District Court extends interim care order for a young girl of primary school age, full hearing delayed by Covid-19

During the Covid 19 pandemic the District Court extended an interim care order in respect of a young girl of primary school age who had been living with a relative. When setting a date for a discussion of the full care order hearing, the judge asked for a full list of witnesses in advance so that a larger court-room could be found if necessary.

The solicitor for the guardian ad litem (GAL) was present in court. The mother was the only respondent to the proceedings and the barrister representing the mother informed the court that her solicitor had been unable to obtain instructions from the mother in respect of the CFA’s application.

The assigned hearing date in respect of the section 18 full care order application had been vacated due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the matter was listed for later in the summer to obtain a new hearing date for the section 18 full care order application.

The solicitor for the GAL informed the court that the GAL was supporting the extension of the interim care order in respect of the young girl and a report was provided to the court.

The social worker assigned to the case gave oral evidence to the court and a report prepared by the social worker was provided to the court. The social worker said in evidence that the report was true and accurate and that it was her professional opinion that the conditions and circumstances that prevailed at the time the child was placed in the care of the CFA continued to exist.

The court asked whether the young girl was still living with her relative and this was confirmed by the social worker. The social worker told the court that the mother had made huge progress but this progress had not been sustained and the mother continued to have “huge issues with substances”.

The social worker told the court that she had had no interactions with the mother and she had not answered any calls from the social worker and had not been engaging in the proceedings. The court was told that the mother had not seen the young girl since September 2019. The court asked if the mother had any other children and the social worker said that the mother had one other child who was living with his father.

The District Court judge was satisfied that the conditions and circumstances giving rise to the initial care order continued to exist and the judge extended the interim care order to 1st July 2020 and ordered that the existing directions continued to apply.

The section 18 application was listed for mention to obtain a new hearing date and the court asked the parties to provide details of the witnesses to be called and the matters that were agreed and the approximate timeframe for examination in chief and cross examination in advance of the court listing.

The court said that this information was necessary so that the court office was aware of how many people would be required to be present in the court room so that a suitable location could be provided if additional capacity was required.