The court granted a three-month extension to an interim care order for a boy in foster care, with the consent of the mother, to a date when an application for a full care order for the boy under section 18 of the Child Care Act 1991 is listed for hearing.
The boy’s mother was in court and was represented by a barrister. Her barrister informed the court that her client had two court-appointed advocates, one from the National Advocacy Service and the other from a residential disability service. She also informed the court that her client was planning to consent to the section 18 care order which was listed for end January 2023.
A number of concerns were raised. In particular, the barrister was concerned that a fostering assessment of the mother’s sister was not yet complete and said it was important that this assessment be completed prior to the full care order hearing. She also stated that her client’s biggest concern was maintaining the relationship with her son. Currently the mother and her son met at a Dublin shopping centre once a week. Both were happy with the arrangement although the boy was somewhat bored with the location and complained that there was not enough to do there. The barrister suggested that it might be possible to have a visit that involved some activity.
The boy’s birthday had been in September last and that his mother had bought him a smart phone to enable her to communicate with him using WhatsApp. However, the foster family was upset as they felt that the boy was too young to have a smart phone.
The application by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) to extend the interim care order was being made on consent of the boy’s mother. The solicitor for the CFA told the court that everything was in order in respect of the care hearings. The solicitor suggested that the matter be listed for mention in December so that the court might be alerted should the timeline for the fostering assessment of the child’s aunt not be resolved by that date.
The judge asked the social worker in charge of the case to give her views regarding the access arrangements between the boy and his mother and also in respect of the smart phone.
The social worker said that all of the parties were agreed that a “relative placement” was in the best interests of the boy, given his personality and his developmental needs and that this avoided the need to consider residential care. The social worker said that if the current foster care arrangement collapsed (due to the issue of the smart phone), it would be very difficult to replace it and that providing support to this current foster care placement was very important.
The judge noted that the guardian ad litem (GAL) was supporting the CFA’s application but that the GAL had also identified a concern about the smart phone for the boy, which has caused some upset. However, the GAL indicated that she was keen to discuss this outside of the courtroom. The GAL stressed that the fostering assessment of the maternal aunt needed to be concluded as soon as possible. The GAL was also concerned that the principal social worker currently assigned to the boy was just a holding situation until a social worker was assigned to the case and that any change in this position also needed to be discussed outside of the courtroom.
The judge ordered the extension of the interim care order until January 2023 and listed the matter for a case management hearing in December. He also noted that if an interpreter was required, this should be raised at the case management hearing in December.