Separate parenting assessments sought as interim care order extended for infant – 2023vol1#19

A judge in a provincial town extended an interim care order for an infant boy. The mother and father had been in court but had left before the hearing as the matter was not heard until approximately 7pm. Both parents had independent legal representation and had given their consent to the application, However, the father’s solicitor had also left. Evidence was heard from the child’s social worker and the guardian ad litem (GAL).

The social worker said the boy was settled in his current placement. The mother had provided clean urine samples twice each week. The infant had access with his parents twice weekly. The parents attended access together and the access had gone very well. She said that the mother had made progress, she was engaged, attentive to the child and had fully engaged with addiction services and her urines had been clear. She said the father had also engaged with her and had tried to secure a place on a rehabilitation scheme but to date had not been successful.

A parenting capacity assessment for both parents was due to be commenced. However, there was a disagreement between the legal representatives of the mother and father. The solicitor for the mother said the parenting capacity assessment was an assessment for the mother to parent alone. It was not a joint assessment for the parents to jointly parent the boy. He also said that the mother wanted separate access with the infant in addition to the access she had with the infant’s father.

The social worker said the father had put himself forward to parent the infant alone also and wanted a separate parenting capacity assessment. The mother’s solicitor said: “This is news to me. The mother had been railroaded into a joint assessment and now I am told that he [the father] wants his own assessment.”

The judge asked the parties to resolve this by correspondence and to ascertain the father’s instructions from his solicitor. She said it appeared to her that both parents wanted independent assessments.

The judge asked to hear from the GAL.

The GAL said the infant was doing well. He was healthy, had had a chest infection but it was viral, and he had recovered well. He had bonded with both parents, and it was obvious he enjoyed access. She said that it was critical that the parenting capacity assessment or assessments capture the full picture. She said these parents had a long history with the CFA and had other children that are the subjects of full care orders.

While the last three months had been positive, they were not representative of what had happened. As one access the mother had said to the father that this was all his fault. When she tried to ascertain from the mother if she was still in a relationship with the father, they were both ambiguous about it. She said she recommended independent parenting capacity assessments for both parents, but the assessor or assessors had to be given the full history.

The judge said that would extend the interim care order for 28 days with the consent of both parents. She directed the Child and Family Agency (CFA) make every effort to secure a rehabilitation programme, counsellor, or service for the father.