Mother disengages from access “finding it too hard” – 2017vol1#18

The Dublin District Court heard an application in early 2017 by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) for an extension to an Interim Care Order for a very young child. The application was uncontested by the mother who was not present in court but had provided instructions to her legal representative. The father had been contacted in writing by the CFA but had not engaged with the CFA nor in the judicial proceedings.

The social worker gave evidence that the child came into care in early 2016 due to non-accidental injuries to the child’s skull and leg. The mother had taken the child to hospital for treatment and acknowledged to staff that the child had been injured. However, her explanation was not consistent with the medical opinion on the cause of the injury.

The mother had disengaged over the past year, attending only one access visit with the child and one meeting with the CFA. She did not attend the child in care review. The mother was reported to have said that she found it “too hard” and although access was offered she wanted to “step back, doesn’t want to come to access”. The court was told that the mother had been given information on accessing an independent advocate but had not availed of this service.

The social worker informed the court the mother had expressed a wish that her daughter be adopted by her current foster carers. However, the mother had been inconsistent in what she wanted for her daughter and whether or not she wanted her to be adopted. The young child was doing very well in her foster placement. The child’s grandmother had had two access visits with the child so far and they had both been positive.

The Judge asked if the CFA had considered the suitability of employing the Resolutions Model [designed to deal with denied abuse] in this case.

A GAL had been appointed for the child in mid-2016. Giving evidence, the GAL said that there were discrepancies between the account given by the professionals and that of the mother in relation to meetings held. She noted that it was hard to get a clear sense of what was going on for the mother. A psychologist had been commissioned to do a desk-top review of the documentation regarding a risk assessment. The GAL welcomed this given that we might never know what happened to cause the child’s injuries. It was noted that the mother found it very difficult to engage in a psychological assessment. The mother had not engaged with the GAL, despite initially accepting an invitation to meet.

The GAL said that the child was thriving in her placement, her care was consistent, she was very happy and was central to the family. The foster carers had agreed to a long term placement and to adopt her. The GAL believed it to be an appropriate and suitable placement for the child. The GAL commented that it was positive that the child was having access with her grandmother, who lived outside the jurisdiction.

The judge granted the extension to the Interim Care Order for one month. The judge asked that the CFA communicate to the mother than even at this late stage the situation and the injury could be fully explored in a way that did not necessarily go to blame and that it may not be the obstruction that she saw it to be.