A District Court judge said he was not happy that a putative father was present in court during a hearing for an extension of an Interim Care Order for a young child. The mother of the child was the only respondent in the case and the solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) said the results of DNA tests to establish if the man was the child’s father would be known shortly.
The man was not a party to the proceedings but he was present in the court room. The solicitor said she would be seeking to have him joined in the proceedings if the DNA test established that he was the father. The judge said he was not happy that the man was in court before the results of the test were made known. The man then left the courtroom.
The mother’s solicitor said she was consenting to the extension of the Interim Care Order (ICO) but she was seeking more access with her daughter. At present she had one hour of supervised access each week and the CFA had not agreed to increase it.
The CFA solicitor told the judge the child found access very stressful. It was “quite a fraught” situation and the Agency had concerns about the quality of the access and the impact it was having on the child. It would not be in the best interest of her welfare to increase it. The mother had moved to a different town during the summer without discussing it with the CFA and increased access would not be feasible at present.
The solicitor said allegations of child sexual abuse by the mother were currently under assessment by the CFA and she was opposed to any change in access arrangements until the assessments were completed in six to eight weeks time.
The judge said he would not interfere with the current access arrangement without the reports of the assessments. The solicitor for the guardian ad litem said she agreed that no change should be made to the access arrangements until the reports of the assessments were available.
The judge extended the Interim Care Order and directed that the latest social work report be handed in to court “rather than giving evidence.” He said he was receiving that report as evidence and extended the ICO.
Another application in the same court in a rural town for an extension of an Interim Care Order for two children was opposed by the mother. The CFA solicitor said the youngest child had been taken into care almost a year ago pursuant to an Emergency Care Order after the mother had threatened to kill herself and the child. The mother had been in hospital for some time but was present in court for this hearing. The children in care had different fathers and the mother was now pregnant with a different father.
The guardian ad litem had prepared two reports for the court and was recommending that the ICO be extended although the guardian had mentioned the possibility of a second opinion in one of the reports. A clinical psychologist was currently conducting a parenting capacity assessment and a meeting to plan the long term future for the children was taking place at the end of the month.
The mother’s solicitor said she was “simply not consenting to the extension of the order”. Supervised access was now taking place for four hours a week in the family home and “we are reserving our right to raise questions about the reports at any full hearing of the matter.”
The CFA solicitor said the mother had initially denied she was pregnant again and her solicitor said she had done so because her pregnancy was in danger at the time. Things had moved on and she was in a new relationship and would welcome anything that would help her to be able to deal with her children. The clinical psychologist had asked for neuropsychological reports and the mother had been told that stress was not good for her.
“In the absence of any definite plan for return (of the children) she is getting more frustrated,” the solicitor said. A long term plan was to be discussed at the end of the month. There were three young children, only two of them were the subject of these proceedings but she was hopeful of parenting all four children in the future.
The judge told the mother she was “jumping the gun” in opposing the extension of the Interim Care Order. He said the forthcoming meeting was for the long term planning of the parenting of the children “which very much involves you. This isn’t a meeting about a meeting. It’s to discuss a plan and that’s what is to happen,” he said.
He directed that the meeting was to deal with a long term care plan for the children and extended the ICO noting that the mother did not consent to the extension.
In another case at the same court, the judge extended an Interim Care Order for a young child after the CFA solicitor said the mother had been asked to leave a residential alcohol treatment course before she had finished it. Prior to attending the course there had been serious concerns about her. Social work staff had met her when she was under the influence of alcohol and there were concerns about her mental health.
The child had been taken into care in the summer of 2014. The mother’s solicitor said she was not consenting to the extension of the ICO and that this was the first time she was not consenting to the application. The father of the child, who was also legally represented, consented to the application.
The mother told the judge that she had addressed her problem. She had come out of the treatment centre two weeks ago and would be attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings three days a week from the following Monday. She had access with her child for two hours a week in a nearby town. She told the judge: “I have done really good and I’m willing to do everything I can and I want the child back.” She said she would also be attending after-care every week.
Asked by the judge why was she told to leave the treatment centre, she said it was because the staff thought she had taken a phone into a room where they were watching a film. The judge said this seemed to be a very minor issue over which to be forced to leave.
The CFA solicitor suggested the court direct the treatment centre to prepare a report as to why she left and the judge gave that direction. The CFA solicitor said a clinical psychologist had commenced an assessment which had to be suspended when the mother entered the treatment centre and they were anxious that it be completed. The judge directed that a parenting capacity assessment be carried out.
The mother’s solicitor told the court she had lost her rental accommodation when she went into treatment. She told the judge her sister, who also had a child, was prepared to take her and her child in until she got her own place. She said she was not going to live again with the child’s father but they saw each other and he was welcome to visit the child. “I’m willing to do everything,” she told the judge.
“Well done,” the judge told her. “You’re getting there. It will take a while but you’re getting there.”