Care order for boy following five attempts at reunification

A judge in a metropolitan area granted a full care order for a primary school aged boy until he was 18 with the consent of his mother. This followed a lengthy period when the boy alternated between foster care and his mother’s care.

The mother was in court and legally represented. The father was dead. Evidence was heard from the social worker for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) and from the guardian ad litem (GAL).

The social worker said the mother had had a long history of substance abuse and although at times she had had periods of sobriety these had never lasted. The child first came into the care of the CFA at three months old of age and was fostered until he was two years old, when he was reunified with his mother. The reunification broke down because of the mother’s addiction issues and the child returned to the care of the CFA. Fortunately, the same foster carer was available, and he returned to the same foster family.

She said this pattern repeated itself numerous times. The mother would work with the social workers and other professionals to regain her sobriety and the child would be returned to her care, but it never lasted. The longest time the reunification lasted with the mother was three months. The boy had been with the same foster family throughout his preschool years but unfortunately that foster family could no longer care for him because of their circumstances.

He had been placed in another foster family within the same community and he had not had to change schools. He had settled very well with the new foster family. He had access with his mother weekly and with his previous foster family fortnightly. The previous foster family remained committed to him and the child wanted them to be part of his life. The boy was doing well in school.

The social worker said that the boy now needed certainty and whilst he wanted to have access with his mother, he did not want to live with her. She said: “There had been at least five attempts at reunification, and all had failed and at what point do we say, enough. I say that time is now when the child is asking for certainty about his future and wants to know where he will be. He deserves stability.”

She said the care order was required for the boy, as he had become fretful about what would happen to him when he was older. He needed certainty and confidence of where he would be and who he would be with. The boy had said he could not relax until this had been sorted.

Evidence was given by the GAL who reinforced what the social worker had said. The boy had written a letter for the GAL to take to court and the GAL read the letter verbatim for the court. The letter stated that his life was good and he was very busy. He liked his foster parents and his school. He liked seeing his mom and his previous foster parents. He wanted to know where he will be for a long time, and he wanted to stay where he was. He wanted the GAL to tell the judge to let him stay where he was, and he hoped the judge would let him.

He wanted to be vaccinated against Covid and have a passport and he hoped the judge would let him have those things also. The GAL said the boy had made clear to the court his voice. In any application the priority was the child and the needs and rights of the child had to be vindicated.

He supported the access of the boy with his mother and the access could be reviewed as the mother continued to address her addictions issues.

The judge said that the most draconian of all orders was a full care order and they are not made lightly. He wished the court to acknowledge the mother for her selflessness. He spoke directly to the mother and said: “It does my heart good to see a parent who can prioritise the needs of her child above her own, so many parents are unable to do this. I know the difficult step you have taken today.”

The judge granted the order and said it was proportionate and necessary for the stability and certainty for the boy. He said the boy was entitled to it. He noted the views of the boy and said the boy’s wishes on the vaccine and a passport should be addressed as soon as possible. He thanked the mother for her consent and wished her and the boy every success.