The judge in a District Court in a rural town granted a Supervision Order for an infant in circumstances where the parents’ other children had already been taken into care and there were concerns about the care and welfare of this infant. The parents did not attend the hearing and the CFA solicitor told the court the father had said neither he nor his wife would be available for the hearing. “When any date is given there is a reason [for not attending],” she said.
A social worker who was assigned to another child of the family, now in care, said there were concerns about the parents’ parenting capacity. These related to their failure to take any direction or guidance over parenting and concerns also about the degree of control the father was exercising over the mother. When guidance was suggested at access with the other children in care the father became aggressive. He was screaming and shouting to the extent that access was stopped. Access venues and access workers had been changed because of his demands.
This social worker said the last contact she had with the parents was a Christmas card wishing her a happy Christmas and stating they hoped that she and her family died of AIDS. She said the father was a very controlling man and his wife was very much under his influence.
A public health worker told of visiting the family home after the infant was born. The mother was breast feeding the baby who appeared to have jaundice. While she was asking the mother questions the father was providing most of the answers. She told them she wanted to review the baby’s condition the following day and when she arrived the father was aggressive and was annoyed with her for mentioning their other two children who are in care.
He told her every child got jaundice and there was no need for her to be there. His attitude was hostile. When she was leaving he told her she should not have asked about the other children in care, that she would get a solicitor’s letter and that he was recording her. She felt frightened and unsure if he understood the seriousness of the infant’s condition. She recommended that he use the doctor on call service but he said he would take the child to the GP on the following Monday.
Another public health nurse told the court of a subsequent visit where the husband was directing the advice she was giving to the wife. “He was doing all the answering of the questions and was not receptive to the advice I was giving.” She noticed that the mother was nervous and her hands were shaking.
By the next visit, the jaundice had cleared up. The father stood in the middle of the room and did all the answering which she found to be very unusual. During another visit two weeks later the father controlled the conversation. On a later date he made an unscheduled visit to her office and left angrily when she could not see him. On a later date when she phoned him he was angry and threatened to get her sacked. He made a formal complaint about her.
A social work team leader gave evidence that he was dealing directly with the family as the father had complained about everybody else and had accused them of being biased. Another judge had lifted the in camera rule in order that an independently appointed social worker could investigate complaints made by the father. This investigation was now about to start.
He said the mother had not been seen by the social workers since the other children had been taken into care. The father engaged with them on a superficial level. He had told them never to call to the house again and he described them as child abusers.
The infant who was the subject of this Supervision Order application was born in another jurisdiction. The parents had given false details and had provided two different addresses. The father had denied his wife was pregnant and said she was going into hospital for treatment for gall stones. When he called to the house the mother opened the door with the baby in her arms and refused to let him in. She refused to discuss the child with him as her husband was not there. He gave her a time at which he said he would call the following day. When he called the following day, there was no answer but he could hear noises inside the house.
The team leader said the Supervision Order was being sought because there was no indication that previous concerns expressed by the CFA had been met and there had been no evidence there had been any substantial change by the parents since their older children had been taken into care.
The judge made a Supervision Order for one year. “The details of the evidence are quite alarming,” he said.