A judge in Dublin District Court extended for just three weeks an interim care order for a young boy, the middle child of three siblings all in care, as the CFA had not allocated a social worker to the child. The judge asked for an update on this in three weeks’ time.
The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) told the court that both parents were undergoing parental capacity assessments. It was agreed that each parent would have a separate assessment but with similar terms of reference. The young boy was currently residing with a relative foster carer. However, some issues had arisen in respect of his behaviour which was becoming challenging. Access arrangements had been reinstated for both parents, but each had missed one access with the child.
The child’s guardian ad litem (GAL) had made a number of recommendations in her report and the CFA’s solicitor said that those recommendations were in hand. He said that the principal social worker was currently acting as the child’s allocated social worker and she would continue to hold the child’s case until an allocated social worker could be assigned. The solicitor said that there was no deficiency in this arrangement and there was nothing that gave rise to any concerns.
She said that one of the GAL’s recommendations was for the CFA to provide a timeframe for providing the child with an allocated social worker. However, she said that no timeframe could be given for this as it depended on new social workers coming into the system which could not be predicted.
The judge acknowledged the constraints under which the CFA was operating, but said that the CFA was asking the court to sign an order without having an allocated social worker in place. He accepted that the principal social worker was actively working as the child’s allocated social worker but said that he would not continue to extend interim care orders without a social worker being allocated.
The solicitor for the child’s father said that the father had welcomed the parental capacity assessment and he was consenting to the extension of the interim care order. Access between the father and all three children had been reinstated albeit the access had been disrupted for this child.
The solicitor for the child’s mother told the court that the mother was consenting to the extension of the interim care order for 28 days only. The mother was currently engaging with the parental capacity assessment. She had had one appointment with the psychologist already and another was scheduled for the following day.
The solicitor for the GAL said that the GAL supported the extension of the interim care order but with the caveat that the child needed to have an allocated social worker.
The judge acknowledged that both parents were consenting to extension of the interim care order for the child and that the GAL also supported the extension. He understood the CFA’s staffing difficulties and that the principal social worker was covering the duties of the allocated social worker. However, he said that the court was being asked to extend the interim care order without having the required allocated social worker in place and for that reason he was not prepared to extend the interim care order for the full 28 days requested. He granted the extension of the interim care order for three weeks at which time he required an update on the situation.