Mother consents to interim care and supervision orders amid concerns of toddlers’ vulnerability to sexual abuse – 2019vol1#41

A mother consented to an interim care order and a supervision order in respect of her two toddlers, following concerns that the toddlers might be exposed to sexual abuse. The orders were granted by a District Court in a provincial town, subject to certain conditions.

The CFA brought applications under sections 17 and 18 of the Child Care Act 1991 in respect of two toddlers. The court had initially been advised that the matter involved a significant dispute and may take some time. However, the matter was ultimately settled between the parties during the course of the day.

The mother was present and was represented by the LAB. The father was also represented but was not present. The father’s solicitor stated that the father had obtained legal aid, but that he had been unable to get in contact with him in advance of the present hearing.

The parties agreed that a short interim care order would be granted in respect of the younger toddler. A supervision order would be granted in respect of the older toddler.

A social worker gave evidence and indicated that, in her opinion, the orders agreed were appropriate, but that the supervision order would need to be subject to conditions and liberty be given to re-enter on 24 hours’ notice.

The social worker stated that the mother had displayed concerning behaviour since her most recent baby was born. She had left him in the care of her parents and had left with two men who the social services were concerned she was engaging with. She was in a relationship with a man who was on the sex offenders’ register. She had given a commitment in the past not to expose her older toddler to him, but she had done so regardless. The social worker stated that there were concerns also about the toddler being exposed to his father.

The social worker stated that the mother was supported by her parents, but that they too had concerns over how she was caring for her children.

The older toddler had been residing with his grandparents since he was born. He had a close bond with them. The social worker stated that they were happy he would continue to reside there as long as the mother resided elsewhere, as she had removed him from there in the past.

The court, therefore, gave certain directions in relation to the supervision order. It directed that the mother should move out of the home in which the child was to reside and that there be no unsupervised contact between the mother and son. There was to be no contact of any description with the father without the prior knowledge and agreement of the CFA. There was also to be no unsupervised contact between the mother and the younger toddler.

The judge agreed that the younger toddler would have to go to a placement, and a short interim care order was granted. The matter was temporarily concluded, although the solicitor for the CFA stated that the file would need considerable attention going forward.

In another case on the same day the court extended a care order for two years for a school-aged child, having heard that the parents continued to engage in substance abuse and excess drinking, and had each accused the other of domestic abuse.

A social worker’s report was handed into court. The court heard that the child had certain physical difficulties and required particular care. The matter had been listed for review some months previously. The court was advised that, as was clear from the report, no progress had been made by the parents since that date.

The social worker gave evidence that access was booked in twice weekly for both parents. However, they could be completely erratic and there had been no improvement in that regard.

The court heard that the reason the child was initially placed in care was that the parents had been engaging in substance abuse and living a chaotic lifestyle. The judge asked had these issues been resolved. The social worker replied that, in fact, they had got worse. The drinking had got worse. A protection order had been granted. Both parents had made allegations of serious domestic violence against the other. On one occasion, the father had shown up to access with blood on his face.

The judge remarked: “It sounds like it is chaos in the home”.

The social worker replied: “Absolute chaos”.

The social worker stated that, in his opinion, a two-year order was necessary and proportionate. He felt that the parents needed a long period of time to recover from their various issues.

The social worker stated that the mother had made some effort. Both parents were aware of the application before the court, including the length of the order that was being sought.

He stated that they were subdued when they heard that. However, both parents were very happy with the placement. They had nominated the foster father. The foster parents were also very understanding towards the needs of the parents and the needs of the child.

The social worker stated that, given all the factors and the period of time envisaged for the parents’ recovery, anything less than a two-year care order would be inappropriate.

The judge suggested that a review take place in six-months.

The solicitor for the LAB stated: “I shouldn’t be arguing against myself, but twelve months would be enough.” The judge nonetheless put the matter in for review in six months.