Social workers seek international assistance to contact parents of infant in care and extended order – 2023vol1#18

A judge in a provincial town granted an extension of an interim care order for an infant boy. Neither parent was resident in the jurisdiction at the time of the application, though both were legally represented at the hearing. The judge advised the social workers to try to liaise with local social work teams where the mother was based to try to progress matters.

The social worker said she believed the mother to be in a rehabilitation centre or waiting to enter a rehabilitation centre in her home country. The social worker said she had been trying to contact the mother but had been unsuccessful to date. The father was in his home country, which was war-torn. The social worker said that she had been liaising with international social services in contact with social work counterparts in the other countries but to date there had been no progress.

The judge asked: “Is there anything we can do to expedite matters?”

The social worker: “No, I do not think so, everything takes time, everything has to be translated and it just takes time. International social services do their own thing, and it can take months.”

The guardian ad litem (GAL) said the boy was doing very well. She said: “He [the boy] is thriving, reaching all his milestones, he is just a joy to spend time with, full of smiles and chat.” He had had his first vaccines and had moved to solid foods. He had been unwell with a respiratory infection but had fully recovered. She said she had had no contact with the father.

She said it was her understanding the mother had moved from prison to a rehabilitation centre, but it was necessary to have clarity on the mother’s position. The GAL said she had an address for the mother in her home country, and she wondered if it might be possible to make contact with the local social services directly rather than waiting for the international services to respond. She said it was critical to find the mother as it was important the views of the mother and father are known. It was also important for the boy to have access with his parents.

The judge said she was satisfied to extend the interim care order, but it was important for the court to have all facts and information before it could or should make decisions. She advised the social worker to try to contact the local social services where the mother was based to try to progress matters.

Subsequent hearing

When the case came back to court the social worker said he had made contact with the mother, she was in prison in another European country. The mother had told the social worker she was due to be released in approximately two months and hoped to enter a residential rehabilitation centre.

He said the mother had said she did not want to engage with social services until she was released from prison, this had been the only contact he had with her. He said he had tried to contact her several other times directly and through the prison authorities but had had no success. He said the prison had offered a Skype call, but the mother had not attended. He had contacted the father by text message.

He had sent the father videos and pictures of the infant. He said the father had thanked him for the pictures but remained committed to the war effort in his country and had no plans to return to Ireland. He had no other engagement from the father.

The social worker said he had not heard back from international social services. He had made contact with the Central Authority, but they had not been able to advise him of a time frame of contact with the social services in the other European country. (The Central Authority is a service in Ireland that liaises with social services in other European countries.)

He said although the infant had had no contact with the parents, he [the infant] was doing exceptionally well. His placement met all his needs and he was a pleasure to spend time with. The GAL said the infant was thriving. He had had his second vaccines and, as she had said before, he was a joy.

The judge said that she was most anxious that contact with the mother was maintained. She said she feared that if the mother were to leave prison it would be almost impossible for the social services in Ireland to locate her. She directed the social worker to keep in contact with the prison and to try to ensure contact details of the mother were maintained.

She extended the interim care order for 28 days.