A judge in a rural town extended an interim care order for a six-month-old baby, but said that a report was needed before any further decisions could be made. The court was told that the parents had undergone an assessment in a mother and baby home in Dublin. The assessment had been completed the previous week, however the report was awaited.
The mother was to attend an onward step-down facility and reside there until the final report had been received. The mother had undertaken a 12-week assessment and the Child and Family Agency (CFA) wanted the mother to continue to stay in the step-down facility for a further two weeks to enable this report to be received. She did not want to stay there.
The father had not been able to stay after his five-day assessment as he had had to return home to look after other family members.
The court was told that the mother was due to return to the step-down facility. In the meantime, a person from her network had custody of the child. The court was told that the mother would have more freedom in the step-down facility than she had had during the two-week assessment.
The court heard that the father had been very overwhelmed, which impacted his ability to care but he was overcoming the difficulties. He had found the first 48 hours difficult however he had implemented the requirements. The father would be offered access but he had indicated to the social worker that he was not in a position to take up access for a period of two weeks.
The child was doing well in her placement with her relatives. The court heard that the CFA needed to see the report which would form part of any reunification plans. The court was also informed that the mother had raised an issue in relation to the parentage of the child, and this would be explored further by the CFA.
The solicitor for the mother said that the mother had entered into the assessment facility in January for 12 weeks, which had now ended. During the assessment the mother was allowed to go to another county and stay with her aunt at the weekends. The mother would continue to do so over the next number of weekends.
The solicitor said that there was no television in the room in the step-down facility and there was nothing to occupy the mother’s time. The social worker said she was not aware of this.
The solicitor asked when the father had last had access and it was confirmed that it was two months earlier.
The mother’s solicitor said that the preliminary report appeared to indicate no concerns but that support would be required. She said that the mother had support in her home with her relative. The social worker said that there were concerns over the relationship between the parents and that a safety plan needed to be put in place around the relationship.
The mother’s solicitor said that her client wanted to remain in the relative’s home with her child. The social worker was adamant that as they did not have the report from the assessment facility no further steps could be taken until the report was received. The solicitor said that the child was very happy at her home with her aunt and mother and she was in a good routine. She said that the mother did not want to introduce the child to yet another facility where she had already had had four placements and they still did not have the report.
The solicitor for the father confirmed that the father was consenting to an extension of the ICO.
In relation to access, the solicitor for the father said that there had been difficulties between the parents and claimed that the mother had interfered with his access. She requested that supports be put in place as her client was not having good quality access. The social worker said that access was being supervised by the CFA but that the parents also needed to use their own safety networks. The solicitor also asked about DNA testing and a timeline and the social worker said that that was to be discussed further with the father.
The judge said that they would be further on when the report was received and extended the ICO for a period of 28 days.