An extension of an Interim Care Order was granted for 10 weeks in the Dublin District Court in respect of four young siblings. It was envisaged that a parenting capacity assessment which was under way, would be completed by then.
The four siblings had gone into care seven months previously. Welfare concerns for the children arose when their mother had gone to a women’s refuge with them and sought a protection order against her husband due to domestic violence. The two older children had made disclosures to the social care worker in the refuge. However the mother later withdrew all the allegations, saying she had told her children to lie and now wanted to go home. The social work department felt the children would be at risk if they returned home and an Interim Care Order was granted.
In the current application, both parents consented to the Order. The mother’s solicitor said the mother was working with the social worker and was happy to consent to the two month extension.
The social worker told the court that she had been allocated since the initial Interim Care Order. It was her opinion that the order was required for the protection of the children. Since the last court date access continued to take place three times a week and was divided in time between the parents. The mother attended all accesses and the father had not attended two, but had notified the department in advance regarding one absence.
There were some concerns about the time and attention the baby was getting at access in relation to the other siblings, because the parents were more drawn to her.
The children were all very settled in their placements.
A social care leader was also assigned to the children and she would carry out the parenting capacity assessment with the social worker.
The social worker said a reunification plan had been devised on the basis that the mother was away from the relationship. There had been a planned reunification about three months ago. However, the mother had returned to live with the father and in light of that the reunification plan was not able to go ahead. The social worker said there was uncertainty in the parents’ relationship, as there was a pattern of the mother leaving and then returning.
The parents had told her they had sourced marriage counselling. The social work department would liaise with the service. The father had made an application for a counselling service which worked in the area of domestic violence and he was on a waiting list. A psychological assessment of the mother had been completed and a parental capacity assessment would follow.
An assessment of the mother’s attachment to the two youngest children would be carried out by a psychologist over the next two months. The assessment would be followed by some work during access which would be monitored by the psychologist. Recommendations from this would then be made to the social work department. A decision would be made at the end of the assessment in relation to the reunification plan. The social work department were hoping to have all the work completed by the next court date.
The social worker said there was a Section 18 application before the court (application to seek hearing dates for a full Care Order). However, if the court was in agreement they would seek to adjourn the section 18 application till the next court date.
The judge asked the social worker to link the mother in with a local outreach service with specific supports about the question of domestic violence. He also asked her to make inquiries on behalf of the father in relation to any other counselling services, if the waiting list led to an extended wait.
The GAL told the court she was supporting the ICO extension. She said the parenting capacity assessment would look at the issues of domestic violence and its denial and also the allegations made by the children against both parents of physical abuse.
The assessment would also look at the context of the parents reunifying and seeking to care for their four children, and if a reunification would be viable. The mother had not decided if she would care for the children on her own: “We are where we are, the parents say they want to make a go of their relationship,” said the GAL.
The judge granted the Interim Care Order extension and adjourned the Section 18 application.
See also Volume 3, No. 22