Robust plan of supports enables reunification – 2014vol1#7

A reunification plan between a mother and young child came to fruition in Dublin District Court when the Child and Family Agency decided the ending of an Interim Care Order application was appropriate. The solicitor for the CFA made a formal application to withdraw the application, which “would be supported by evidence; the proposed course of action of the social worker and the mother who had made phenomenal improvements” in her life.

The barrister for mother said she was supporting the withdrawal of the order, and that evidence would be given by the CFA for the plan in the future. The mother was cooperating with all the central tenets of that plan, to include sourcing accommodation; availing of appropriate therapeutic supports; ensuring she and her daughter were safe; and full cooperation with the social work department. The mother would agree to a voluntary arrangement for the next two weeks. Her barrister asked for the GAL not to be discharged until then.

The barrister for the GAL told the court that the non-continuation of the ICO was the agreed way forward subject to the court. There were six matters they had sought clarity on and received; in those circumstances the GAL would not oppose the withdrawal of the s.17 and 18 (Interim and full Care Order) applications. The CFA had agreed to convene a child protection conference in which the GAL would like to participate, said the barrister.

GAL barrister: “In any event the guidance for GALs does envisage a period of wind down and wrap down, including attendance at the child protection conferences. Everyone would like to achieve that the matter does not go back to court. It would be open to the court to set a further review date if it believed it needed to do so.”

The CFA solicitor said they had no problem with the GAL not being discharged until the set date in two weeks.

The principal social worker told the court there would be “a child protection conference convened, all parties involved with the child and mum are invited to sit around the table. A child protection plan will be formulated there to safeguard the child for the next six months. There will be a three month review of the progress that child and mum are making with partner agencies in the community, the case at that point would be considered by the long term team, there would be a natural progression to the long term team. It would be a different relationship and less fraught, that would be reviewed at six months.”

CFA solicitor: “What’s expected between the CFA and this family?”

Principal social worker: “The Child and Family Agency are moving from being the corporate parent and handing over the responsibility to the parent with us supporting that plan, she has agreed a voluntary reception into care for the first two weeks.”

The current family support worker would stay on for the next three months working with the child once a week and the social work department would remain involved for a minimum of 18 months.

In line with policy the child would be visited every two weeks by the agency worker who would report back any difficulties, “it is an early warning system, they can intervene if needed,” said the social worker.

An inter-agency approach was being adopted involving the public health nurse, the crèche, the family support worker, the GP, the children’s hospital, and speech and language therapists.

The mother had not been selected for her choice of housing, but was committed to seeking private rented accommodation. Securing appropriate accommodation was a matter of priority. She continued to attend counselling support for her mental health. There was evidence recently she was beginning to self-regulate in terms of controlling outbursts.

Her daughter would attend therapeutic work and also would be referred to a local CAMHS and crèche for support. The family support worker would link in for two hours per week initially but that could be increased. All family members would be notified by letter of the reunification.

The barrister for the mother said the mother had agreed to continue to take steps to protect herself and her daughter. She had done a parenting course and engaged very well with her support worker. Her daughter was aware she was returning home fully near the end of the month, “she is a very happy bubbly girl”. There were no concerns around her and how she was coping with the plan.

The relationship with the foster carers would continue as she has been in care for a significant part of her formative years and there was an attachment with them. She could have phone contact. The foster carer was very committed to the little girl and would like to develop a relationship where she could be contacted if the mother had difficulty settling her in the evening.

The mother told the court she felt there were enough things in place to ensure everything would work out. She said she would like to choose the psychologist that she and her daughter would work with, within the support and therapeutic centre she was already attending.

The judge said: “The approach that’s been taken now is very much a partnership approach,” and that the CFA had identified therapeutic supports. But if the centre she was attending could suggest and provide somebody for therapeutic support she would be satisfied with, then that could be worked out with the CFA.

Mother: “I just hope that is a partnership and not dictatorship on their part.”

Judge: “Just keep an open mind! You’ve been making the right decisions so far [in relation to mental health] and you’re to be congratulated for that.”