An interim care order was extended in respect of three children where the placement of two of the children was due to end in a matter of days. Both parents were represented and the mother had an advocate.
The mother’s solicitor said: “She [the mother] has not ever consented to an extension [of the interim care order] and wishes for the children to be returned. Given the problems of the three children and the lack of onward placement, there is consent until Monday. In the interim it will be hoped the agency can provide a care plan. The parents have instructed [me to seek] to put forward a plan to the CFA to obviate any further extensions.”
Counsel for the GAL said the CFA had obligations [to the children] under sections 16 and 36 of the Child Care Act, 1991 and those obligations were clear.
The children were doing well in their placements, counsel said. Child A and child B were placed together and got on well with the other children in the house. One of the children was no longer suffering from nightmares and sleep disturbances. The teacher and psychologist recommended that Child C repeat a year in the creche and the mother was not happy about this.
The solicitor for the CFA said it was fair to say there was a general and severe shortage of foster placements in Ireland. The placement for two of the children would end the following Monday as other children who previously lived with the foster carers had come back into care and it had always been the view that the foster carers would take those children back if another interim care order arose.
The CFA sourced one suitable placement which was due to be considered by the fostering committee. Initially the placement was approved but the fostering agency was of the view that the children would be better placed in a more experienced foster placement. The social worker said: “That is something we continue to work on and negotiate. Our main interest is that it [the placement] was a good match. Their [the fostering agency] concern is that it is a first-time foster placement and a private [placement] so there is not the same level of information sharing. I hope it is an appropriate placement but my information is limited.”
The solicitor for the CFA asked: “If the placement does not work out, what are the alternatives?”
The social worker: “The situation is something we did not want to come across. We are looking at options for the children and we have referrals out with all fostering agencies and we have another placement that might come available. There is an available placement in a provincial town but that town is too far away and we are looking at creative options. The placement available at the end of the month is in Dublin and that leaves a gap.”
She said: “we have a number of possibilities to try and if none of them pan out, we will have to look for an emergency placement but that is not ideal. [Our] goal is to support the children.” The social worker agreed the situation was not acceptable and the children deserved better.
The GAL was to meet with the children and look at the proposal by the parents.
The judge said the views of the GAL and the welfare of the children were vital in order to resolve the issue. The matter was listed for an update on the fostering placement.