A judge in a provincial city made a 12-month care order for a child of primary school age, A, and ordered that home-tutoring be put in place as soon as possible for the child, who is on the autism spectrum. The child’s father was present in court and was represented and the mother was neither present nor was she represented.
A’s social worker reported that this was a child with many behavioural and emotional difficulties, who had previously been in a number of placements. The social worker described A’s previous school year as having been very difficult for her. She complained that her “head and heart hurt” and that she missed her mother very much and felt that she [A] must have been a very bad person.
The social worker told the court that A was in a special school but said that the school staff sometimes had to remove the other pupils from her classroom when she had a “meltdown”. The social worker said she was very remorseful following her “meltdowns”, which A had described as “her voice screaming in her head”. Art therapy had been put in place to assist her, as she had a talent for art but these lessons had been interrupted by the Covid-19 restrictions.
The social worker told the court that the girl had not been back in the school setting since the Covid-19 restrictions but that she had been a lot more relaxed as school had just not worked out for her. The social worker reported that one-to-one home tuition had been agreed and signed off by the special educational needs organiser (SENO) but that the commencement of these lessons had been delayed due to the Covid pandemic.
The judge commended the social work report as being of great depth and said it was clear that A was in a good family relationship with the foster parents, where her needs were being prioritised. The social worker replied that the girl’s foster parents were very committed and that the atmosphere in the home was relaxed and caring. There were lots of toys, activities and a garden in the foster parents’ home.
The father’s lawyer told the judge that A visited her father every Sunday and that she rarely experienced “meltdowns” when in his care. The father was anxious to increase the access visits to an overnight stay, but the difficulty was that his mother had a vulnerable health issue. The social worker told the court that the country was “in lockdown” with Covid restrictions but that as soon as conditions eased, the social work department staff would visit the father’s home. She added that he was on a waiting list for a parental capacity assessment.
The social worker told the court that A’s mother was keen to recommence access visits. The mother’s access visits had been delayed while she was pregnant with a new baby. After the birth of the baby the Covid restrictions caused further interruptions. The social worker reported that A’s mother was not present in court as there had been some difficulties making contact with her solicitors. The lawyer for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) said that if the mother was hoping to resume access visits there was a lot of preparatory work that needed to be done. The social worker agreed with this and said that the mother would have to be consistent because long breaks between access arrangements would “compound [A’s] feelings about herself.”
The father’s lawyer said that the father was consenting to the care order. She reported that the father had tried to complete a special educational needs programme and while he did not get to complete it, he fully intended to complete the autism spectrum course. The social worker described A as having a great imagination, being a great storyteller and very bright.
Judge: “Isn’t it lovely to hear the social worker saying such lovely things about your daughter?”
Father: “It makes me feel delighted.”
Father’s lawyer: “She’s the light of his life.”
The judge made the 12-month care order in respect of A by consent. She ordered that a parental capacity assessment be carried out on A’s father and that his access was to be extended under the CFA direction. Access with A’s mother was to be under the guidance and direction of the CFA. The judge ordered that the home tuition for A should be put in place as soon as possible and she gave liberty to the parties to return to court if the home tuition was not in place within four months.
The judge finished by thanking A’s father for coming to court.
Review of care order for child whose mother had no relationship with her
Later in the same court the judge reviewed and was satisfied with the care order for a child of primary school age, A, whose mother showed no interest in either A or her siblings.
A’s social worker reported that the child’s foster parents had sought and obtained enhanced rights for her care and were now seeking to adopt her. An educational assessment of the child had been carried out recently by the national educational psychological service (NEPS) and dyslexia was diagnosed. The social worker reported that A loved going to school and especially enjoyed “golden time”, a special time set aside in class daily for the children to be read to by the teacher.
A’s social worker said that the mother preferred to stay inside her home and devote her time to reading her books and did not have any relationship with the child. On a recent occasion when A received a Church sacrament, she was brought to visit her mother but there had been no communication between her and her mother and the child had found the situation very awkward.
The judge was satisfied that the care order was working very well for the girl. All appropriate reviews of foster parents and the child-in-care reviews were up to date and satisfactory. The matter was listed for the next review on a date one year later.