A three month extension of an interim care order, with the consent of the parents, was granted by a judge in a provincial city in a case where four children, A, B, C and D, ranging in age from preschool to primary school age, had come into care as a result of suspicious burns on child B. Subsequent to the children coming into care, there had been concerns regarding suspected child sexual abuse of the children by their parents, who were from a non-European country. The court had appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL). The parents were legally represented. The judge heard evidence from the social worker, GAL and the mother.
All of the children had been paediatrically assessed in a specialist unit regarding the child sexual abuse allegations and the court was to be provided with a report. The parents had previously made a complaint against the foster carers of A and B alleging they were influencing the children against access with the parents and the CFA had completed their investigation of the allegation. The outcome in relation to the foster carers was that they needed more support around promoting access, the court heard.
The children had been allocated a new social worker as their case had been allocated to the children in care team, the court heard. The social worker told the court it was in the best interests of the children to remain in care as per the parents’ agreement with the CFA.
The GAL had conducted an independent assessment of the children and conveyed their wishes to the court. She said they reported as very happy in their placement when she had met them independently. The children or the relevant professionals to whom she spoke had not given her any reason to be concerned regarding their foster placements, she said.
The GAL had made a series of recommendations in her report and this would take a substantial period of time in terms of resources and funding, she said. When asked by her solicitor the GAL said this could be a six-month time frame. The GAL recommended that the CFA have access to the Garda specialist interview so they would be aware of what B disclosed.
The mother’s barrister told the court she wanted to address the court regarding the time frame. The mother told the court she had an issue with access being just one hour a week. “[It is] like the foster parents are getting the love,” she said. The mother said she had done everything in her power, and she did not want to lose her relationship with the children. She wanted more hours of access and the investigation to be shorter than six months, she told the court.
“I understand your concern,” the judge said. He expected considerable progress and hoped that the CFA would be in a position to provide some small increase. “But for now [I will] leave it to them.” he said.
The GAL told the court the issue of access needed exploring and that B was saying he did not want to go to access, “Children have to be listened to and [it] needs exploring.” she said.
The judge put the matter in for mention in two months regarding access and thanked everyone for their co-operation.