In a Dublin case concerning two primary school children a judge insisted that the terms of a supervision order be provided in writing and signed by the mother and the Child and Family Agency (CFA) to ensure there could be no misunderstandings. This followed negotiations on the terms of the order between the mother’s lawyer and that of the CFA.
The matter had been before the court on several occasions and had always been adjourned. The mother was in court and was legally represented by a solicitor and a barrister. The father was not in court and had no representation.
The barrister for the mother said the position of the mother was that she conceded the threshold for a supervision order was reached but that such an order was neither necessary nor proportionate. There had been historical issues and concerns about the mother’s previous partner, but this relationship had ended. The mother acknowledged that she and the children may have been exposed to domestic violence, but as the relationship had ended, these had now been resolved.
She said the mother had offered every reasonable accommodation to social workers, but the mother did not want the social workers to visit at her home or for the social workers to visit the children at school. She had given her consent to the supervision order on those conditions. The barrister said it was not unreasonable for the mother to refuse access to the family home, and that she had not denied the social workers access to the children.
The mother had offered that the social workers could meet with the children at a local McDonalds restaurant, in local parks and had offered that a family friend would bring the children to the social work offices, but these had all been rejected by the social work team. An appointment by the social workers had been arranged but had been cancelled as child A was on a school tour which had been delayed on the return journey and the social workers could not wait. She said the mother had given her consent to the supervision order on the condition the social workers would not enter her home and the children were not visited at school.
The solicitor for the CFA said there had been referrals to the CFA from An Gardai Siochana and from the school regarding the children. The social workers had not been able to fulfil their statutory duty because they had not been allowed access to the family home.
She said a visit in a park had been arranged but the children were not appropriately dressed. Another had been arranged but the child returned late from a school tour and the social worker could not wait. She said the order was necessary and proportionate for the CFA to fulfil their statutory duty.
The judge asked both parties to talk outside the court to see if an agreement could be reached.
The parties re-entered the court and informed the judge that they had reached an agreement. The barrister for the mother began to explain the terms and conditions but the judge said that it was essential in such circumstances where there was mistrust on both sides that such an agreement should be committed to in writing which both parties should sign. It would then be absolutely clear and there would be no doubt. He instructed the parties to return once the terms were written and signed.
The parties returned to the court and handed into the judge the written terms of the agreement.
Evidence was given by the social worker that the threshold for making a supervision order had been reached and that the written agreement would fulfil the statutory duty of the CFA. The mother’s barrister informed the court the mother consented to this order being made on the conditions as stated in the written agreement.
The judge granted a supervision order for six months and made the written terms part of the order. He stated that he would review this matter in three months to ensure the written terms were being adhere to.