Further review listed for complex case involving seven children in care; three eldest children to meet judge – 2023vol1#53

A judge in the Dublin Metropolitan District listed a case involving seven children in care for further review where the social worker had not provided full enough updates on the review date. A review was meant to have taken place in early 2023 but was adjourned to allow for an update to be provided to the court on long-term matching.

The barrister for the mother said the delays were impacting her client’s reunification with the seventh child, G, whose six-month care order was due to expire.

The Child and Family Agency (CFA) solicitor told the court that this case involved seven children and she said that different care orders were granted in respect of some of the children. It was a complex case.

Full care orders had been granted for the three eldest children, A, B and C at the end of 2022. The orders made at that time had required a review regarding long term matching and for an update to be made available on services being provided. In addition, the court order had set out dates for aftercare reviews. The court was asked for further review dates for those three children.

In respect of the next three children, D, E and F, the court heard that three-year care orders had been made on consent for these children and again they had been listed for review in early 2023 and had been adjourned as no social work report had been made available.

In relation to the youngest child, child G, the court heard that her trajectory was different. A full care order for six months had been made for her at the end of 2022. The court heard that the six months would be up in two months’ time and therefore the case was now listed for review.

The mother had had a long period of access with G and was on the road to reunification. This day was the original date for her review and a parental capacity assessment had been carried out.

The mother’s barrister said that her client had access with child G and wanted to receive a reunification trajectory with a view to moving to overnight access. No report had been received in relation to child G. The parenting capacity assessment had recommended play therapy be carried out but there had been a delay in that service, which had not commenced by the end of 2022. The barrister said that it was understood play therapy had now commenced.

The barrister for the mother said that her client had six hours unsupervised access every day with G.

The solicitor for the guardian ad litem (GAL) indicated that this was a complex case where there were four different placements. He said that the evidence at the section 18 application was of neglect.

The court was informed that the three eldest children were anxious to meet with the judge and the matter was due to return before the court at the end of that month. There was quite a lot of work still to be done. There were some issues relating to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). There were also question marks in relation to potential autism and ADHD presentations and whether or not it was related to early trauma. The court was told that in relation to one of the children that the required trauma assessment had not yet been carried out and funding had not yet been approved.

In relation to child G, the court was reminded that a six-month order was made at the end of 2022, the order was due to expire within the next two months and that was why it was in for review. The social worker said that an assessment was due to have been carried out, but that the assessment was late starting and did not commence until early 2023. The court heard that the trajectory was going well and that the mother’s current partner had a very positive influence. The social worker was asked what the next steps were and he indicated that there were concerns in relation to the previous history, that there was a lot of benefit to be gained from therapy, a professionals’ meeting had taken place and they were looking at how reunification would happen.

A concern of the mother was how the other children would process the fact that some are coming home and some are not coming home. It was noted that there would be a professionals’ meeting involving social workers, assessors and the GALs, depending on availability, but they were looking to diary that within the next couple of weeks which would then feed into a written pre-trajectory plan which was required.

There was a lot of access taking place between the mother and her partner with G and the access was working well. Access took place at the grandparents’ home. The grandparents would mind the child while the mother was at work. Overnight visits had not yet happened yet but the mother was involved in the bedtime routine and it was hoped that a further update could be provided to the court in three weeks’ time.

The mother’s barrister told the court that no play therapy had taken place – just access between the date of the care order and the end of 2022. It was also agreed that the mother would stay over in her parents’ house for two nights, however an overnight access had only taken place in the mother’s sheltered housing.

The barrister said she had not received any report in terms of the updates and therefore they were dependent on the social worker giving evidence. The social worker said he observed access for 45 minutes. Asked who was present for that access he said the child and her father. He said the purpose of the observation was to discuss general access and to provide an update in relation to play therapy.

He said he had observed a second access in first quarter of 2023, the father engaged well and access had taken place in the sheltered housing. He was asked again about overnight access and he said that the GAL and the play therapy assessor needed to be involved in a meeting and that overnight access would be further considered after a professionals’ meeting which was scheduled in approximately six weeks’ time.

The barrister for the mother said that they saw no progress in reunifying child G with her mother. Any further delay in increasing her access would lead to a further delay in reunification.

The social worker said that the mother had not raised the question of overnight access with him when he last met with her and that they were working on the written trajectory after the professionals’ meeting. The barrister asked for a direction in relation to the meeting taking place within the next five days and an update to be provided in relation to the overnight access.

She said that clarity was needed in relation to all of the matters that were outstanding and no reports had been provided and no scheduled planning or scheduled trajectory had been provided. The solicitor for the GAL said that there was a lot hinging on the meeting with the professionals, there were a lot of moving parts and a lot of issues to take up.

The judge listed the matter for further review at the end of the month and said that the meeting needed to get underway for the professionals, work needed to be done and there was a need to tell the court if it could not be progressed so that the court could adjudicate on the net issues. The court was reminded that the three eldest children were to meet with the judge at the end of the month.