the children’s behaviour”.

The HSE, then charged with child protection, put in place a support plan and provided respite care, supports with access, parenting skills, addressing homelessness and at one point family support.

During August 2010, the boys were taken into care under an Emergency Care Order (ECO) due to a deterioration of the mother’s mental health including suicidal ideation, who sought help from her GP. The mother was heard to say she had “murder on her mind” and was “going down to the river with the boys”. Following the ECO an Interim Care Order was secured and extended six times. The boys were placed outside of their home county which made it difficult for her to attend access visits.

In 2011 the HSE undertook a parental capacity assessment. This gave rise to concerns. The social worker said: “There is no doubt that she loved her boys very much but we were concerned about her capacity”. During 2011 there was a positive change in the mother but in the opinion of the social worker it didn’t come up to the level needed for her to have the capacity to parent the boys on a “full time basis”. The mother told the social worker that she was not able to give the boys the stability they needed.

The social worker said the mother had capacity to look after the boys’ basic care needs but had difficulty in meeting their emotional needs and responding to their behavioural difficulties. She said the HSE continually renewed the parenting support package to improve her capacity and help her gain insights. Referring to a reunification plan, she said there were tasks that she did not follow through on, such as attending access with the boys and addressing her housing difficulty.

Under cross examination the social worker confirmed that there was no finding of psychiatric illness or formal diagnose of mental illness on the part of the mother and she was referred by a psychiatrist back to her GP. Counsel for the mother said that the foster family also found the boys’ behaviour challenging.

A family support project worker employed by a non-governmental organisation, who worked with the mother since 2008, also provided evidence on the mother’s historical parenting. She said they provided the mother with tailored supports including seeing her on a weekly basis over a five year period. These weekly visits sometimes increased to a five-day-a-week visit when they called to bring a child to the crèche. She detailed four occasions on which the mother made a self-referral to their service including to support her in bonding with a child or to seek parenting and practical supports.

She described the first referral the mother made in 2008 when she was homeless, at this time the mother’s main issue was her poor mental health. The project work said the mother found it difficult to respond to her children’s behaviour and her “emotional availability to the boys was limited”. For example, she witnessed an incident in homeless accommodation where one of the children became “extremely anger” and urinated in the kitchen sink. The children “didn’t seem to have boundaries” and “how the mum responded [to the child’s behaviour] was a concern, she was very challenged by it”.

The project worker said the mother needed support to learn the importance of play and attachment, to manage her children’s behaviour and to set rules or boundaries. At one and half years of age one of the children was playing aggressively, cursing and spitting. Her mental health was not an issue in later referral, but other issues were of concern included the mother allowing a baby to sleep in her car seat despite being advised against this as a practice, the boy’s development and health and the fact that he spent a lot time in a small flat with little interaction with other children.

The family support worker said that “as children get older the child’s needs change and the parents need to be able to adapt”. The mother’s ability to adapt was questionable, she was always able to meet some of her children’s needs but there had also been areas of her child’s behaviour that she was unable to manage. There had been some positive change, her mental health was stable, she had secured and maintained a family home for a number of years and was managing her rent and paying back arrears, she was showing more warmth towards the youngest children. She noted that the mother had successfully undertaken daily tasks as part of a programme to support her child’s speech and language difficulties and had completed a parenting programme.  She said the children were always clean and fed and she always had a clean and tidy home. The project worker said she “always enjoying working with her” and that she was “very well intentioned. She loves her children.”

Describing the mother’s engagement, the family support worker said she had taken on some of the learning. For example in relation to the importance of play and stimulation for the children, she was initially afraid of the children damaging the house by getting paint on the walls, but she later reflected on this and set up a table for the children to use for painting. At times the mother engaged well while at other times she removed herself depended on her humour on the given day. She said there is “gap between what to she wants to do and what she is able to do”. However, she said the mother’s ability to stimulate her children’s development and to meet their medical needs did not improve despite significant support from the non-governmental organisation and others.

The project worker listed the mother’s strengths saying that she had seen examples of warmth and love to her children; the mother wants to learn to manage the eczema; she supervised her children when they played outside, going against the advice of her family. She summed up the challenges by saying that she hadn’t made progress in managing her children’s behaviour, in meeting their medical needs and in understanding their developmental needs. She was not able to connect how her parenting style impacted on her child.

The removal of the children into care

A second social worker, who submitted the care application, told the court she began working with the mother in late 2013 after the two youngest children were placed on the child protection notification system. This followed a child protection conference held on foot of referrals for non-attendance at medical appointments, concerns about the development and health needs of the children and allegations of physical abuse. Social worker B put in place supports including a crèche placement for one of the children and co-ordinated the multiple professionals involved with the family.

Social worker B described the mother has having “little insight into the needs of her children” and said “she continues to feel there are no difficulties with her parenting skills and ability”. The social worker “had and still has concerns regarding her parenting ability”. A Supervision Order was secured in April 2014 due to the lack of engagement with the social work department. It was “hoped that the mum would see the seriousness of the situation” and indeed she did engage better after the Supervision Order. The mother continued to need support to care for the children, for example, if a worker called to bring the boy to crèche he went “but if someone didn’t pick him up he didn’t go”.

In response to a question as to why the CFA did not move quicker to take the young child into care knowing all the concerns about the behaviour difficulties of the middle children, social worker B said that the mother had made positive changes in her life, she was still engaging with her two children in care and her housing and her mental health were no longer of concern. A decision was made to support the mother as far as possible.

In late 2014 one of her older children was injured in a violent attack, the aftermath of which was witnessed by the two younger children. The mother’s attention was now focused on supporting that child’s recovery, the child spent a month in hospital. The mother sought support for the two younger children from the social workers so she could concentrate on the needs of the injured child. The children were placed in respite care on a shared care arrangement.

The issue of the mother’s treatment of her son’s eczema and a concern regarding unintentional medical neglect was a reoccurring theme during the hearing. The family support worker said the mother told her she found it challenging to keep her son’s eczema under control, including giving him daily baths as she only had a sink. The mother didn’t feel supported by her GP and asked the GP to refer her son to a dermatologist. The GP ignored the request, leading her to changed GPs. It was acknowledged to the court that eczema is very difficult to treat.

The public health nurse, who worked with the family from 2013, testified to the mother’s difficulties in caring for her son’s eczema. On one occasion during a joint visit with the social worker, the nurse found the boy extremely distressed from his eczema, he was crying all the time and scratching at this skin, and needed to be brought to the doctor urgently. But the mother did not bring him as quickly as suggested as her own doctor was not available.

The nurse said she “didn’t think she totally understood his needs”. Social worker B wrote to the GP in 2014 that she had found the child’s skin to be “red raw”. A discussion took place on whether or not the mother could follow the doctor’s instructions correctly about managing the eczema, including the order in which ointments are applied and the allegation that the foster carer tied mittens over the boys’ hands.


On the date in late 2014 when the child was moved respite care, social worker B described his eczema as the “worst I had ever seen it, infected, sore, he had been scratching it.” Two professionals described how when the boy was in the shared care arrangement it became noticeable that on many occasions his eczema improved when in foster care and became inflamed when at home despite both families following the same medical regime. The mother was confused by this as she believed she was treating it as best she could and found it hard to discuss with the foster carers.

Two social workers and the public health nurse said the mother had a pattern of missed medical appointments for her child’s health needs. The mother disputed the allegations of missed appointments and missed phone calls, and said in some cases there was a clash of appointments. The public health nurse stated that she found it difficult to reach the mother by phone and so made weekly unannounced home visits, including a very exceptional rate of ineffective visits. She was receptive to the nurse calling and to her advice.

Social worker B gave evidence that the boy’s behaviour was “out of control”, there were issues of road safety, he was difficult to control in an outside setting, he wouldn’t hold hands or take direction and had “extra-ordinary temper tantrums” when his mother left the room. She said the mother’s parenting capacity varied and depended on her mood on the day. She said “there is a clear bond and warmth between her and [her children]”.

Similar to the evidence of other witnesses, social worker B said the mother struggled to understand the children’s behaviour and used food a management tool. She was able to provide for their basic care but her ability to meet their emotional needs, warmth, and consistency was a concern. She required a lot of support in relation to access and modelling and struggled to engage with supportive suggestions, seeing them as a criticism.

In spring 2015 following a child protection conference, the social worker talked to the mother about the eczema, the children’s chaotic presentation and concerns of symptoms of neglect such as picking food off the floor. She consented to a voluntary care arrangement full time.

Another consideration at that time was that the GP had recommended the boy undergo a programme of treatment for his eczema which required the boy having clear skin for three weeks prior to the programme commencing. The CFA did not think going between the two placements was working in the management of the boy’s eczema. She was also concerned about the mother not letting the boy go to crèche, poor boundary setting and the young girl’s unusual gravitation towards men, which the GAL said may be an indicator of insecure attachment.

A parenting capacity assessment was commissioned and following its completion in June 2015 a decision was made to apply for a Care Order for the two children. The CFA agreed to put in place the recommended services by the psychologist and for example made a submission for an advocate to support the mother in this process. However, the mother declined this service.

Within the initial six to nine months of being in full time care the children began to thrive. Social worker B said “two different children emerged” giving the consistency in their care and structure being put in place.

The mother denied many of the allegations made and objected to the hearing going back into the history and connecting this case to her care of the middle two children. She said has made changes as she had “learnt hard the last time with my other children.” She got a flat, met her appointments and brought the children to school. Referring to asking the social workers for respite care she said the “saddest thing I ever did was ask them for help.” She said there was no problem, the social worker “was the one who had the problem”, describing her as a “demon sent from hell”.

The mother said: “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but at the end of the day the HSE has the power, they can do what they want.”

Progress of the child since entering care

Social worker C, the foster social work team leader, described the children having had three care placements in a year and a half since entering full time state care. They were originally in shared respite care then they were placed in full time foster care. Their longest placement which lasted from April 2015 to January 2016 came to a sudden end due to the mental health needs of one of the foster carers which came to light through a referral from the crèche. A decision was made to move the children and to do that quickly.

The children were dropped off at the crèche and were expecting to go home to the foster placement afterwards where a surprise party was planned. Instead the children were picked up and brought to a new placement and have had no further contact with their foster carers since.

The judge said this is “clearly not good practice”, he said it was “unacceptable” and “irresponsible” that the children were brought from their crèche to a new placement without notice to the children or the foster carer in circumstances where the children were meant to return to the foster home for a party. He said there was no immediate danger and the transfer should have been handled in a more sensitive manner.

Social worker B reported that the children were stressed by the moves and how they occurred and the mother said she was not happy with the placement moves and that her children were “not dolls to be thrown around”. The psychologist said he “abhorred what happened” and couldn’t understand the decisions taken by the CFA. He said he has “great concerns about the fact the children have experienced three placements. They have been pulled around in the most horrific way”. The GAL said the children needed support to help them understand the sudden move from this foster home.

The second foster placement was an emergency respite placement as they needed to be “moved quickly”. The children immediately settled into the placement, they improved even more and asked could they stay. However this was not possible and they were moved three weeks later to a placement with a private fostering agency as no other option was available.

Although they had difficulties settling in social worker C reported that the children are “doing fine” now. The CFA is exploring another placement if this foster placement does not work out. Social worker B and the GAL expressed concern that the current placement may not be able to meet the boy’s needs including managing his temper tantrums; it is also located in another county far from their mother. Social worker C said “if the court decides to make an order, no stone will be left unturned until we find them a placement”. The GAL recommended that the CFA independently assess the viability of the current placement and a change is needed that they put in place a transition plan. This recommendation was accepted by the CFA.

The boy was described as having complex needs and requiring a lot of emotional support. Social worker B said he has “a long way to go” but while he could still have outbursts they were no longer on the level observed in 2014 where he would “go purple in the face” and be “screaming and roaring”. His speech and language had improved but he still had a language delay. The GAL also expressed concern about the boy’s behaviour and development.  She noted that he must cope with discomfort and pain associated with his eczema which means he cannot get on with other developmental tasks.

The girl was described by the GAL as a “beautiful, jolly, endearing young girl” and the psychologist said she was reaching her milestones and was easier to manage. The two children have a very close bond, and the boy is very protective of his sister.

The GAL drew attention to his recommendation that a full developmental assessment of the children is essential and “quite urgent”. She said once assessed there would be a clear sense of where they are at developmentally and then recommendations could be made. The psychologist said he was “hugely concerned that the report is nearly one and a half years old and nothing has happened in the lives of these very young children”.

The mother’s parenting capacity

The family support worker described the mother as having low self-esteem and confidence and a history of poor relationships and said she was in need of on-going support to meet her and her children’s needs. She had a limited social network and her family of origin provided support and then withdrew it. One worker said the mother’s main consistent support was from a non-governmental organisation and the CFA.

Social worker B noted that she is a “very vulnerable woman, in many senses, her past, her family history, her inconsistency in the support she has.” She said a planned move to supported housing would have been very positive giving her wrap-around supports but she understood the mother’s reason for refusing this accommodation given the danger posed by an on-going family dispute.

Following the two youngest children entering care under a voluntary arrangement in March 2015, the CFA commissioned a wide-ranging parenting capacity assessment. The assessment was carried out in May 2015 by a consultant clinical psychologist, a specialist in child protection, who was called to give evidence.

With the caveat that the assessment was only a snap shot in time and was not a full examination of someone’s life, the psychologist set out the mother’s strengths and weaknesses as a parent. He said the mother “presented happy, content enough, good sense of humour, good eye contact”. She was guarded about her own family history but understood that the assessment was a request from the CFA and may help her to reunify with her children. He said the assessment raised flags about neglect and physical abuse and of the mother’s own level of distress and unhappiness.

The psychologist found that as a child the mother had witnessed serious domestic violence perpetrated by her father against her mother and brothers. Her father, who was an alcoholic, is now deceased. As a result of the family violence the mother, as a child, experienced homelessness and a move to another jurisdiction. The outcomes for her brothers had been particularly poor, three had died and there had been imprisonments and addiction.

He said her relationships with her siblings were fragmented and her relationship with her mother was very strained. Other witnesses also acknowledged that the mother had had a difficult and challenging childhood herself. The psychologist said the language of the family was coarse, they acted in the here and now, there was no sense of being mindful of each other. Counsel for the mother described that the mother’s school work deteriorated after a head injury suffered during a traffic accident and she had left school early. The court was also informed that the mother was raped and one of her children was conceived as a result of the rape.

He said the mother has no great sense of understanding that this chaotic childhood is part of the crisis she is now experiencing. She had not developed consciousness that what was happening in her life was related to her experience in her family of origin. Her coping mechanism was to shut down.

Referring to her personal relationships with men, in particular the fathers of her children, the psychologist said she was frank about these relationships but she did not have insight or self-awareness about why these relationships ended. He was concerned that she did not have a level of insight to form a narrative that is reflective and an ability to make sense of her life.

Referring to her cognitive function, the psychologist said his findings mirrored those of an earlier 2011 assessment: she had a borderline learning difficulty. She had low verbal comprehension caused by not being exposed to books and language. He said that her “limits are real but not so low as to be my primary concern”. To work effectively with her he recommended the use of multiple modalities and the avoidance of abstract concepts. He recommended that the family support worker should work alongside a psychologist to ensure messages are delivered in the right way.

The psychologist explored the possible impact of such a childhood on an individual’s ability to parent. He said a parent needs to be able to provide an emotional space where she can mentalise or move into the mind of a child and anticipate their thoughts, beliefs, intentions and behaviours.

He said the mother did not fully understand emotions, she knew the extremes but not the in-between emotions. Her ability to self-reflect, to mentalise, was not fully developed. She was unable to recognise that her child’s anger was not just anger, to understand the intention behind the emotion and the behaviour. The psychologist said she can name what happened but she doesn’t have a deep understanding of its cause and effect or how it may impact on her and her relationships with her children. He said the mother did not have a developed understanding of the CFA’s concerns about the emotional lives of her children. She believed there was a “vendetta” against her family.

Social worker B informed the court that access between the two boys (the middle children) and the mother had effectively ceased for a period of 17 months. A disagreement arose between the social worker who said she was offering supervised access and the mother who believed access was being denied and sought help from the Legal Aid Board to resume access. It was reported that the mother had said “they are the HSE’s boys now, not mine anymore.” The mother denied saying this.

The social worker told the court that the boys were very hurt about not seeing their mother. The mother had since resumed phone contact with one of them. The boys faced a number of difficulties; one has Asperger syndrome, oppositional defiance disorder and ADHD and the other has a reactive attachment disorder and needed help to regulate his emotions: he was currently in an attachment-based unit.

The doctor said it was “very sad that she doesn’t feel able to reach out to her children.” Referring to the two youngest children, he said it would be a “tragic outcome if they were forgotten about by their mother”. She is the important constant in their lives, the children’s only attachment has been to their mother, maybe the social worker. They needed regular, meaningful access.

He said he attended access between the mother and her children and said the children displayed very high levels of distress. The mother did not know how to respond effectively to reduce the child’s distress. He said: “It was difficult to watch without intervening,” and said he could feel that emotion again today while giving evidence.

An access worker, who had supported and supervised weekly access visits between the mother and her children, also gave evidence. She said the first access visit was “chaotic”, the mother took the children to visit a family member and there were lots of other people present, the children were whining and looking for her attention. She was also concerned that the mother was feeding the children an extreme amount of food. The venue for access had been changed to an access house which had led to a more relaxed and managed setting and the mother’s response to the children had improved but she continued to require prompts.

She was good with the basic care of the children and actively engaged in play with them but ideally would rather watch them play. Access was still a “work in progress”. She felt the mother needed support and would have difficulty managing the children on her own. Social Worker B gave a similar assessment saying the mother struggled to meet the competing demands of both children during access visits and expressed that view that she would have “grave concerns” for the mother’s ability to manage unsupported access with both children.

Recommendation in relation to the mother

To address the deficiency identified in relation to the mother’s parenting capacity the psychologist recommended that the mother engage in twice weekly inquisitorial psychotherapy. He said she would be capable of being a good mother if she engaged in psychotherapy and he was greatly concerned that she had not accepted her need for such a service and looked to blame others for her problems.

He said that if reunification was to be considered there would be need to be twice weekly psychotherapy for a period of time and increased access over time supervised by someone who can video the access and then use this material to support the mother to build her self-awareness and improve her parenting skills. A novel problem-solving approach is needed. She would learn to use her mind to understand her children’s minds. In response to a question on trans-generational concerns and an inability to change, the doctor said he believed people can always change and that good psychotherapy is when people commit to it rather seeing it as “a hoop to jump through”.

Counsel for the mother said she had gone twice to see a psychotherapist but the sessions did not go well as she found it “too upsetting” including that the psychotherapist had brought up the rape incident. The psychologist giving evidence agreed that such a practice was “not advised” and understood why “a wall went up.” The social worker said she had contacted the psychotherapy service herself and had indicated that a gentle approach was needed. There was confusion and disagreement about which service the mother attended and correspondence relating to appointments missed.

In her evidence towards the end of the hearing the mother, referring to this psychotherapist, said: “She went into it too fast and I didn’t like it.” In terms of attending again she said: “I probably would attend it but I’d need to feel comfortable with the person”. When questioned on the need to go into her past she commented “the past should stay in the past”.

Recommendations for the children

Referring to the mother’s parenting of her two youngest children, the social worker currently working with the family said she believed the mother did not have the capacity to parent “to a good enough level”.  The solicitor for the CFA said all the evidence is consistent. There is no “badness” here and it was a “very unfortunate” case. In relation to the length of the order he said the children should not have to wait for the circumstances of the mother to improve.

The psychologist said he believed that if the children were not taken into care there would be a similar outcome for them as for the older boys. When asked whether the children should have to wait for their mother’s capacity to parent to improve, the psychologist said “it is worth a shot”, noting the disruption they had experienced in care to date. However, he also said that the children had had an “awful long wait so far” and there has not been the required change to date. He had not seen evidence that the mother had engaged in supports offered and recommended.

He said: “I would caution against the full Care Order until 18 years at this point because if the mum can engage with the kind of things we have been talking about over the past two days I think she can do the parenting role.” The children would need to be in a very safe and stable place while work is on-going with the prospect of that placement continuing for their childhood if she can’t get across that threshold.

The psychologist said he was concerned about the number of placements and the impact on the children aside from anything with the mum. He said it was very important that supports are put in place for the foster carers rather than another severing of attachments. He said he believed it was in the best interest of the children to remain in care at this time. He said what he saw on the access visit “wasn’t good enough”.

“When I left I had great concern for children being in the full-time care of the mother. She has an emotional literacy score well below average,” he said. He said even if the mother was undergoing psychotherapy and had support it would not be enough, not right now.

Social worker B said there is “no doubt that she loves her children”, and there is “no intentional harm about her” but she is “just not able to get herself to engage therapeutically, that is the only way she is going to change. She has just not got there yet”. The children have “waited long enough: they deserve permanency in their lives.” The social worker believed the threshold for a Care Order had been met on the grounds of neglect.

The GAL said the “best indicator for future parenting is past behaviour”. She said the “patterns of past and present parenting behaviour indicated disorganised neglect”. She said the mother denied having parenting difficulties, and described the professionals as “liars”. The GAL believed there to be entrenched patterns of trans-generational parenting styles. She strongly recommended that a Care Order be granted till the children turn 18 years to give them permanency.

She said there was always an option to rescind the order. The order should be reviewed in six months to confirm that the assessment of the foster carers has taken place: there was a need for a level of judicial oversight to be absolutely certain a long term permanent plan was in place. She said the mother’s cognitive ability was not the reason the children need to be in care but was a contributory factor. She lacked the ability to provide the consistent and responsive care that the children needed.

She said the children cannot wait for her. They have been in care a significant period of time and they are very insecure and unsure about their future. It is in the best interests of the children that they have a long term plan but that does not preclude the mother from making an application at a future point to rescind the order. She acknowledged that in such a scenario the burden of proof shifts.

Counsel for the mother argued that the threshold was not met on the grounds of the mothers management of the child’s eczema and that she must be given every chance. She said there was no comparison between the behaviour of the two children. She argued that the mother could care for one of the children if given the proper supports. She said there was no independent verification of appointments allegedly missed. Allegations were made as part of the CFA application of physical abuse of the children. Counsel for the mother rejected these allegation and the judge in his decision said he did not accept the evidence of physical abuse.

The judge found that the threshold for a section 18 Care Order had been reached and granted the order in respect of the two children until the children reach 18 years. He said the mother had had a very difficult upbringing. She loves her children and they love her and she wants to care for them. She kept a clean house. He said her mental health had improved and she had stable accommodation. She was in a better place than she was when her older children were taken into care.

He accepted the evidence of the CFA that there has been inconsistent attention to medical appointments and despite her best intentions the mother had serious difficulties in creating clear boundaries. At present her capacity prevented her from providing consistent and reasonable care to the children. There had been disorganised neglect, it was not a question of wilful neglect. He accepted the GAL’s evidence that the children were doing well in foster care.

He said he had considered a Care Order for a shorter period and stressed that it is “not the end of the road for the mother in relation to her children”. He urged her to engage in psychotherapy and the supports offered by the CFA. He set a review date for two years hence, in light of the fact that the psychologist had said that psychotherapy to be effective would take approximately two years.

The judge directed that an independent assessment be undertaken of the current foster carers’ capacity to meet the long term needs of the children and that the matter be listed for review in March 2017 to examined the child care plan and the foster carers’ capacity report. He listed the matter for further review in September 2018 and directed that an updated parental assessment report be obtained from the psychologist for the 2018 review date. He ordered that the GAL stay in place for six months and be re-appointed eight weeks before the 2018 review.

Finally, he directed the CFA to organise, in conjunction with the psychologist, a comprehensive course of psychotherapy for the mother if she wished to commence such a course. He recommended that access be increased as and when the agency believed it to be appropriate.

As the mother was no longer in court the judge asked that it be indicated to her that he said: “It was not the end of the road. The burden is now on her to deal with these issues. The matter is for review in two years’ time.”

The solicitor for the CFA brought to the court’s attention that the mother had been heard making a threat against one of the social workers. The judge said such behaviour was utterly reprehensible and also expressed disappointment that that the mother was not in the court to hear his judgment.

The Care Order was granted in respect of the two young children until their eighteenth birthday.