Interim care order extended as access reduced – 2020vol1#42

An interim care order was extended in respect of infant twins where the father had a history of alcohol misuse and domestic violence, and there was a question of an autism diagnosis for the mother. Both parents were represented. The father had never had face-to-face access with the children and the mother’s access had been reduced from five days to two days.

The father had Skype access with the children but this was suspended for a time. The psychologist made certain recommendations and said she would view Skype access before it would continue. The Skype access recommenced and the psychologist said the access was not a traumatic experience. The psychologist did not recommend face-to-face access.

The solicitor for the father said: “The children will be one year old and he never had face-to-face access. We are agreeable to any conditions, supervised access in any venue. We will agree to however many supervisors. He dearly wishes to see his little girls.” He acknowledged the father did not attend any meetings to deal with his alcohol and anger issues. He had failed to deal with any of the issues the psychologist highlighted.

The solicitor for the GAL said a risk assessment took place for the father. He was deemed high risk. There were issues of historical violence and alcohol abuse and until the father had taken sufficient steps access could not be recommended. The father said he did not drink and needed to see his children.

The judge said: “I believe you should see your children but those children need to be protected. You have been asked to do certain things and you have not done them. Why will you not comply?”

The father said: “I feel like I am being bullied.”

The judge said: “There has to be a commitment on your part and you could have done this a long time ago.” The judge asked if the father could have more Skype access. She said that Skype access could take place once a week and on the birthday of the children if the father complied with the recommendations of the psychologist.

The social worker said the grounds existed for the interim care order. There was an application under section 47 of the Child Care Act, 1991 to allow the children to travel out of the jurisdiction with the foster carers. The CFA had an application to dispense with consent of the parents in relation to the children’s passports. The foster carers wanted to go abroad next year. The children had to go to respite foster care last time the foster carers went on holidays and the children were unsettled. The mother did not have a problem with the children going on holiday but the father did.

The foster carers intended to go on holiday next year and it was just a thought and nothing had been booked yet. The social worker said: “We want to have the passports for the children just in case they [the foster carers] want to take them out of the jurisdiction.”

The judge said: “If there was a booked holiday and they [the children] would benefit, that would be a different scenario.” She said she would adjourn the passport application as there was no point to the application.

Access had been reduced from five days a week to two days a week for the mother. The social workers had an access review meeting. The mother was invited but she could not attend. The access review meeting went ahead without the mother present. The social worker said it would have been a thorough discussion about the presentation of the girls and the mother’s capacity to meet tasks. There were a number of concerns and no change in access in ten months.  After the meeting it was decided it was in the best interests of the children for access to be reduced.

The judge said: “The mother was given no opportunity to respond.”

The social worker said: “I met with the mother and [the grandmother] and she was upset.” There were issues with the feeding and supervision of the children by the mother and maternal grandmother. The mother had given a lot of focus to one child and needed to be redirected to the other child.

“The twins have become unsettled after access and they need more stability. When Sunday comes, they go about their routine with ease but at the latter end of the week they become unsettled. We are looking at good enough parenting. The mother loves her children and she is very motivated. In this case the access worker thinks it is unfortunate the mother cannot parent to a good enough standard. The access worker wants an autistic assessment.”

The judge said: “I do not accept those as grounds for reducing access.” The interim care order was extended for a period of two months.