Short-term Care Orders for three children were due to expire and the CFA told the court, in a rural town, they were not seeking any further orders and the children could go home. The judge praised the “very comprehensive” social work report and said that the mother appeared to have come a long way. This was one of a number of matters dealt with in this District Court in one day.
A solicitor said that the children’s older siblings had come into care on foot of an Emergency Care Order and that a previous attempt to reunify the mother and children had failed. The solicitor said “on the face of it the mother seems to be in a good place” and said that she was attendant to her mental health needs, abstinent from alcohol, motivated and enthusiastic.
The CFA solicitor said that the Care Order had been sought the previous year and was due to expire. Although the mother appeared to be doing well, the same solicitor said that caution should be exercised as it would be the first time that the mother would be parenting all five of her children together. The solicitor also said that the mother had expressed concerns about her two older children and had visited the GP looking for referrals to mental health services. She said “the mother’s enthusiasm to have them [the children] has to be commended but there has to be a realistic approach”. The solicitor explained that there was a detailed schedule in relation to the transition of the children and “a lot of support” would be put in place for the mother. A particular service would be available that the mother could contact for support at weekends if necessary, the CFA solicitor said.
The solicitor for the father of two of the children said that he was engaging well with the social work department and that he would like to have his children for overnight access. The judge expressed a view that there should be as little interaction between the mother and father as possible. In relation to the father’s request the judge said that he took the view that it was “not a reality at the moment” but should become so with time. The judge said that it was his view that there was “too much going on for overnight access” but that the father should be having full day access.
The court heard that the father of the third child was not engaging with the social work department. The father’s solicitor said that he had obtained accommodation and was living in a three bedroom house with his partner. The solicitor also said that the father wanted the access that he was enjoying with his children to continue and that he would assist as much as he could with the children when they were transitioning back into the mother’s care. The solicitor said that the father was keen to emphasise that he was happy with the progress that the family had made.
The judge said that the parents’ relationship was “very acrimonious” and praised the family saying that they had come a long way but said that he would like to see less emphasis on the mother and father and said that they should not meet if they did not have to.
The CFA solicitor said that they were not applying for any further order but an application for a Supervision Order might be made at some point in the future.
Another matter was listed for review where a date was sought for the hearing of a Care Order application. The CFA solicitor told the court that the mother would be consenting to a cognitive assessment and also said that as the mother was deaf an interpreter would be required. The mother’s solicitor said that she would be seeking to have her child returned to her.
During a review of a Care Order where the children were in the care of their grandmother a solicitor told the court that the children’s father was living in another country and “there was no reality to his intervention or contact”. The judge was told that the children were doing well at school and the judge said to the grandmother, who was in court: “Your grandchildren are very lively and intelligent and are going to be perfectly normal people although they have been dealt a very bad deck of cards.”
In another case an Interim Care Order was granted on consent for two weeks amid concerns of parental alcohol abuse and emotional abuse. The guardian ad litem (GAL) in the case had said that she felt that the children would benefit from a psychological assessment as the two little girls were having trouble in school and would have to repeat a year. The CFA solicitor said that access with the mother would have to be cancelled for one week as the foster parents’ were taking the children on holiday. The judge asked that the mother be compensated for the missed access.
The judge said, in relation to the mother, that “she is not addressing her own personal issues” and may be in a position where she has replaced one chaotic relationship with another and needed some time to “sort herself out”. The judge said that the grandmother had shown good faith in terms of putting the children’s needs first.
The father’s solicitor asked the court to make a direction in relation to access for him with his children. Because the father worked on one of the days that he was seeking access the judge asked whether the children’s paternal grandmother would be available to help and was told that she looked after the grandfather and did not drive.
The social worker said that there was an on-going assessment process in train and that the children had been through a lot of upheaval. The social worker said that they would explore options for access so the father would not have to compromise his work. The judge said that he hoped things would continue to progress and that the mother would keep dealing with her addiction issues.
The social worker said that they would try and accommodate the father as much as possible with regard to access but that it had not been possible yet to observe the father with the children in access as he worked full-time.
The judge granted the Interim Care Order and asked that the mother and father not come into contact with each other. The judge did not grant any overnight access but said he would re-examine the issue in a couple of weeks’ time but he would like the father to have full day-time access. He suggested that the mother needed time “to deal with her own issues”. He said going forward there was no reason why the parents would not be able to have overnight access. The judge noted that the social worker was going to meet the paternal grandmother to familiarise herself with the family supports in place on the father’s side of the family.