A Care Order until 18 was granted in a provincial city for a four year-old girl with global development delay whose father failed to show the court that he was in a position to look after her. The child had already been in care for two years under short Care Orders.
The father had said that he would have consented to a one-year order being made as he felt that he would be in a position to look after the child in a year’s time but he felt that an order to 18 was excessive. The court was told that the father had done a parenting course and would be willing to do another one. The mother consented to the order.
A social worker was asked by the solicitor for the CFA if the father had been in contact to ask what he needed to do (to be in a position to look after the child). The judge asked the social worker the same question. The social worker replied that he had not; he had been concentrating on his own accommodation and access with the child.
The social worker said that when the child first came to the attention of the social services the father was working long hours and said he was too tired to spend time with his daughter in the evenings. She went on to say that the father had been present on occasions when the child would wake up at 6 am and she would not be tended to until 10 am. She said that she did not think the parents had any insight into the child’s situation.
The social worker said that there were significant concerns for the child’s safety when she came into care. She also said that, in her view, the father displayed no consistency with boundaries.
The solicitor for the CFA said that the child had global developmental delays and asked the social worker what the father’s understanding of those needs was. The social worker replied that he had great difficulty in engaging with the child and he was asking her questions you would not ask a child. She also said that there was genuine warmth and affection and that the father was always very pleasant but needed support.
When asked by the solicitor for the CFA whether the father contacted the social worker to see how the child was getting on, the social worker replied that he did not and that it was generally around access time that they talked.
When asked about the child’s foster placement the social worker said that she was very well rounded and cared for in that family and that she has very specific needs and requires consistency and stability. She said that the foster family have engaged very openly and interactively and continue to meet the child’s needs.
The CFA solicitor reiterated that the father had said that he felt that a care order should only be made for one year. The CFA solicitor asked the social worker whether the father had ever set out a plan as to how he was intending to care for the child. The social worker replied that he had not.
The social worker told the court, in relation to the child’s developmental delays, that it was unclear whether she would catch up with her peers. When asked by the CFA solicitor whether the social worker thought that the father understood the complexity of the child’s needs, the social worker said that she thought that he did not and said that she had not seen any capacity for change.
The solicitor for the father said that he was willing to undergo another parenting capacity assessment and that he accepted that when the child was taken into care he was working a lot but he denies the allegation that he slept in and left the child unattended.
The judge said that the shorter Care Orders made since 2012 were given to allow the possibility of change but that had not happened.
The father told the court that the child was not in danger when she was with him and that he practised the alphabet with her and helped her with her colouring. He said that he did not think that he needed any help. He added that he was planning on doing more courses and he would get the house ready for his daughter. He also said that his mother and sister were available to help him.
When asked by the CFA solicitor why he thought his daughter came into care, the father replied that it was because her needs were not being met. He said that he “was not aware that anything was going on”.
The judge asked the father how he did not notice that the child was not walking. The father replied that she was crawling and that he used to hold her up.
The judge went on to say that the problem (with the delayed walking) “is that it is such a visible problem, you didn’t see that and you don’t see other problems. You don’t have the function to know what she needs. That is really what the case is about.”
The judge also pointed out that the father had never been in contact with the social work department to say: “This is awful what can I do so I can be as good a father as I can possibly be?” The judge said that he had made an order two years ago so that the father “could get himself sorted. You did one course without going to the social work department to ask whether this would do. I don’t know if it’s sufficient.”
The judge granted the order until 18 for the child and ordered that the matter be re-listed in one year.