Interim care orders were extended in three cases heard in a rural town. Allegations of physical abuse, drug abuse and alcohol abuse were issues in the cases.
In the first case an interim care order was extended in respect of one child with the mother’s consent.
The social worker said the child was in a new placement. The child found it hard to adjust initially as she had a deep connection with her previous foster carers. She said the child was settled now and spoke well of her foster carers. The child was attending school activities and the placement was progressing well.
The social worker said access with the mother was on hold. There had been one access since the last court date. The mother cancelled the next access as she resided in Dublin and did not want to travel in the dark. The social worker said she had been seeking to negotiate a plan for the mother to attend access.
Counsel for the GAL asked: “In relation to access between the child and her sibling, what plan [is in place] to facilitate that?”
The social worker replied: “The child is reluctant to have access with her sibling. I have a visit with her and I will discuss it [access] with her. I am hesitant to introduce it if it will cause distress.”
The GAL lawyer asked about the attachment assessment and whether there was funding in place. She replied: “We are commencing an attachment assessment and we will be working on it. Another person had been highlighted for the assessment and we must consult [with the department] before the professional conducts that assessment.”
Counsel for the GAL said: “The GAL is neutral regarding the application for a full care order under section 18. Has a timeframe been communicated about the investigation of the allegation [of physical abuse]?”
She said: “We have concluded that physical abuse was inflicted by the mother and the Garda investigation is ongoing.”
The social worker said the threshold had been met to extend the interim care order and it was recommended that a full care order be sought.
The judge extended the interim care order for a period of 28 days. He said if it were the intention of the Child and Family Agency to apply for a care order, they should liaise with the court office.
In a second case interim care orders were extended in respect of three children. Both parents were represented and consented to the application, though the father was seeking custody of his children. The GAL supported the extension application.
Counsel for the CFA asked: “What developments have there been in relation to access and reunification with the father?”
The social worker said: “The plan has not progressed. The father is open to engaging but he tested positive for drugs. He gave an undertaking that he would not use substances.” She said access with the mother was positive and there had been a discussion about extra access.
The solicitor for the father said: “There were a number of negative [drug tests] and one with a trace of cannabis. He will say that he has not taken cannabis but he was in an environment where cannabis was smoked.”
The social worker said: “Yes, he reported that but there were amphetamines [present] in the drug screening. He said it was due to keratin he took for the gym.” The solicitor for the father said: “He does not take keratin any more but there may still be a trace in his system.”
She said: “I cannot comment on that. I go on what the drug testing tells me.”
The solicitor said that the father had an application for custody. The judge said until the issue of drugs was resolved, there would be no applications on behalf of the father.
The interim care order was extended for 28 days.
In the third case an interim care order was extended in respect of one child. The mother was represented but was not present and had not given instructions to her lawyer. The judge said the CFA should contact the court office about a date for a full care order hearing.
The solicitor for the mother said: “She [the mother] contacted the office and had a meeting. It was her first consultation. The mother intended to come [to court] but I could not contact her.”
Counsel for the CFA asked: “how have matters progressed in relation to access with the mother?”
The social worker said: “There are continuing issues with her attendance. She attributed her health problems to the deterioration of access. She had overslept and I discussed with her [the procedure of] cancelling access.”
The social worker said the child was in a stable placement. There were two older children in the placement and they had a good relationship with the child. The child was at play school and was progressing well. She said he was integrating and socialising well.
Counsel for the CFA said: “The father does not engage a lawyer. Have you had contact with him?”
The social worker replied: “Since the last court date I received a text [from the father saying] not to contact him again. There were some comments about the child posted on Facebook. I contacted him to remove them. I spoke to him and he complained of having no access and became vocal. I had no meaningful contact with him and he has only engaged for a short period. He did not follow through with his commitment for access.”
The social worker said the threshold had been met for the extension of the interim care order and the CFA was recommending a hearing date for the care order.
The solicitor for the mother said: “in connection with dates, this is the third time [the case has been] in court and you accept that the mother is not in the best position. She engaged whilst the child was in voluntary care?”
The social worker said: “Yes, she engaged with the CFA. He [the child] was in voluntary care for two years. A lot of attempts have been made to support her and help her overcome alcohol [problems] but they have been unsuccessful.”
The judge said it appeared as though this was the end of the process rather than the start.
The solicitor said the GAL was only appointed last month and will have to complete his own investigations. The GAL recommended the extension of the interim care order but did not recommend seeking dates for a full care order hearing.
The social worker said: “Yes, we had discussions and he may wish to carry out an assessment.”
Counsel for the GAL said the GAL was taking a neutral position. He was not standing in the way of the CFA but he needed to meet the parents.
Counsel for the CFA asked if the judge had any comment regarding the care order application.
The judge said he would extend the interim care order for a period of 28 days. He said the CFA should liaise with the court office with regards to dates for the care order application.