Covid crisis gives rise to access dispute

Restrictions on access arising from the Covid 19 crisis were raised during a renewal of an interim care order in a long-running case, where a full care order hearing is pending.

The court was told the mother had alcohol addiction, but has been sober for the past 10 months. She had been having regular access with her daughter, who is of primary school age, and with whom she has a very good relationship. The child has consistently said she wants to return home.

The mother was having regular access with her daughter, but felt her access was unreasonably restricted during the lock-down, when she was only permitted to see her daughter on Zoom. The court heard that the foster father has an underlying health condition, putting him at additional risk from the coronavirus, which led to access being stopped.

The mother told the court than the foster family listened in to the Zoom calls and would not give her and her daughter space. She also said that while the access was suspended due to the foster father’s health condition, her daughter had told her that the man’s brother had visited the house several times and the foster father was back at work in an office while her face to face access was denied. Her daughter also told her that she had visited the beach, a café and a chipper with the family, yet the mother was denied face-to-face access. The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency told the court that this was being investigated.

Face-to-face access between the mother and daughter then resumed outside in a park, but the mother complained that everyone was required to wear masks and gloves and her daughter was not permitted to eat the food she had brought, though she had eaten food from chippers previously.

A hearing of a CFA application for a full care order will be heard in June.