Six-month supervision order while parents assessed, father had child sex conviction – 2019vol1#43

A court in a rural town granted a supervision order for six months for a young child because the CFA had difficulty in progressing a risk and forensic assessment of the parents. The father had been convicted and imprisoned for a sexual offence against a minor and his post-release programme worker had made a referral to the CFA.  There were two witnesses, the mother and the CFA social worker. Both parents were legally represented.

Initially both parents had consented to the CFA contacting their GP and public health nurse (PHN) regarding the child but later withdrew their consent.  There had been a one-month supervision order previously, the child had been found to be well on social work visits and the PHN reported at a child protection conference that the child was meeting her milestones.

When asked by the mother’s solicitor what specifically the CFA was assessing with regard to the mother the CFA social worker told the court they needed to assess her capacity to protect the child given the father’s sexual offences against a minor. The mother’s solicitor put it to the social worker there was no legal basis for the supervision order application as the mother had no difficulty with the social workers calling to see how the child was doing.

CFA social worker: “In my involvement to date the mother says she doesn’t have an issue. I have had challenging times dealing with [the parents]. I wouldn’t be confident without a supervision order.”

The social worker disagreed when it was put to him by the father’s solicitor that the breakdown of trust was down to the CFA not properly engaging. Social worker: “[A] is a very vulnerable child, non-verbal and pre-mobile and [the CFA] would like to act as quickly as possible. “

The court heard the mother had an adult son and had not been known to the CFA previously. There had been a large volume of correspondence between the mother and the CFA asking for further details regarding the assessment and for an agenda in advance of meetings before she could commit to meeting the CFA. The correspondence was handed up to the court and put in evidence.

CFA solicitor: “Were you aware the referral [to the CFA] was on the basis of [the father’s] conviction?”

Mother: “Yes.”

CFA solicitor: “You have no objection to a welfare check. I am at a bit of a loss to your objection to allowing the CFA to do an assessment when my clients wrote to you on x date about what they intend to do, and you are saying no one explained the nature of the referral. Do you accept the letter clearly sets out [the assessment]?”

Mother: “A few lines of a referral. It did not explain the protective parenting capacity assessment. It is not apparent.”

The mother disagreed with the judge that she would not co-operate until she received some expansion on the CFA assessment.

Judge: “I have considerable years on the bench and an understanding of psychology. I find the mother pedantic [with] detailed questions before a meeting takes place. In this instance there is one matter only. The CFA is trying to establish if a child is at risk. [This is] the basis of the procedure. The father is a former prisoner in respect of a sexual assault on a minor. The child can’t express themselves. I’m afraid the child is entitled to a relationship with the father.

“The parents want to deal with the matter line by line [like] the trenches in the first World War. The upshot is the granting of a supervision order will not achieve what the CFA have sought regarding an assessment, in essence, to understand whether the father is a risk factor. [There is a] lack of co-operation. The court has no option but to grant a supervision order so the CFA can enter uninvited to [make] an assessment regarding the child.”

The judge granted a six-month supervision order.