Further steps towards reunification of family of five with mother; social worker revises report- 2022vol2#49

A judge in a rural town extended an interim care order for two children from a family of five where the children were to be reunited with their mother. Three of the siblings who had been in care had already been reunited with her.

The mother was in court and legally represented. The father was in prison and attended by video link. He was not legally represented. The guardian ad litem (GAL) also attended by video link. The Child and Family Agency (CFA) had made an application for a supervision order for two children, a girl A and a boy B, both of primary school age.

The representative from the CFA said the court had been familiar with this family for several years and three of the five children had been successfully reunited with their mother. It was planned that A and B would be reunited with her over the next two weeks. The supervision order for A and B would coincide with the supervision order for the other three children.

A and B would be reunited with their mother in two weeks so an interim care order would still be needed for that time. He asked the court to extend the interim care order for 28 days, though for the last 10 days of that order A and B would be in the care of their mother. Then the supervision order will be commenced when the interim care order expired. He said the mother and father were consenting to this application.

Evidence was given by the social worker who said A and B had been home for weekends but would be returning home full time in two weeks. This was the final part of a reunification plan that so far had worked well. The mother was busy but had supports and was coping well.

The social worker had some concerns that the mother had not asked for help and had refused to ask for help when she needed it. This was strongly denied by the mother. She rejected this part of the social worker’s report

The mother told the court that she had asked for help when she had felt slightly overwhelmed. She said one day three of the children all had activities at the same time. She had been unsure how she would manage this but had spoken with a support worker and made a plan that had worked, and no child had missed their activity. On hearing this the judge asked the social worker if she would like to take back those views or if those concerns should be removed from her report. The social worker said yes on that basis, her concerns had been alleviated and she would amend her report accordingly.

The mother said that she had never refused help and had been proactive in seeking it. She had attended counselling, therapy sessions and had been caring for her own mental and physical health so that she would be able to care for the children. She said she had been consistent and she herself had been able to source extra family support.

The GAL said she had undertaken a visit with all five children and the house was busy, but it was settling. She had lengthy discussions with the mother about the challenges of caring for five children alone. She said that respite had been planned with the foster families and this meant that the children kept in contact with friends they had made during their care placements.

She said she was completely optimistic that the reunification would be successful, but any issues or difficulties would need to be addressed quickly. The mother and children would need high levels of support to manage the adjustment and immediate future, but these were in place. The children’s access with their father would also have to be carefully planned.

The father said he was supportive of all the decisions of the mother and did not want to create any difficulty for her.

The interim care orders were extended and a date was set for the matter to be heard in court for the supervision orders to commence.