Interim care order extended for child removed from care in Northern Ireland – 2020vol2#9

An interim care order for a three-year-old child was extended in a provincial town. The child had previously been the subject of an interim care order in Northern Ireland but the mother had removed the child from Northern Ireland and was facing charges there as a result of the removal.

The child was later located in the State and was taken into care on foot of an emergency care order. It was suggested that the child would stay with the maternal grandmother but she was awaiting approval. There were issues of domestic violence in relation to the mother’s partner who was not the biological father of the child.

The mother said she would not relocate to Northern Ireland. She was on bail in Northern Ireland in relation to the removal of the child and it was a requirement of her bail that she reside in the North.

The judge asked: “Could you link up with lawyers [in Northern Ireland] and in those circumstances, they may relax the bail conditions…. We do not want the mother in conflict for the welfare of the child.”

The solicitor for the mother said: “I can see where the court is coming from. The child is in care two months and the mother is concerned about the length of time [it is taking] to approve her mother as a carer. She knows she may need to do some work. She is not consenting to the interim care order on that basis.”

The judge said: “You may be misguided. The intention is to have the child with her grandmother but there are procedures that do take time and two months is too short.”

The mother said the Child and Family Agency (CFA) had only begun to look into her mother as a carer for the child and it should have been done straight away.

The judge said: “That is a concept of perfection… our concern is the child and we want to get her right and [that] you [are] content as well. That is a better result. If I felt the people dragged their feet, I would be the first to pounce. You need some level of trust and you have an excellent solicitor advising you. Be a little bit patient.”

The team leader said the child was in a general foster placement and was getting on well.

The child started in a preschool and was sociable and loved other children. The mother was having contact once a week. The team leader said they were arranging contact with the grandmother and she came to see the child every weekend. There was a plan to meet with the grandmother with a view to increasing access.

The grandmother had recently purchased a new house, but a legal problem had arisen with it. The team leader said the grandmother would like to move into her new home first before the child moved in with her. The mother was residing in a mobile home and would move into the grandmother’s old house when the grandmother moved to her new home.

The judge asked: “Does she [the grandmother] predict a time to be in the house?”

The team leader said: “She cannot say due to [the legal issue] but it is imminent.”

The mother said: “My mother said she would take the child before she moves.”

The solicitor for the mother said the child had been in the care of her grandmother previously and the grandmother had been identified as a protective factor.

The team leader said the social workers in Northern Ireland were not looking at the grandmother as a possible carer for the child.

The solicitor for the mother said: “TUSLA (the CFA) concluded there were no child protection concerns of the child in the grandmother’s care in February.”

The judge: “As were the circumstances at the time. The court made a section 12 order two months ago.”

The mother was having one hour of access per week with the child. The team leader said: “The child came through a traumatic experience.  She was exposed to violence… We need to look at increasing access with the grandmother and not the mother.”

The solicitor for the mother said the mother was a vulnerable person who had been in two difficult and dangerous relationships. The mother needed to identify risks. The solicitor for the CFA said: “[In relation to] the assessment for the grandmother, one of the factors is the contact with [the mother’s partner] who is a risk in Northern Ireland.”

The team leader said: “We told her our concerns in relation to the [partner] and she [the grandmother] said she would not allow him to have contact.”

The mother’s partner had no relationship or biological connection to the child. The solicitor asked: “Why would he seek the child out at the grandmother’s house?”

The judge said: “That is a naïve question.  If he thought the mother was there, he could arrive [at the grandmother’s home].”

The judge said he wanted to appoint a guardian ad litem to the child and extended the interim care order for a period of 28 days.