Importance of parents knowing precisely what expected of them in a reunification plan stressed by court – 2023vol2#18

A judge in a provincial District Court extended interim care orders for two months in respect of two preschool age children on the consent of both parents. Both parents were present. The mother had addiction issues and the father had been brought to court from prison. The father was not legally represented and told the court he was having difficulty with his legal aid application. The judge said it was crucial the father should have legal representation on the next occasion and asked the Child and Family Agency (CFA) solicitor as an officer of the court to correspond with the law centre regarding the relevant information so that the father could get legal aid.

The mother’s barrister said the mother wanted to know about the CFA’s reunification plan. The CFA social worker told the court the mother had to deal with her drug addiction first before a reunification plan could be made. The judge said it struck her that reunification plans in her experience could be organic and develop. “It was not unreasonable that a reunification plan be formulated and it is important that the mother and father know precisely what is expected of them [and] are they progressing,” she said.

The mother’s barrister asked the social worker how long a period should the mother be drug free and would there be a need for evidence from her addiction counselling service. The social worker said the mother would have to be drug free and a trauma assessment completed by a psychologist. She said the CFA would have to see if the mother was willing and motivated to change. The assessment would inform the reunification plan. She said an application for funding had been made for the assessor and three potential assessors were being considered.

The social worker said she was concerned the mother had left a 20-week residential rehabilitation course after only five weeks. The mother told the judge that she had left because the centre was more about alcohol than drug addiction.

Both parents were having access with their children weekly. The social worker said the twice weekly access with the mother was positive. The mother was attentive. She brought food for the children and played with toys. The father had access weekly through video calls but this had not always happened, the father said. He told the court each video call must be booked in advance. The judge said the prison had a new system and the CFA needed to keep on top of it.

The guardian ad litem (GAL) said the children were doing relatively well in foster care, but both children were still biting each other and throwing toys, she said. The mother raised concerns regarding nappy rash on one of the children. A plan had been put in place to deal with this and the mother had been heard, the social worker said.

The mother told the court she had given permission for the social worker to get her drug test results from the nurse but she did not see this as consent for the nurse to talk to the social worker about her children. The mother agreed to undergo a hair follicle test for drugs.

The interim care orders were extended.