Four-month extension of interim care order for a one-year-old baby who had suffered serious injuries – 2024vol1#19

The judge in a District Court in a provincial city granted a second extension to an interim care order for a year-old baby with the consent of the baby’s mother. He also granted the Child and Family Agency (CFA) leave to apply for a passport for the child to allow the foster carers go on a three-week annual holiday abroad.

The baby boy had been brought into care originally over concerns that he had sustained non-accidental injuries. Both parents were present in court and were individually represented by the Legal Aid Board and by counsel.

The allocated social worker said it was her view that the infant should remain with his current foster carers under an interim care order for a further four months. The CFA was seeking a date for a full care order hearing around that time. She said that the child had suffered extreme trauma and that any change in his routine would be problematic.

The foster carers were very committed to his care. She said that if the court granted the CFA liberty to apply for a passport for the baby, the CFA would agree to having that passport remain in the custody of the court until such time that it had granted permission to allow the baby to travel abroad. The social worker had obtained the consent of the mother in respect of the passport application but the baby’s father had refused to give his consent. If the baby was unable to go with the foster carers, it would be necessary for him to be placed with a different family as respite for the three-week duration of the foster carers’ holiday.

The mother’s barrister asked the social worker whether the baby’s maternal aunt, who currently had weekly access, was being assessed as a relative foster carer. The social worker said no, this was not the case. She said that the aunt had been looked at previously as a temporary custodian but she had not been formally assessed as she had not been willing to care for the baby in the long term. The aunt had said that the baby should stay with his current foster carers. The aunt had mentioned that she was willing to take the baby for a short period, but this had not actually been considered. The social worker agreed that this could be looked at again.

The social worker said that a report had been prepared by UK-based trauma experts and that it would be provided to the parents within a few days. There would be a meeting organised to discuss the report and its recommendations.

The father’s barrister asked the social worker if taking the baby on holidays would not constitute a change in the baby’s routine and would, therefore, be detrimental to him. The social worker said that she did not agree that the holiday would be negative for him. The barrister said that the baby’s father was anxious that the child was being taken out of the country and asked if the foster carers could still update the parents while they were abroad. The social worker confirmed that the foster carers would be updating her and that she would update the parents. In respect of the possibility of video access for the parents over the coming months, she said that the social work department would only consider this after it had received the report from the trauma experts.

The baby’s guardian ad litem (GAL) told the court that this had been the most severe case that the GAL had every encountered. The baby had suffered multiple fractures that had been too numerous to count. She said that despite the fact that the baby must have been in extreme pain, the extended family had not intervened to take him to a hospital.

The GAL had strong views that any change in routine for the baby should be in his best interests. Moving the baby to a new foster carer would be a much greater change in routine than would going on holidays with his current foster carers. The solicitor said that, due to his traumatic experiences, the baby would struggle to trust unknown adults. The solicitor said that the GAL believed that moving the baby to different foster carers would be detrimental to his best interests and that going on holidays with his current foster carers was in his best interests.

The judge granted the interim care order on consent for a further four months. He also gave liberty to the CFA to apply for the baby’s passport. He was puzzled by the objections of the baby’s father and said that it would be more disruptive to the baby to move foster carers than it would be to go on holidays with his current foster carers. He made additional directions that the social work reports would be provided to the parents’ legal representatives five days in advance of all future hearing dates.