An interim care order was extended in respect of three children and a full care order was granted in respect of the fourth child in a case where the mother had struggled with drugs and accommodation problems. The mother was represented and consented to extend the interim care order for the three children. This was among five cases heard in one day in a District Court in a rural town.
There were two fathers of the four children. The father of two of the children was consenting to the interim care order. The other father was not present.
The social worker said the grounds existed to extend interim care order.
The solicitor for the mother asked: “In relation to the children, is it possible to extend access between child A and B and the baby?”
The social worker said: “We had access for child A and B and it has moved as they are on summer holidays from school.”
The solicitor for the father of two of the children asked: “Is there access available for child A [not his biological child]?”
The social worker responded: “He [child A] was made aware that someone else was his father and we need to give him time to get his head around it.” The child wished to exercise access at the same time as his brother. She said access with the child A and B would take place every second weekend to give child A a chance to get to know his father.
The mother consented to the full care order in respect of the fourth child who was 15 years old and in alternative care. The father of this child was not present. The solicitor for the mother said: “It is an enormous step and she is doing it in the best interests of the child and she would like to be heard.”
The social worker acknowledged it was difficult for mother. She said if an order were not made, she would have “huge concerns for the wellbeing, health and development of the child as the mother struggled with stability.” It was in the child’s best interests to be in the placement.
The social worker said: “I take on board it is hard but the mother consents and she sees how happy her daughter is.” The mother always cooperated and engaged well. It was noted that everyone was getting along and there was a good relationship between the mother and the foster carers. The social worker said the mother “loves her children but struggles with drugs and securing accommodation. She continues to have a difficult time. This is reassurance that her children are secure.”
The mother admitted she had troubles with addiction and said: “I went into treatment and after-care. I was pregnant and the baby was taken. Putting this child into care is not something I want to do. I wanted to fight. I never saw the child so happy and that is the only reason why I put her into full time care. I am afraid the child will hate me if I don’t give her stability. I couldn’t ask for a better child. She cares for her brothers. I thought I would have got my life back and I will try to get it back.”
The judge said: “You are a fantastic mother and you have demonstrated that by doing the best for the child.”
The solicitor for the GAL said the CFA secured all of the children together in the same placement and they had positive attachments to each other. The GAL had been appointed in 2015 and met with the child. She said the placement met her needs and the child wanted a full care order. The GAL said the child recognised her mother’s difficulties and was aware that the mother had tried her best, but was not able to address her issues. The solicitor for the GAL said given that the child was in alternative care, the GAL would look for the matter to be relisted for an aftercare review when the child turned 16.
The judge made a full care order under section 18 (1) (b) and (c) of the Act.
Interim care order extended for Traveller children
An interim care order was extended in respect of a child whose parents were members of the Travelling community. The parents consented to the application.
Counsel for the parents said the judge on the last occasion had requested a full breakdown of the efforts of the CFA to place the child with a foster carer from the Travelling community.
The social worker said a large number of foster carers had been contacted and there had been “ongoing recruitment and extensive effort made to get a foster carer from the Travelling community but it had been difficult.” The social workers met with Traveller groups and advertised in schools and on radio.
Counsel for the mother said: “I don’t know if there have been any efforts made since.”
The social worker said she had correspondence from the principal social worker to the effect that efforts had been made.
The judge was satisfied that the threshold had been met to extend the interim care order.
ICO extended for four-week-old baby who tested positive for cocaine
Another interim care order was extended in respect of a four-week-old baby. The mother was represented but the father was unrepresented. Both parents consented to the application. The judge said to the father: “You need to go to the Legal Aid Board [for representation].”
The solicitor for the mother said: “He [the father] is outside the Act [for legal aid] and he should obtain private representation.”
The social worker said the child had been discharged from a special care baby unit and she was now in foster care. She said: “We received toxicology results from the hospital that the child tested positive for cocaine.” She said the mother also tested positive for cocaine and cannabis.
The mother told the social worker that she had misused drugs during pregnancy. The mother attended access and it went well. The father could not attend access during the week due to his work schedule but attended at the weekend. The solicitor for the mother said both parents were willing to undertake toxicology and urinalysis and had secured accommodation. She said: “The mother has been open about her problems with drugs.”
The social worker replied that the mother “was open about this incident, after being prompted to tell us. There is information from the United Kingdom that drug use was a problem when the parents said it was not a problem.”
The judge asked if the parents came to Ireland to have the baby. The social worker confirmed that they did. She said the social services in the United Kingdom had concerns relating to the older children and to domestic violence in the family home.
The solicitor for the GAL said: “It has been suggested that the proceedings should be remitted to the United Kingdom.”
The social worker said: “We will consider it as the child is a matter of weeks old. There is no Irish connection and she has no Irish relations. Her siblings are in the United Kingdom.” The social worker agreed if the matter were to be remitted to the United Kingdom, it would have to be done with expedition.
The judge extended the interim care order.
Care order granted where father in prison
A full care order was granted in respect of two children aged six and nine years respectively. The father, who was serving a prison sentence and had been in custody since the children came into care, consented to the application. The mother had been served with the proceedings but was not present.
An interim care order had been in place for 17 months in respect of the children. The social worker said there were concerns in relation to emotional neglect, alcohol misuse and threats from family members and others. She said there was neither care nor security for the children.
The solicitor for the CFA asked: “If the court does not make order, is there a risk of harm to the children?
She said: “The attachment assessment indicated that the children need security and they won’t get that at home.” She agreed that a full care order was necessary.
The solicitor for the father said: “He understands he is not in a position to take care of them and is due for release in 2020. A professionals’ meeting is due to be scheduled regarding access. Has this taken place?”
The social worker said: “A professionals’ meeting has not yet taken place, as we are not recommending access. The female child said she didn’t want access.” Disclosures had been made to the GAL and an internal investigation was with An Garda Siochana.
The solicitor for the father asked whether it was appropriate for the children to become aware of the father’s whereabouts. The social worker said it was important that the children had accurate information regarding the father. She said: “We are still waiting, and once we establish security for the children, we will work with them to understand why he is in prison.”
The solicitor for the father said the father was anxious to have access with the children and asked about the possibility of access in prison and photo contact. The social worker said: “That could be beneficial and discussed with them, but at a distance for the moment.”
It was noted that a referral had been made to a paediatrician. A funding request had been submitted in respect of therapeutic intervention for the children which was due to start in a month’s time. The social worker said: “Once we get the full care order, we can start the assessments.”
The GAL supported the application for a full care order. She completed assessments earlier in the year and said it was important for the children to make further progress in relation to interventions and therapeutic supports. The GAL recommended a six month review of the matter, that she remain appointed as GAL and that default directions be included in the care order. She recommended that therapeutic interventions should occur over the review period as there were “a lot of circumstances that needed work and it was important that they progress.”
The solicitor asked if the father would be assessed following his release from prison to determine if he was able to take care of the children.
She said: “The matter could be reviewed but a parental capacity assessment needed to be carried out.”
The judge said he was delighted to see the father and granted a full care order under section 18 (1) (b) and (c) of the Act.
Care order sought where mother deceased
There was an application for a full care order in respect of three children whose mother was deceased. The father could not be contacted as he had gone abroad and failed to contact the social worker.
The social worker said the children were in the same placement and had an older sibling, aged 19 years, who might have been able to provide some alterative care. She said the sibling had had a change of heart. The foster carers were not clear as to how long the placement would last and the GAL was reluctant to support the application for a full care order given the uncertainty.
The judge said: “Unless the GAL supports the application, I cannot do anything. She supports the extension of the interim care order but not the full care order until the matter is fully planned. I do what she says as she is an experienced GAL.”
The GAL said “the children need clear focus to be put into the planning.”
The social worker said it was her view that the grounds continue to exist to extend the interim care order. The solicitor for the father said given that she had no instructions from the father, the interim care order could not be extended beyond the period of 29 days.
The judge said he would follow the recommendations of the GAL and extended the interim care order.