A regional court granted a full care order for a young boy to the age of 18 years following a three-day hearing. The parents had been contesting the care proceedings for over five years.
Evidence of the allocated social worker
The social worker for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) briefly outlined the history of the case and the circumstances which led to the child being taken into care. She said that the child was taken into care on an emergency care order when he was two years of age, following allegations by the father that there was poison in his system. The father later accepted that he subjected his son to medical examination because of his skewed thoughts and this was the reason why the child was initially taken into care. The child had been cared for in a family placement and the parents have been contesting him being taken into care for the past five years.
The social worker explained the basis of the application and told the court that the young boy needed permanency going forward, and that while he has stated that he loved his mammy and daddy, he has said that he wants to live in his current placement until he is older.
The social worker acknowledged that a lot of progress had been made and while the mother suffered from alcohol addiction and mental health difficulties, she had overcome these issues and the judge commended her for her efforts. The solicitor for the CFA said that those historical issues were not the basis for the current application for a care order to 18 years.
However, the mental health issues of the father were still a concern, in spite of the fact that following various assessments it was found that he was not suffering from a mental illness. Evidence was provided by a social worker from a NGO that the father believed that there was a conspiracy by the CFA, the guardian ad litem (GAL) and the foster mother to keep his son in care. As a result of these beliefs, he was suspicious of all professionals dealing with the case.
The issue of access was particularly contentious and counsel for the mother and counsel for the father separately made allegations against the foster mother regarding access. Both parents were of the view that the foster mother was discouraging access and purposely sabotaging an increase in access, which occurred late last year. The social worker did not believe that the foster mother discouraged access and said that she had cooperated with them fully over the last number of years.
The social worker gave evidence of occasions where the child made excuses as to why he did not want to go to access and she felt that he did not want to disappoint his parents. The social worker said that she always encouraged access and if he refused to go to access, she would explore the reasons why he did not want to attend.
The social worker gave one example where during access the boy had removed himself and played with toys. Following that access visit, he told her that he enjoyed access and was happy to have access again the following day. However, she said that he was agitated in the car and the foster mother rang her a number of hours later to tell her that he refused to go to access the following day.
Counsel for the father asked the social worker if she spoke to the child after this refusal and the social worker said that she took the foster mother’s word. Counsel for the father then asked if she attended at the home the following day to encourage him to attend access and the social worker said that she did not visit the home. The father’s counsel pointed out that the child went to the farm with a relative the next day. The social worker conceded that if given the choice, the child would always go to the farm with his relative, because he loved farming.
Counsel for the mother put it to the social worker that farm visits were organised on scheduled access days in order to sabotage access. The social worker disagreed and said that while the foster mother believed it was in the child’s best interest to remain in her care, she had always cooperated well.
The mother’s counsel put it to the allocated social worker that the child should not have been allowed to decide whether or not he could go to access and that he was under pressure because he had a choice. This counsel asked the social worker if a child is given the choice when told to go to school. The judge interrupted and said: “I don’t think you are comparing like with like – this is a child in care and the school doesn’t have the nuance that access has with this child. Although I do agree that sometimes you fire them into the car and off you go, but even I don’t think that is the way to deal with a child who is refusing access”.
Evidence of the NGO Social Worker
The social worker from a NGO outlined the supports provided to the parents when the boy was initially taken into care. The social worker had conducted a parenting capacity assessment three years previously. She said that both parents underwent extensive training which lasted for 18 weeks and additional training for a further number of weeks three years ago. The social worker said that the parents engaged fully and did not miss a single session.
She was of the opinion that while there was capacity to parent for short periods of time, the parents did not have the capacity to parent for longer periods and she based this opinion on the two overnight assessments which were conducted by the NGO at the time of the assessment.
The social worker said there was a failure to have a good bed-time routine which resulted in the child being over-stimulated, and a failure to set boundaries at breakfast. She criticised the parents for offering three different breakfast options to the child. However, on cross examination it was put to her that “you probably would have advised them to offer a choice” and she replied, “yes, but probably not three choices”.
In relation to the parenting capacity assessment conducted by the NGO, counsel for the mother put it to the social worker that the issues highlighted by her for the most part had been improved. The mother’s counsel also put it to her that the allocated social worker felt that the parents were appropriate in dealing with the child’s behaviours at access, that the home was appropriate, meals were also appropriate and that access was positive. The social worker said that she had not dealt with the family for over two and a half years and was pleased to hear that things had improved.
However, she was still of the opinion that neither parent had the capacity to parent over longer periods of time. Counsel for the mother pointed out to her that the ability to parent is learned on the job and where access has been severely limited, they could not possibly learn by parenting and the social worker agreed that some elements of parenting are learned by doing. The social worker said that the parents were not capable of assisting the child to reach his full potential.
Evidence of the guardian ad litem
The GAL acknowledged that the parents did a lot of parenting work and counselling and was sympathetic of their belief that just when they had done everything that needed to be done, there was another fence to jump. The GAL said that extensive reunification was looked at three years previously and there were huge difficulties with legal representation and other aspects of the case. The father represented himself for a period. There were Freedom of Information requests and then the parents wanted a second opinion. She said there was a lot of delay for 18 months, which was outside of the care plan for the child. The GAL said that the father’s interactions had become more difficult and suspicious.
The GAL told the judge that access was increased three years previously in order to see the viability of reunification. She said that access was observed by her again a year later and she expressed concerns about the level of access. The GAL said that access was increased again at the end of last year in line with the parents’ expert report recommendations.
The GAL was of the opinion that overall access goes well and she complimented the parents on their organisation skills and the fact that their home was warm and welcoming. She also said that there was appropriate food. However, she said that there were long periods during access when the child became distressed and the parents were not able to comfort him.
The GAL said that she had concerns regarding the parents’ expert report recommendations and found it very difficult to ascertain the methods used by the psychologist nominated by the parents. She said that access was increased dramatically at the end of last year and at the start of the year the child started to indicate that he did not want to attend access.
The GAL told the judge that she attended at the house on three occasions when he refused to go to access and the judge asked: “To what extent is he saying no? Could he be persuaded?” and the GAL responded: “I would have said that I was there to take him to mammy and daddy’s and I didn’t give him a choice and I spoke to the foster mom and we would have talked about encouraging him to go to access. He would make excuses as to why he shouldn’t go and said that gravel was being delivered and that wasn’t true.“ The GAL then said: “I walked away that day wondering if I was doing the right thing for [the child] in pushing him to go to access”.
The GAL had attended a meeting of experts two months previously in order to look at common areas of assessments and to see if there were any outstanding issues. She said the parents’ psychologist did not have any qualifications on attachment and deferred to the expert nominated by the CFA. She said that the parents’ psychologist said that “’[the child] has a secure attachment with his parents’, and when this was challenged she agreed that she wasn’t an expert.”
The GAL gave evidence that the child was doing well and while the school noted that there had been a decline in his presentation earlier in the year, he had been doing quite well. She said that she was at a meeting with the father when he became agitated and made a number of comments and accused her of accepting bribes from the CFA. She said that the father finds the professionals’ meetings very difficult and would have left early on many occasions.
The GAL informed the court of the child’s wishes. She said that he was very young when she first met him and he always talked positively about his parents. She said that she felt she needed to start having a conversation with him about court proceedings in recent times. She said she introduced this concept to him and he was very comfortable with it.
The GAL told the judge that the child said he wanted to stay in his home. He told her “all my friends are here and they would miss me and I have a lot of work to do in the garden.” The GAL said that when she asked about seeing mammy and daddy he avoided the conversation. He said that he “wanted to stay here, but when I’m older perhaps I will live with mammy and daddy, because I will be older and I will know what to do.”
In relation to access, the GAL was of the view that they needed to take the pressure out of access. She was of the opinion that if the child had permanency, access should be reconsidered if he was doing well. She said that if a long-term order was granted then access would need to be reduced and built back up and it would need to be very structured and predictable so that the child understood permanency and security.
The GAL said that no order being made would not be in the child’s best interest and recommended an order to the age of 18 years. She was of the opinion that the child being returned with a supervision order would also not be in his best interest. This was because the GAL had seen no real change in the central issue of the father’s thought process and she was concerned about the effect that his behaviour would have on the child. The GAL said that “the conspiracy theories are going to persist and I think any reunification will be extremely difficult because of this”.
Counsel for the mother asked the GAL about intensive access three years previously and the breakdown of that access. The GAL explained that she observed, supervised and supported the child at that time. She collected the child and brought him to the parents’ home so that they could put in place the skills they had learned from the NGO. She said that the access was increased to three hours a week and then they tried to increase it to two times per week. The GAL said that the child said he did not want to go and she felt that they needed a deeper level of assessment, because he was having outbursts and could not be comforted by the parents. She said the parents disengaged at that point.
The GAL agreed that access around Christmas last year was positive. However, she said that if the child got upset, he would not interact with his parents and seek comfort from them, but rather went upstairs to his own room. She said that the parents dealt with him appropriately, but she was concerned that he did not see them as a source of comfort.
The mother’s counsel said that reunification was not something that the foster mother was in favour of. The GAL responded: “It’s not [the foster mother’s] decision – I feel like I’m being put into a position where I’m supposed to give evidence on what the foster mother felt… I think she was considering what was in [the child’s] best interest and that someone coming out three times per week to get him to go to access was a lot. She has a difficult role, she is a foster carer and a relative”.
The father’s counsel accused the GAL of trying to influence the court proceedings. He said that by introducing the idea of court proceedings to the child immediately before the hearing, she was trying to persuade the court to grant the order. It was put to her: “You are independent and you are urging the court to make a decision. Isn’t that outside of your remit your role is to express the interest of the child and you are talking to [the child] about courts and urging the court to make a certain decision.” The solicitor for the GAL interjected and said the GAL’s role was to express the wishes of the child and to set out to the court what is in the child’s best interests. He argued that the GAL has not acted outside of her remit.
Counsel for the father also accused the GAL of seeking additional reports such as psychological reports and assessments when the reports which were being provided were too positive. He said that she looked for more reports because she wanted to get him for something else. The GAL totally disagreed and said that she wanted a psychological review a number of years ago, because at the time they were seriously considering reunification and needed a report for the court.
The father’s counsel said that the GAL was stuck in time, that she hasn’t brought herself forward and kept bringing up the poisoning issue. He submitted that the CFA had dropped the subject of poisoning, but the GAL had brought it up on numerous occasions. The GAL responded by saying, “but it is the context as to why we are here”. Counsel for the father said that the father has accepted his role and that the child was examined in hospital because of him and that led to the child being taken into care.
The GAL was then cross examined by the solicitor for the CFA. The GAL confirmed that the father had put pressure on the foster mother to come to court so that he could question her and was fixated with poisoning and fixated about the placement and fixated about the court proceedings. The GAL said that these fixations have continued over the years. She did not accept the findings in the parent’s expert report that the father had accepted everything and had a moment of clarity.
The solicitor for the CFA asked: “Do you believe that the father can safely parent [the child] at this time?”
The GAL replied: “No.”
Solicitor for the CFA: “Do you believe it is the best interest of [the child] to return to his parents?”
CFA solicitor: “Do you believe the best interest is that he remain with his [foster parents]?”
CFA solicitor: “Do you believe the threshold has been met?”
GAL: “I do.”
CFA solicitor: “Do you believe it is proportionate that an order to 18 years be made and that is in the context of you previously contesting an order to 18 previously?”
GAL: “I do.”
Fostering social work team leader
The fostering social work team leader told the court that from what the foster mother had told her, there was no conspiracy to discourage the child from going to access. On cross-examination by counsel for the father, the fostering social worker conceded that she had not spoken with the child, but all of the information she had gathered was from the foster mother.
The fostering social work team leader told the court that the foster mother had organised for the child to go on an activity with his parents. She said that “there is now natural access developing and there is no need for department interference in that.” The team leader also said that if there is a sporting game, the foster mother tells the mother and they meet at the pitch. The team leader was confident that informal access would continue to happen and said: “That’s why we promote relative care. When it works well, it works extremely well.”
The father’s treating psychiatrist gave evidence. He said that at the time of his assessment, the father did not cross the boundary into a delusional disorder. The psychiatrist was asked if the father did not accept certain findings of fact or continued to make allegations of poisoning or of conspiracies, what would his diagnosis be? He replied that he would liken it to a paranoid personality disorder or schizophrenia.
CFA attachment expert
A psychologist conducted an attachment assessment two years previously and provided an updated assessment earlier this year. The expert was asked to complete an attachment assessment for the child in his placement and to provide advice on the impact of any possible move. The expert said that the assessment was conducted using a questionnaire and it took three hours to complete. She said the questionnaire is gone through with the foster parents, the social workers and the GAL was present for both assessments. The expert was of the opinion that most children are not able to describe their internal emotional states, so it is helpful if that can be done by the care givers.
The expert said that she conducted two observations and she was looking to see what the child did when he was stressed. She wanted to see if he turned to his primary care givers and what that interaction looked like. The expert told the court that the secure base or safe haven is the cornerstone of attachment.
The expert explained that children in care have a much smaller rate of security and tend to have a layered profile, where they move towards security but they retain the insecure patterns. She said that every placement has an impact, so if a child has several placements, there is a more complex layered profile. The expert was of the opinion that where children come into care in an insecure state, then they move towards security, but retain an insecure pattern.
The expert told the judge that when she completed her first assessment, the child had achieved tentative security, but when he became stressed he retained an insecure pattern with anger towards his mother and high levels of proximity seeking. For example, she said that he would wake up in the middle of the night and move to the foster parents’ bed.
She said that when she completed her more recent assessment, he had marginally improved security and marginally reduced avoidance and insecurity anxiety. The expert told the court that access was increased earlier in the year to three times a week and she had not conducted a re-assessment since then. However, she said that she was told that high levels of arousal, anxiety and proximity-seeking at night significantly increased after access. The expert said that the child could not even go to sleep in his own bed at night and had to sleep with the foster parents all night.
In relation to permanency, she said that the child did not understand his foster home to be permanent and while he had never been told about where he would be living in the future she said that children pick up on non-verbal signals and was of the opinion that children need to be told about their permanency in a way that they understand.
The CFA solicitor said that it was put to the social worker the day previously that a lack of permanency did not matter because of the child’s young age. The expert responded: “I think everybody including small children need permanency, because only then will they be able to relax and play and learn… if they don’t have a secure base they don’t trust the world enough to play and learn.”
The solicitor asked the expert to offer a view on the proportionality of the application for full care order to 18 years. She responded that a move would be very damaging. She continued that the child might comply with the order, but when he got stressed he sought his foster parents and she was of the opinion that he would revert to the two insecure patterns if there was a move.
In relation to access, the expert did not believe in forcing children to go to access when they are stressed and cannot manage a situation. She said his attachment system goes into shut down when he is over-stressed.
The expert was cross examined by the mother’s counsel and it was put to her that children do better when they are raised by their birth family. The expert said that it depended on the birth family and it was predicated on the fact that the birth parents were able to meet the needs of the child.
The counsel was critical of the expert’s failure to conduct an attachment assessment of the parents and the child and the expert said that she sought to observe access but the parents would not let her. Counsel then said the parents rightly or wrongly identified the expert as being part of the CFA and they were suspicious of CFA.
When asked by the mother’s counsel where she obtained her information regarding the child, the expert said that the information used by her came primarily from the foster mother. Counsel put it to her that the foster mother was only willing to facilitate access at a certain level, but not at a level that would establish a good relationship between the mother and her child. The expert said that the foster mother was very keen that the child would see his parents on a regular basis.
The father’s counsel had obtained documents under Freedom of Information. He put it to the expert that there was a meeting after the assessment and before the observation and the social work team was present together with the GAL. The expert acknowledged that a meeting took place and counsel for the father asked her, “is that really showing independence?” The expert said that the meeting was to gain information about the child and she explained that the social worker gets to see the child when they are out of the family home travelling to and from access and she believed that was very relevant.
Counsel for the father: “I have to put it to you that you did not carry out an independent assessment and that you were somewhat influenced by what the GAL and the social worker said to you in respect of the child because the child didn’t verbalise anything to you during the assessment”. The expert said that she carried out her assessment independently.
In relation to informal access, counsel for the father said that the child had asked to go on an activity with his parents and that the foster mother merely facilitated this access.
The solicitor for the GAL then cross-examined the expert. He asked the expert if she was aware of the report of the parents’ psychologist and her recommendation that the child be reunified with his parents within six weeks. The expert said that she was aware of the report, but had a different opinion.
The GAL’s solicitor asked the witness if she was consulted prior to the increase in access at the end of last year and she said that she was not. She said she had met with the social worker and GAL a number of weeks later and expressed a concern as to whether the child could manage the level of uncertainty that could arise in his mind, with such a dramatic increase in access.
The GAL solicitor asked if it was possible that the foster mother was giving staged answers during the assessment and the expert said that she takes an objective view and explained that it was important to get the view of all of the professionals who knew the child well in order to ensure that the answers were not staged.
The witness was critical of the parents’ expert and her training around the area of attachment. The GAL solicitor pointed out at a note of a meeting showed that the parents’ expert said she was not an expert on attachment and would defer to [the witness] who is an expert on attachment.
The GAL solicitor asked the expert her view on a shared care arrangement and she said that it would be very difficult for the child because she believed he was very susceptible to high levels of stress and that he needed to know where home was for him.
The judge said that if there was a transfer, where would be the balance be between reunification within six weeks and a year. The expert said that with an older child it would take a number of months, based on concerted efforts, engagement and cooperation.
The CFA solicitor asked the expert if she was involved in a conspiracy that led her to rule out reunification as an option and she replied: “if I thought it was in the child’s best interest to go home then I would have said that”.
Parents’ expert – parental capacity assessment
A clinical psychologist gave evidence that she carried out a parenting capacity assessment nine months previously and found that the parents were very appropriate and seemed to love their child and they were attached to him and he was attached to them.
The clinical psychologist carried out a disturbance of attachment interview with the parents which was a self-administered reporting interview and she was asked if that should have been administered with the foster parents. She replied that the assessment can be done with any care-givers or with the parents if they were care-givers for the first two years of the child’s life.
The clinical psychologist recommended that the child be returned to his parents’ care and she based that conclusion on the assessment and the literature which said that children do better with their natural parents if their parents have a good enough capacity to parent. The clinical psychologist admitted that she had both a therapeutic as well as an assessment relationship with the parents. She said that she speaks up for parents at meetings and mediates between them and the authorities.
In relation to the father’s fixations, the clinical psychologist said that she got the feeling that there was a bit of a blockage with the father and that he was not accepting the reality of how he got into the situation. However, she said that over the course of doing the assessments, he came to accept the part he had played in it. The clinical psychologist said that the father wanted to do the best for his son and he wanted to father him.
The CFA solicitor put it to her that she was not an accredited psychologist with the psychological services of Ireland and she agreed that she was not. He also put it to her that she was effectively an advocate for the parents and while he acknowledged that she had a background in the area, she had no clinical experience and again she agreed that she had no clinical experience.
The CFA solicitor also asked if the psychologist had considered why all of the other professionals were of the opinion that the child should remain in the care of his foster parents and the psychologist said that she considered that, but had a different opinion and believed the child should be returned to the care of his parents within six weeks. She then said “my approach was that children are better off at home,” and the solicitor replied, “if that was the case there would be no children in care”.
In relation to the father’s mental health difficulties, the psychologist said that the father had been through several psychological assessments and had not been diagnosed with any disorder. She said that there was no red flag popping up for her and that he was engaging in counselling. After a number of recent episodes were put the psychologist, she conceded that there were red flags and that was why he was attending counselling.
The CFA solicitor put it to her that she had a fixed view with regard to the case and in spite of the issues raised, the psychologist remained of the view that the child should be returned to the care of his parents within six weeks. The solicitor asked if the witness had considered the effect that reunification within six weeks might have on the child and whether or not the opinion of the attachment expert gave her pause. The psychologist replied, “yes it does give pause, he is [young], he will adapt at [this age], he won’t adapt at 15.”
Cross-examining the psychologist, the GAL solicitor asked her about an article of hers which was published a number of years previously. In that article she accused social workers of taking children into care for “flimsy reasons” and then justifying their decision to take the child into care by making something up. She agreed that she had written that article and that was her opinion.
Chartered and registered psychologist
The chartered and registered psychologist was asked by the CFA for a second opinion on the access plan after it had been increased around Christmas of last year, following the parents’ psychologist’s recommendation of reunification.
The psychologist told the judge that she looked at the parenting capacity assessment of the parents’ psychologist and she was critical of the methodology and of the recommendations in that report. The witness said that the parents’ psychologist was confused between attachment and love and bonding.
The psychologist recommended that there be a full and complete parenting capacity assessment because “the issues of the father being delusional needs to be fleshed out and we need to see how his behaviours affect his parenting moving forward.”
The father accused the witness of working for the CFA and the expert said that she was an independent contractor and was brought into the case with the hope of carrying out an assessment. Counsel for the father said that the father was of the opinion that because the CFA bring an expert into a case, then that expert is part of the CFA.
The mother then gave evidence. She told the judge that she was in a long-term relationship with the child’s father and acknowledged that there were shortcomings in her parenting in the early years. She said that she was a first-time mother and every day she was learning.
In relation to access, she said that she used to visit the family home for a number of hours each weekend, but the foster mother limited that time to an hour or so. She said that her son was very happy to have her there and he was disappointed when she left.
The mother told the judge that she was confused when the child stopped attending access earlier in the year. She said they had a great day the day before and that following his initial refusal, access had diminished greatly over the proceeding three months. She believed that the foster mother was giving him other options and that he was choosing to go to the farm instead of having access with his parents.
The mother also told the judge that the foster mother had stopped taking her calls because she was calling too much. She said that she believed the foster mother wanted to keep her son and told the court that the foster mother said that having him “is simply magic” but she went on “it’s magic for her, but its misery for me.”
The mother believed that her parenting skills had improved and that she had no difficulty in managing access. She said that she was properly equipped to look after her son and would be willing to work and cooperate with all the state services If he was returned to her care.
The judge asked: “How many times have you fallen out with [the foster mother] since she took over the care of [the child]?” The mother replied: “We had a very intense relationship when he first went to live with her. I was phoning her a lot and that went on for a long time… I guess because she was trying to work and look after [the child] and keep a relationship with me, it’s put stress on her”.
The father declined to give evidence.
Submissions were made on behalf of each party. The CFA solicitor summarised the evidence of the CFA witnesses. He said that the evidence overwhelmingly suggested that the threshold continued to be met and that it was in the child’s best interest that he continue to reside with his foster parents.
The solicitor said that unfortunately the father does have fixated thought processes and he does see conspiracies and it does put pressure on the foster placement. He said his own family have told us that he has certain ideas and it is clear that he has certain mental health needs and the parents’ expert had not adequately addressed the concerns with the father.
The CFA solicitor acknowledged that the parents had taken a lot of steps and the mother’s evidence was compelling, but he submitted that the CFA had not seen the progress necessary to allow the child to go home. He said: “It is rare to allow care proceedings to continue for this long without a long-term care order being made.”
The mother’s counsel told the judge that the starting point for the courts was that the interests of the child are best met if he is in the custody of his birth parents and that is not a position that should not lightly be displaced. She said that it had been displaced four years ago.
Counsel summarised the progress that was made in relation to the mother’s mental health difficulties, her parenting skills, the improvements in the home and feeding arrangements. She submitted that the parenting has been demonstrated to be “good enough” and that it had been put forward that they can look after him for a few hours, but not for a longer period. Counsel for the mother argued: “They haven’t had the opportunity to look after him for a longer period, so there is no conclusive proof that they can’t look after him for a longer period and that argument puts the horse before the cart”.
The mother’s counsel readily acknowledged that reunification was not something that could happen overnight and she also acknowledged that it would not be easy. However, she submitted that in general the best interest of the child lay in being in the custody of his parents.
The father’s counsel echoed the submissions of the mother and contended that the report of the attachment expert seemed to suggest that there was hope of reunification.
The GAL solicitor said that four years previously she was of the opinion that a Section 18 order to 18 years was not proportionate. However, he said that while there has been extensive work carried out, the GAL believed there were still question marks over the behaviour of the father and he told the judge that there was no evidence of progress in that regard.
The judge said that a written judgment would be provided but that she had made her decision. She said that she would deal with the issue of conspiracies in her judgment but didn’t think there was any point in making this any more difficult on the family today.
The judge said that she was satisfied that the child’s health, development and welfare was likely to be impaired if he was returned to his parents’ care and therefore she was making the order. She said: “The child has been waiting five years to make this care order … and it would be disproportionate for me to not make a care order to 18 years.”
The Judge told the parents that she could not allow any more insecurity and difficulty to arise in this child. She said: “It doesn’t mean I won’t review the case in two years’ time.”
The issue of access was considered when the written judgment was provided to the parties two months later.
A newly allocated social worker gave evidence on that date and told the court that the child had been given a life story created by the attachment expert and it was delivered by the social worker and the GAL after the order had been made.
The social worker met with the foster mother and his school and was informed that the child had settled down and was showing less signs of upset. She said that he was happy and doing well.
In relation to access, the foster mother recently brought him to meet his parents at a shopping centre for his birthday and she said that future access dates were agreed with all of the parties. She said that the mother was attending the family home to see her son informally and the foster mother has reported that the informal access is going well.
The social worker said that going forward there will be monthly access with the parents and informal access with the mother at the family home. The social worker said that she will observe access from time to time in order to support and facilitate access. The social worker said that while the father is seeking an increase in access, which is understandable, she was of the opinion that things needed to settle down and that further access would be explored in the future.
The GAL then gave evidence that the permanency story delivered by her went very well. She said that the boy was completely invested and had questions of his own. She said that they completed the story by planting a tree in the garden and the child was given a story book to reference. The GAL said that once the order was made, a huge amount of stress had been lifted in the foster home and the relationship between the mother and foster parents had improved. She believed that access was going very well.
The judge handed out her judgment and agreed to a request by the mother that there be a review in two years’ time.
The father personally filed an appeal to the Circuit Court and there were concerns regarding the release of the judgment of the court because of the in camera rule, as the father was no longer legally represented.
It was decided to release the judgment to the nominated legal representative of the father and should the father represents himself, then the judge ordered that he be brought to court and informed about the in camera rule and the court’s concern that the best interests and welfare of the child is that that in camera rule is respected.