A mother consented to an Interim Care Order for an infant, amid allegations of substance misuse and domestic violence. Both parents were legally represented.
The social worker said that the child had been returned to the mother earlier in the year. The child had been placed on the child protection register and a child protection case conference had been arranged. Both parents were made aware of the conference but neither parent attended.
She explained that the mother did not attend as her advocate would not be in attendance. The father informed the court that he had been in the mother’s home and that he didn’t know where the case conference was due to take place. The social worker explained “due to the lack of engagement by the parents, an application was made for a supervision order in respect of the child.”
The social worker said there was a change of engagement with the mother. The mother told the social worker that she was in fear of the father and was carrying protection with her. The mother told the social worker that the father had been very abusive towards her. He had called her a “rapist in front of the child” and threatened her by saying: “I don’t need to touch you and I can get anyone else to do it.”
The mother brought an application for a safety order prior to the hearing as a result of the father’s abusive behaviour. The social worker said it was clear that the mother could not “protect herself or the child from the father.”
On one occasion the mother noticed the father outside the house. She made attempts to go to the Garda station but was unable to do so as the father was standing outside her home until the early hours of the morning. The social worker explained that the “the mother had to make contact with refuges in order to get support.”
The social worker said that she had contacted various refuges on behalf of the mother but that there were was no suitable bed available in a refuge for both the mother and child. The child spent that night with her former foster carers. Following the incident, the mother indicated that she wished for the child to remain with her foster carers on an informal basis. The social worker said that the mother “needed time for the appropriate supports to be put in place.”
She said that the father was not suitable carer for the child. He had threatened to kill the social worker and her family. The father had also threatened to remove the child from foster care in the past and take her abroad where the “social work department wouldn’t bother them.” He maintained that he, the mother and child could get new passports and leave the country. He told the social worker that “you can’t have her [the child], no one can.”
The social worker did not recommend that the child have access with her father. She said that she would like the father to “show he can work with social department, take a DNA test as required and attend all necessary appointments.” The social worker concluded that there was a risk to the welfare of the child if she were returned to the father due to the level of aggression he had shown.
The author of the parental capacity assessment report told the court that he had met with the father on two occasions but that the father had stopped engaging. At both meetings, the father aired his grievances with the social work department. The author said that they had arranged to visit family home but “never went there as the father’s demeanour didn’t allow for that.”
The judge asked if the author had experienced any personal incidents of aggression with the father. The author replied that he had been subjected to verbal aggression. The father threatened him by saying, “call out and see what happens.”
The author explained that the parental capacity assessment was suspended due to the threats made by the father. He said that the assessment was “complete in so much as I could engage with the father.”
The father gave evidence. He stated that both mother and child had spent Easter at his house and that he saw the child 5-6 days a week. He said he had a “great relationship” with the child and he would be a “great father if given the chance.” He disputed the evidence given by the social worker and said that he had only become aware of the fact that the child had gone to stay with her former foster carers on the morning of the hearing. He denied that he had ever shouted abuse at the mother in front of the child.
The father’s solicitor asked him: “Would you be worried about the child’s care in the presence of her mother?”
He replied: “I don’t know. One minute everything is alright but then it changes.” The father said that he no longer wished to engage with the social work department as people were treating him badly and placing him under pressure. He called the social work department a “disgrace” and said he had ceased engaging due to the “ways they had gone about things.” He explained he had threatened the social worker and parenting capacity assessment author as he “was going through hell.”
The father maintained that the social work department was “responsible” for the application for a safety order brought by the mother. He also alleged that the foster carers of the child needed to be investigated and that the child was in “more danger” in their care.
The judge, having heard all of the evidence, said she was satisfied that there was “reasonable cause to believe that the child was required to stay in the protection of the CFA.”
She noted the father’s attitude towards the foster carers and social work department. She directed that a GAL be appointed to report to the court regarding the welfare and wishes of the child. She said that the CFA was to “contemplate how best to communicate with the father.”