A full Care Order till 18 was granted for a five-year-old child who had been in voluntary care intermittently since she was two weeks old. The court in a rural town was told the child was in the care of relatives for a short period and then in general foster care. Her mother had ended her relationship with the child’s father and entered a new relationship, which was a stabilising influence, and the child went home. However, when that relationship ended the mother reverted to using drugs and alcohol.
“The child was being neglected, she was not going to school, there were adults living in the house and sleeping in the child’s bed,” the social worker said. The former foster parents had maintained a relationship with the child and her mother, and the child had a clear attachment to them. They provided consistency and routine. They looked after her when requested to do so by the mother, including overnight.
The child had been taken into care under an Interim Care Order a few months previously and was living with these foster parents, with weekly access to her mother. On a few occasions she had refused to go and needed reassurance she was going to return to the foster parents.
According to her teacher she was very behind in school and very anxious, following the teacher around the room. She needed constant reassurance she would be collected from school. “She would suffer greatly if stability is not established. There have been a lot of changes in her life. She is a confused little girl,” the social worker said.
She said the child had been seriously let down by both parents. She had no attachment to her father, and did not know who he was. “She needs a lot of work before there is any decision to change this relationship,” she said. The mother was refusing to undergo regular drug-testing.
The father’s solicitor said he was agreeing to the Care Order, but would like access. The mother’s solicitor said she would agree to an order for 12 months, but thought an order until the child was 18 was too long.
Responding to the father’s solicitor, the social worker said that he was not consistent in seeking access. There had been a number of occasions when access had been arranged and he did not turn up. “It is not in the child’s best interests to be left waiting for him.”
The mother told the court she accepted she “went off the rails a bit. Now I have a job, I do voluntary work with people with disabilities. I moved house because I wanted a new start and to get away from the people I was hanging around with. I don’t drink any more. I have agreed with my doctor to do drug urine tests.
“I want to prove to my daughter I do love her and I don’t want to lose her. We have a close bond. I acknowledge I have to prove myself. I know she does get confused. We had a poor relationship for three years. I lost my father and my mother was drinking though she is off it now. I think an order until 18 is too long.”
Referring to her drug and alcohol use, she said she was not addicted to either, though she had been using both after her father died. “I gave up myself. There was no need for a drug treatment programme.”
The father told the court he agreed his track record was not good, but he objected to not being able to take the child for a walk down the town.
The mother’s solicitor said the child was at an age when she needed stability, but if a Care Order was made for a long period it may be too late for the mother to have a meaningful relationship with her. “I think it would be wrong to lock the door to that for 13 years. If the court would see fit to grant a shorter order, or a review after a year … I would implore the court to give her the opportunity to build a relationship.”
“The child is too young for a GAL to be appointed and she has had too many adults in her life already,” the judge said. “It was useful to hear the mother and father today. The parents exhibit a childish attitude, as if they are the only important people in life. The child is not a plaything.
“I order a full Care Order until she is 18, with no access for the father. Continued access for the mother as the agency sees fit. No review.”