The District Court in a rural area adjourned a full care order hearing to allow a mother, who was currently in custody, the opportunity to continue her rehabilitation from drug addiction on her release from prison. The mother, who was legally represented and in court, had previously consented to a full care order for her school going child via a video link from prison.
The child had been in foster care since birth. The CFA social worker told the court the mother had not seen the child for almost two years as she had not taken up the opportunity for access and was difficult to contact. The social worker said there was a pattern where the mother would make contact from prison but not when she was released, and access had to be rescheduled.
The judge said he was under the impression from the previous video link the mother was happy to proceed with a full care order for the child’s safety and security and she was happy to consent.
“If down the line if she turned her life around, she could make an application to discharge the care order,” the judge said. He was of the view the best interests of the child for stability and security required perhaps a care order with a review date, and if by consent it could have been heard as arranged for that day in court.
“She feels in a weakened situation and she doesn’t agree,” the mother’s solicitor told the court. She said once a care order had been made the same interaction would not be there to seek reunification and where there was an interim care order in place the mother was in the driving seat to a greater extent.
The judge spoke to the mother and said his first interaction with her had been when she was a teenager, and he had given her certain warnings and advice, which she had said she would follow, and each time she ended up in trouble. The mother had a history of drug taking and shoplifting.
When the judge asked the mother if she would be able to look after her child on release from prison and if she would be able to stay away from certain friends and drugs, the mother, who became upset, said she would be staying away. She told the court she had changed and had a new perspective and it was the first time in her life she was off drugs and on the lowest level of methadone.
The judge said it was very hard for the mother to convince the court when she was in prison and asked the CFA social worker about the situation with the mother caring for the children if she was off drugs.
The CFA social worker said it would be very difficult for the child as the child would have to be reintroduced to her. The foster mother showed the child photos, but the child had recently asked who the person was in the photo. The judge said there were stories in the media concerning the mother and baby homes and people as adults wanting to meet their mothers. “There is a natural bond [and reunification is] not an insurmountable scientific task to carry out,” he said.
The judge said the care order was an unfair decision to make while the mother was in prison and the court would find it difficult to do her justice regarding her looking after her children. He said the mother must reengage with the CFA regarding access with the children and counselling and she would have to make trojan efforts in relation to where she resided regarding her company keeping. “Any slippage would have consequences in terms of making a full care order and the court would decide whether she was capable of leading a normal life” he said.
First access visit for parents in three months due to COVID-19 health restrictions
The same court heard from the CFA social worker that the parents of three children in foster care were being allowed to have an access visit with their children after three months of only phone call access due to COVID-19 health restrictions. The mother was taking up the access visit, but the social worker told the court the father was not open to visits. “He was not in good form,” she said.
The judge said the father had taken a great interest in the children previously. The social worker told the court she was linking in with the father’s advocate and had tried to link him with support services, but he was not interested. The parents were not present in court but were legally represented.
The judge extended the interim care order for three children for less than a month on the consent of both parents and advised the CFA solicitor to formally write seeking hearing dates. Counsel for the GAL told the court the GAL was anxious to have a full section 18 hearing for the children.
A teenage girl goes missing from her foster placement
The court heard that a teenage girl from a Traveller background was missing from her foster placement. The CFA social worker told the court the child, who was on a full care order, had gone missing before and was believed to be with her boyfriend, but the CFA were endeavouring to find her.
The court set a date for a review of the care order. It heard there was a younger sibling in the same placement and a guardian ad litem had been appointed to the children.