Interim care orders extended for four siblings living in residential home – 2024vol1#20

A District Court judge granted an extension of interim care orders for four children who were living in a residential unit. A section 37 application in relation to access arrangements had also been issued by the parents, but was adjourned. The initial interim care order in respect of these siblings had been made six months earlier.

The parents were both present in court and legally represented. The mother’s barrister said her client was not consenting to the ICO and she was very concerned over safety. The barrister for the father said his client was opposing the ICO extension and was deeply concerned about both the placement and the safety of the children and he said that one of the children who was non-verbal had escaped onto a gable roof.

The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) told the court that access had been suspended for the parents and a number of meetings had taken place. In addition, a list of access “do’s and don’ts” had been agreed. Access with the eldest child had now recommenced and access with the three younger children was due to take place the following week. The CFA solicitor said that all access took place in either the health centre or the social work department. The CFA solicitor said that the social worker would continue to review access in conjunction with the GAL.

The CFA solicitor told the court that a “significant event notification” had been made by the eldest child and the parents had been told not to discuss that with him.

The CFA solicitor said that there had been safety concerns about the children’s placement, which was a detached house with fencing. On several occasions one of the children had absconded through a roof and also a bathroom window. The parents had raised concerns. The solicitor said the CFA had been in contact with the parents and asked if they had new issues to raise that they communicate that in writing.

In addition, there were concerns that the children had bruising. The school had made contact and the children had been taken to the GP, one of them also went to the hospital where the hospital deemed it was accidental bruising.

The parental capacity assessment was due to commence and the mother was told she could use the WIFI facilities in the social work department if needs be.

The solicitor for the guardian ad litem (GAL) confirmed the GAL was supporting the ICO extension.

The social worker was called to give evidence and he said that there had been no material change since the last court date and he confirmed that in his opinion the children still required the care of the CFA.

On cross examination he confirmed to the mother’s barrister that meetings in the main should take place in person as at times the WIFI signal was poor and it was easier to engage in person. Ideally any meetings should take place with the mother’s advocate present.

In relation to the bruising on the child, the barrister said the bruising was significant enough for the school to notify the parents. The social worker said the children were regularly active. Previously the children had not gone out much and therefore the school was not used to seeing them with bruises whereas now they were availing of an onsite playground.

The social worker confirmed he had spoken with the residential manager and that any concerns were to be reported. He agreed that it would be more reassuring for the mother to know about minor injuries in advance of seeing the children at access and that the staff should keep them updated.

The access schedule was also to be provided.

The social worker agreed with the father’s barrister that the last meeting between them, which was online, was smoother and the father had managed his emotions. The meeting was productive and they were able to go through items.

The social worker was asked about the delay in seeing the doctor and the social worker said it was because of the doctor’s capacity to see the children. The barrister for the father said the parents were willing to advocate with the doctor on behalf of the children.

The court heard that the access with the eldest child had gone well and that he had enjoyed access with his parents. It was felt that he would benefit from more structured access than just being on his phone and perhaps an activity would be beneficial.

The social worker was asked about the father having access at the residential home and the social worker said they were not at the stage where that could happen at the moment.

The social worker described some of the behaviours being seen in one of the children who was defecating in the wardrobe and smearing faeces on the walls and soiling herself on the way to school. There were concerns about this behaviour and the social worker said they were monitoring her and obtaining clinical inputs. He said this was at an early stage.

The CFA solicitor asked the social worker if he had seen the GAL’s report and recommendations. He said all four children were to get occupational therapy and some of the assessments were underway, including play-based psychotherapy. Both the access schedule and access review were to be provided to the judge.

The barrister for the father said that his client was strongly opposed to extending the interim care order. The recent access had been a positive step and he wanted strong consideration given to access being facilitated at the residential unit. He said his client had signed up to the contract for access.

The judge noted that the GAL was supporting the application and that the parents were present – that the mother was not consenting and the father strongly opposed the application. He said he had reviewed the reports and said it was positive access had been reinstated. He said the access schedule should be provided that day and said that access should be reviewed.

He said that the safety of the children was a concern for the parents, which he accepted given the children’s ages and difficulties. He said the parents should set out their concerns in writing. He said he accepted they were upset over the bruising but he said they had been seen by the doctor and the hospital and it was concluded to being accidental bruising. He said the residential manager had been spoken to and an explanation had been provided.

He said the mother should be given an explanation of any accidents in advance of access. He said meetings should preferably be in person.

Having regard to the updated reports and noting the parent’s concerns he extended the ICO for 28 days and adjourned the s37 applications.