Interim care order extended for brothers where judge puzzled by parents’ approach – 2022vol1#7

A judge in Dublin District Court granted an extension of a care order for two boys but said he was extremely puzzled by the behaviour of both parents, neither of whom was in court or had legal representation and were not engaging.

Evidence of the social worker

The judge noted that the mother had not been served notice of today’s application in the correct manner. The social worker said the mother would not give him her address and so neither he nor the Courts Service had been able to post the notification. He had rung and texted to inform her. He said the mother was exceptionally difficult to engage and all calls he had had with the mother had been abusive.

The social worker said that he had been working for the CFA for six years and he had never experienced a case quite like this one. The mother was blinded by perceived injustice and would not engage. She would not give him any information about the boys such as their likes and dislikes of food, sports, or school subjects. She would not engage in any face-to-face conversation and had stated she would only engage by email. He said he needed to have conversations with her, but the mother had flatly refused to engage with him.

He reported the boys to be exceptionally well mannered and their behaviour was exemplary. They were polite, respectful, valued education and worked hard at school. He described them as a credit to their parents. They boys had lived with their mother and had had some contact with their father.

The father had eight or nine other children and one of them lived with him. He had been unaware the boys had been taken into care or of the difficulties the mother had. When initially approached by the social worker about caring for the boys, the father said he would be willing to do this. The social worker stated the father’s accommodation was suitable.

However, at the last minute the father called the social worker and said he would not take the boys into his care without the consent of their mother. The mother would not consent to the boys being cared for by their father. The judge said: “Maybe if he was asked to pay for their care that may motivate him to caring for his children.”

The social worker replied: “I do not think that is a motivating factor, it is the mother’s consent. He will not take them without her consent.”

He said that the foster carers were due to go on holiday in July and the boys would need respite care for those two weeks. It was hoped the boys would be able to go to their father’s, but the social worker was not sure what would happen. He had started to try to secure a respite placement. The social worker said it was the oddest situation and one he had never come across before.

The judge said he had come across this situation twice before, one mother had been from Asia and the other was of African descent, both mothers were motivated by education. The social worker told the judge as the mother would not engage with him he did not know her. He could give the court no information on her motivating factors.

The boys were in a foster placement in another county, but they wanted to return to the city. An access meeting had been arranged but the mother had failed to confirm if she would attend. He had tried to meet with the mother to arrange an access but again the mother had ended the call in an exceptionally abusive manner.

The mother had had a telephone access with the boys wherein she had told them to misbehave. The social worker said following that call the boys became difficult and did indeed misbehave. They refused to go to school and were petulant and cheeky. He said the foster parents found that period difficult.

He spoke with the boys about this, and they both acknowledged they did not like misbehaving but felt they had to because their mother had told them. He said this had put undue pressure on the boys and the foster placement.

The social worker was cross examined by the guardian ad litem (GAL) who asked if the boys were receiving any form of therapeutic support for their situation. He replied that therapeutic support should only be undertaken after an assessment to ascertain what type of support would work best. He was unsure as to what would happen and felt that at this stage therapeutic work would be too formal. He acknowledged the stress and anxiety the boys felt and so had approached the Youth Advocate Programme (YAP). A YAP worker had been appointed and he hoped this would give the boys an outlet and freedom to vent their frustrations until their situation was more certain.

Evidence of the GAL 

The GAL said this was an exceptionally unusual situation and it was at an impasse. She said the boys had started to lose hope it would be resolved. They were very eager to return to the city they knew. They hoped their father would take them, but the lack of certainty had caused them stress and anxiety. She had concerns that the foster placement might not hold especially after the incident where the mother had told the boys to misbehave. The foster parents had found the period following that telephone call extremely difficult. She welcomed the appointment of a YAP worker. This would be a positive interaction to help them cope with their stressful situation.

The judge extended the interim care order for 28 days but noted it was puzzling that the mother would not engage, and the father would not accept the boys into his care.