Interim care order extended for transitioning teenager- 2022vol2#14

The judge in a rural town extended an interim care order for two months on the consent of the parents for a teenager who was transitioning. She granted an application from the solicitor for the father to come off record.

This matter concerned a teenager born in Ireland to non-Irish national parents. An interpreter was present in court. The judge reminded the interpreter he was to interpret what was said and not his views on what was said. The father was in court. The solicitor for the father had lodged an application before the court to come off record.

The mother was in court. She had no legal representation but had applied for legal aid. The judge urged both parents to secure their own legal representation and directed the solicitor from the Child and Family Agency (CFA) to provide the parents with contact details of relevant offices of the legal aid boards.

The father’s solicitor asked if he could make his application to come off record, as although he had made exhaustive attempts to discuss this matter with the father and seek the father’s instructions there had been no engagement at all from the father. The judge said she wanted to hear from the social worker and the guardian ad litem (GAL) first.

The social worker told the court the threshold for an interim care order remained. He said the teenager was still in the process of transitioning. The foster placement and the school had responded appropriately to the teenager’s needs. He said the access the teenager had to a phone had been limited because the teenager had had contact with siblings which had been difficult and inappropriate. The teenager had received messages such as “Tusla kills children” “why are you doing this”, “this is killing your parents”. There had also recently been disclosures of sexual abuse which had to be investigated.

He said the parents, to date and up until today’s court date, had refused any engagement with any service and had refused to acknowledge any of the concerns the social work department had. He said: “Their engagement to date has been zero. However, the father told me today he will do whatever he has to now do.” A full and comprehensive assessment had to be completed which would include a parenting capacity assessment for both parents, but these assessments would only be of benefit if the parents engaged with them.

The judge observed the interpreter and gesticulated to the social worker to stop talking. She waited for the interpreter to stop talking. When the interpreter had finished, she asked the interpreter what he had been saying and why was he only talking to the father. She told the interpreter he was to interpret only what was said. He was not to give his interpretation of what was said. She instructed him to sit between the parents so she could be satisfied the mother also heard what had been said. She asked the social worker to continue.

The social worker continued, saying the parents had to acknowledge the problems, the risks, the allegations of abuse to date and demonstrate a motivation for change. He said significant supports had been attempted but they had all been thwarted by the parents. The parents had to show they were willing to work with him and any other professional involved.

The GAL said she had visited the teenager regularly. The teenager was stable in their foster placement, had recently changed schools, was doing well and had settled. Referrals had been made for a psychological assessment, play and art therapy. The teenager did not want to have contact with their family. The GAL reported she was suspicious of the sudden reversal of the parents’ position and had been unnerved by the parents. The parents had not engaged with her or the social workers to date. She said it was important for everyone to collaborate and work together for the benefit of the teenager. She hoped the full panoply of assessments for the teenager and the parents could begin.

The judge said she hoped this was a new beginning and that all parties would be able to work together. She permitted the father’s solicitor to come off record and directed the parents to secure their own legal representation. She asked the solicitor for the CFA to ensure the parents were given every assistance to contact all legal aid boards. She extended the interim care order for two months.