Interim care order extended though homeless mother uncontactable – 2018vol2#7

Three interim care orders were extended without opposition in a district court in a rural town including one which was heard ex-parte as the mother was said to be not contactable.

The social worker told the court she had unsuccessfully contacted homeless accommodation to try to locate the mother. She said the foster placement with a relative was working very well. The court heard that the father had died a few months previously but the social worker did not know the cause of death. The social worker said that the mother, who was in her thirties, was homeless and was addicted to drugs.

The judge asked if the child had siblings. The social worker replied that the child had one sibling and that they saw each other but that they were not in the same foster placement. “It is bad enough trauma to remove the parents but splitting a child from his/her sibling is inexcusable. Adding trauma to trauma,” said the judge. The CFA solicitor agreed.

Extending the interim care order for twenty-eight days, the judge asked the CFA to continue the efforts to locate the mother: “It does not matter how desperate the mother’s situation is, she needs help,” said the judge. The CFA was granted full discretion in terms of medical and access issues.

In another case the court heard that the young mother was now out of prison and was
no longer consuming drugs. She had had surgery but was fully recovered. Both parents were in court and were legally represented. The mother told the court that she had grown up in a family of drug addicts. “You are looking very healthy. Don’t throw that away,” said the judge.

The social worker confirmed that the report was an accurate reflection of the situation and that both parents had been assessed. The judge asked about the suitability of a supervision order. “She has come from hell. She hasn’t had a chance as a child herself,” the judge added. The social worker replied that although things were starting to improve, there were “things that need to be done”. When the mother told the court that she did not need to be supervised, the judge said: “I am trying to help you but the welfare of the child comes first.”

The father told the court that he had signed up for the parenting course as directed but that the course was cancelled because there were not enough participants. “That is so wrong. He was available,” noted the judge.

The judge directed the CFA to engage with the mother who had no education and came from a dysfunctional background. “I don’t want an aspiration, make it supervised access,” said the judge.

As the social worker was going away for two weeks, the judge granted a six-week extension with liberty to the parents to re-enter.

A third extension of an interim care order concerned an infant who had presented with serious injuries a year earlier. Present in court were both parents and a grandparent, who were legally represented, and an advocate for the father.

When the judge asked how the child was, the social worker replied that the infant was doing well and was walking but needed assistance. The assessment was ongoing to identify the full impact of the injuries sustained.

Acknowledging that the role of the advocate was to assist litigants with difficulties, the judge asked why the young mother had no advocate after almost a year since the proceedings started. The solicitor for the mother replied that it was not possible to source an advocate from outside the county. The judge replied that he did not understand the basis for it and that it did not matter what county the advocate was coming from. “It does not make sense that the court cannot progress in a fair manner. It is at the core of fair procedures. It is a very serious case,” added the judge.

The social worker said that they would need to request it in writing. The solicitor for the mother replied: “Why wasn’t this asked before?” The mother asked: “Why is this dragged on?” The solicitor for the mother confirmed that a written request would be forwarded.

The court was told that both parents had joint supervised access to their child and that the grandmother was seeking to change the terms of her access to unsupervised. The GAL solicitor said that there were concerns it could lead to unsupervised access for the parents through the grandmother and that an access review was due the following month.

When the solicitor for the father requested medical reports, the judge reminded them that parents could read and discuss the contents but were not entitled to have copies that could be publicised.

The judge granted a twenty-eight day interim care order extension.