Judge in rural town urges more access for vulnerable mother – 2018vol2#27

A court in a rural town granted an interim care order extension on consent in a case where a toddler was in care due to its mother’s mental illness. She had had the child while in mental hospital.

The mother and grandmother were in court and the judge heard evidence from the social worker and guardian ad litem. The judge welcomed the mother and grandmother to the court and asked how the child was.

The social worker told the judge that the toddler was doing well and had started to walk. The court heard that mother had supervised access once every two months. The judge asked the CFA the reason why access had not been increased and the solicitor replied: “In fairness to the mother, she was seriously ill, she was so unwell.” The social worker responded that the child had to travel almost an hour and a half each way for the access. The judge said: “When there is a will, there is a way,” and added that the mother seemed to have reached a fine and stable stage.

The CFA solicitor said that the mother had agreed to undertake a psychological assessment in conjunction with the mental hospital in order to ascertain how access could be structured. When the judge asked how often the maternal grandmother had access to her grandchild, the court heard that supervised access took place weekly for one hour. The judge questioned why access was not taking place more often as, bearing in mind the welfare of the child, it would not be to the child’s detriment.

The GAL supported the view that a clinical psychological assessment would assist in structuring the access.

The social worker said that the bonding between the child and the mother had started and that the toddler had recently given her a kiss. The court heard that the foster carers talked to the toddler about his/her mother.

Noting that the mother was very vulnerable, the judge said: “I don’t want bureaucratic process to interfere in the best interest of the child. We need to try to help both mother and child.”

The judge added that the mother should also be supported by medical experts. The judge encouraged the CFA to increase unsupervised access to the grandmother and supervised access to the mother and added: “It will help the mother to get better.”

The judge granted a twenty-eight day interim care order extension. The judge directed the CFA to outsource the assessment privately if necessary and to appoint an advocate to support the mother through the process.

Release of medical report ordered

In another case the court directed the release of a medical report to a different medical team to progress a child’s medical assessment. The child was refusing to talk and was choosing who to speak to. The court heard that the child had gone through significant trauma almost from birth as the mother had an alcohol addiction. The CFA solicitor sought the release of an existing report to assist with the neuropsychological assessment of the case.

The judge noted that the ex-parte document was vague and did not include sufficient information. The judge directed that the document would be released just to the relevant professional expert and only for the specific purpose provided that the in camera rule would be respected.