A judge in a rural town granted extensions of interim care orders for four young children, whose father was in prison and mother had been unable to cope.
The mother was present in court with an advocate. She was represented by a solicitor and a barrister and had consented to the application. The father was not in court, he was in prison, but was represented by a solicitor, who said that he had not been able to contact the father. He said the father had been moved from one prison to another and he had not been able to locate him, he therefore had no instructions.
The judge asked the solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) if they had served the father of this application. The solicitor said they had served his legal representative. The solicitor for the guardian ad litem (GAL) said the GAL had been in contact with the father and he knew of the application that day. The father’s lawyer assured the court that he would contact the father prior to any future court date.
The four children were three girls (A), (B) and (C); and one boy (D), all primary school aged. A and B had been fostered together in one placement, C and D had been placed together in another placement, both of which were private foster arrangements.
The social work team leader said the mother had done well. She had completed a parenting capacity assessment which had made various recommendations, and which the mother had started to implement. These had included a referral for a psychological assessment, trauma-informed therapy and referrals to various women’s help groups. The mother had made self-referrals to the recommended women’s groups and had seen her general practitioner (GP) about a referral to a Health Service Executive (HSE) psychologist.
The judge asked: “How long will that take? Have you referred the mother to a psychologist?” The social work team leader replied: “No, I had contacted three psychologists but was told we had to wait for the HSE referral.”
The social work team leader said that the mother attended every access, which took place every Friday, one Friday A and B, the next Friday C and D. One Friday in the month she had access with all four children together. She said the mother had done well but had only just started to implement the recommendations of the parenting capacity assessment. This was the beginning and there was a long road ahead for the mother. The social work team leader said the threshold for granting an extension of the interim care order remained for all four children as there had been no significant change since the granting of the original order.
There had been no change in the mother’s presentation, but it was positive she had commenced the work that needed to be done. The father remained incarcerated. The social work team leader said that she believed the father benefited from the structure that prison provided.
With respect to the children the social work team leader said A and B and had settled and were doing very well in their placement. Both had individual weekly play therapy. They attended school and were doing well. B had some difficulties and had been referred for a speech and language assessment. They attended access which had generally gone well but the foster carer had reported that after access when their mother had all four children, A and B often fought.
The social worker team leader said this was not identified as a problem, more as an observation as the fight had resolved by the next day. The foster carer had been provided with extra support if needed. A and B had received a letter from their father which had been read to them. She said that she had intended to meet with the father to discuss his access with the children and that he wanted the children to have access with other members of his family.
C and D were also doing well, they attended creche. They also had individual weekly play therapy sessions. They enjoyed access with their mother and their siblings. The social work team leader said: “Perhaps C and D enjoy it more than A and B.”
The solicitor for the mother asked if the CFA would seek funding and source a private psychological assessment if there was a long HSE waiting list. The social work team replied they would comply with that request.
The GAL said that she had visited all the children and they were doing well. She was concerned that the mother had not received all the support from the CFA that she could have. She said she was gladdened to hear in court that day the assurance from the CFA, that they would seek funding and source a private psychological assessment if the waiting list for an appointment with a HSE psychologist was long. This was necessary so the mother would be enabled to begin therapeutic work as soon as possible.
The judge extended the interim care orders for all children for 28 days and gave direction to the CFA to seek funding and source a private psychological assessment if the HSE waiting lists were long.