A six month Care Order was made on consent in a case that was among 12 child care matters listed in a provincial city. The court was told that the mother was residing with her baby in a residential centre.
The court heard that there had been a breakdown in communication between the mother and a social worker. The social worker said that there were difficulties in communication when the mother tried to source information. She said that the mother could contact her if she ever needed any information and there would be weekly meetings in the residential centre.
The judge pointed out that the mother did not trust the social worker and this was the reason that the mother appeared to be seeking information from a variety of sources. The judge asked the social worker whether she had considered this.
The judge told the social worker that she had to accommodate challenges, one of the challenges being that the mother didn’t trust her (the social worker). He went on to say that he saw no room in the social worker’s thinking to recognise the problem and to think of other ways to get information to the mother. The social worker said that she had identified someone else that the mother could get information from.
The judge said: “I have seen no sign of reflection, of consideration that even if people are wrong that their views need to be accommodated in some way.”
The social worker said that she found it extremely difficult at times to work with the mother. The judge asked whether the social worker had read the judgment that he had given earlier in the proceedings and whether she thought there was any possibility that he might be right. The social worker replied that the situation was extremely difficult.
The judge responded by saying: “I will take that as a No. I asked whether there was any possibility that I was right. You didn’t give me a straight answer.”
The judge asked the social worker to develop a supplemental avenue of communication with the mother so that she has a reliable focus and verification source. The mother asked to take the stand and the judge said that he would prefer not to hear from her at that point.
The main order of business that day was reviews of existing care orders. There were a number of positive reviews where the court was told that matters were progressing well. The judge expressed his desire to see teenagers more often as they approached their 18th birthday, after which time they would no longer be under the care of the CFA.
During one review the judge asked the lawyers present whether the mother had been told that she could attend court. The judge went on to say she should be told that she can attend and if she wished to attend the matter should be re-listed.
In another case the judge commented that the report given to the court was not very good and asked the parties whether there would be any benefit in the foster parents acquiring enhanced rights in respect of the children. The social worker said that she would address the issue with the foster parents.
When dealing with a review of a Care Order of a girl with behavioural problems the social worker told the court that she had discussed the possibility of the girl coming to court or writing a letter for the judge but the girl had rejected both propositions. The judge asked for a document from the mental health services setting out their plan for the girl.
In the course of another review of a Care Order the court heard that the father of the child had been in care himself and had had a very bad experience, leaving him with the impression that care can only be a damaging experience for children. The court heard that both parents in that case had alcohol addiction and that the mother was trying to address her problems.