During an extension of an interim care order, contested by the mother, the social worker said access had changed to video link access for the mother due to Covid-19 restrictions as the access centre was closed. The mother disliked the video access. She struggled with the challenges of video access as the children were young and it was hard to keep them engaged.
The social worker said the mother could not make the video call one week as her camera was broken. The mother had been in a relationship with her new partner for six months and the partner could be seen in the video access. The children never met this person. The social worker said: “We had to arrange for the video access to continue but to be supervised. That access had to supervised as the mother was not taking the recommendations of the CFA.” The solicitor for the mother said the mother was not living with the partner but had been with him since the lockdown.
The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) said: “She [the mother] did not give information that she was living with this man and this is not part of the safety plan. She stated she was living with friends and did not disclose an address.”
The judge said: “When I came into this case, reunification was a prospect. If she [the mother] does not have accommodation, how can she have her children back? It was considered not long ago that they would be reunited with the mother.”
The solicitor for the CFA said: “In order to secure a home with the County Council one needs to have the children with them. They [the County Council] will not prioritise the mother.”
The solicitor for the mother said the council would not consider the application from the mother regarding housing.
A risk assessment was to carried out by a psychologist and it would take the form of a desktop review. The person previously identified to carry out the assessment needed physical contact to complete the assessment.
The solicitor for the mother said the mother had engaged with a therapist and cooperated during the parenting capacity assessment.
The interim care order was extended for 28 days.
Another interim care order was extended in a provincial town in respect of a two-year-old child. Neither parent, both of whom were receiving therapy, consented to the application.
There were issues of domestic violence, allegations of sexual abuse and mental health concerns. There were further issues in relation to access.
The judge asked if the father, who was not represented, had made any progress with regards to legal aid. The father said he was informed that he was not entitled to legal aid as he abused his last solicitor and told her she was not good at her job. The father made contact with a law centre in another provincial town and was told he was ineligible for legal aid as his previous legal aid certificate had been terminated.
The team leader said the child was in care due to domestic violence, sexual violence and mental health concerns. An allegation of sex abuse had been made against the father in relation to the mother’s other child and an investigation was underway.
The team leader said the father was continuing his therapeutic intervention on Zoom due to the COVID 19 restrictions and it was going well. The mother had not engaged in therapeutic interventions due to COVID 19.
The solicitor for the mother asked: “[in relation to] therapy, she [the mother] understands funding was approved, and could it start remotely?”
The team leader said: “That was explored when COVID 19 restrictions [came into place].” On file there was a plan in place from the previous social work team that the parents would not be invited to the child in care review.
The father asked: “[is there] any reason why we did not get the feedback from child in care review?”
The team leader replied: “I understood that the social worker would give the feedback.”
The judge said the feedback should be given to the parents.
The father had not seen the child for two years. The team leader said access continued in the form of video messaging. The father expressed a desire not to receive those videos but he had ultimately agreed to receive them. There was often a gap in time as to when the father received the videos.
The team leader said there was a safety plan on file agreed with the Gardaí and the psychologist in order to keep the anonymity of the foster carers. The team leader said: “When COVID 19 started, I wanted to do Zoom sessions but to do [the sessions] in a way that would protect the foster carers.”
The solicitor for the guardian ad litem said the written report from the psychologist was still outstanding regarding physical access.
The judge extended the interim care order for 28 days and advised the father to continue to work with the psychologist and secure legal representation.