Consent for extension of interim care order of infant where mother homeless – 2018vol2#6

The judge in a rural town extended an interim care order for three months on the consent of both parents, in order to allow an infant to make further progress with his physical and psychological development. The mother was described as homeless and extremely vulnerable. The judge said it was an unusual case as the care order had been sought because the infant did not appear to be thriving. This case was among a large number of cases heard that day.

A paediatrician whose report was before the court found there had been a noticeable improvement in the infant’s health since coming into foster care. The infant’s weight had improved. He was now feeding better and his skin condition had cleared up due to his improved diet. There was still some difficulty with the infant drinking liquids, but this was improving. The infant was more alert and was clapping hands. However, he was still behind with his developmental milestones. He was referred to the early intervention team and was making good progress.

The CFA social worker told the court she set out in writing with both parents the issues which they needed to address. The issues outlined were parenting, counselling, mental health, domestic violence and housing. The social worker said the mother was extremely vulnerable as she was homeless and pregnant.

When asked by the solicitors for both parents, the social worker agreed to provide a letter of support regarding housing. The court heard the mother had an appointment with the local authority housing department later on that day.

The court heard that initially the mother had been unwilling to engage in a parenting assessment but now this assessment was almost complete. The parents, who were separated, both attended a parenting course funded by the CFA but had missed a couple of sessions and wanted to finish the course. The father had not yet attended a men’s group to address issues around domestic violence. There were allegations of domestic violence by both parties against each other. The mother had recently engaged with a family counsellor and the father agreed to attend general counselling and to link in with his GP regarding his mental health difficulties.

The father had two-hour access once weekly with the infant and the mother had access three times weekly for seven and a half hours. The court agreed to the request for flexibility around the times to be agreed between the mother and the CFA. Both parents’ attendance at access was good. In the beginning, the court heard that the infant was upset during access with his mother, but this had improved as the mother was able to manage the situation better. The social worker noted the mother was open to advice on how to manage the infant. She gave an example of the mother following advice on propping the infant up with cushions when he began to sit independently.

The judge said he was glad the mother had an appointment with the local authority housing department and that both parents were consenting to an extension of the care order. “This was the right thing to do and hopefully a lot of work can be done in the interim,” the judge said.

Judge: “I want to thank the mother. I know it was very difficult for you the first day in court. Now, you can see the benefits for your child. Avail of all the access you can get. This is heading for a successful conclusion and [you] deserve credit for consenting to an extension for the progress to continue. I can vary the access to the same level, but it will help both parties if [there is] flexibility and access is at the discretion of the CFA.”