A District Court in a regional town extended a full care order for a further 12 months for two young children, where a non-accidental injury was still unexplained by the mother.
The social worker reminded the court that the children (child A and child B) were taken into care a number of months earlier after child A was admitted to hospital suffering from burns. Following further investigations, the doctors believed that child A had sustained a fracture to her rib, which went untreated. The social worker said that older siblings were in voluntary care with family members.
The social worker told the judge that the two children were now in a placement together. She said that face-to-face contact between the children and their mother had commenced a month earlier and was taking place once per week. However, she expressed concern that because other family members were present the mother was effectively side-lined. As a result, the Child and Family Agency (CFA) suggested that the mother attended the first hour of access alone and her partner (whom the children called dad) joined the access for the last half an hour.
The social worker expressed concern about the history of domestic violence between the mother and her partner. Furthermore, the question surrounding the non-accidental injury to child A still existed. She said the father of the children was notified of the application but did not attend.
The social worker told the court that the children were thriving in their placement and were happier now that they were placed together. She said that they were almost potty-trained and speech and language were progressing well. The social worker told the judge that child A had a plastic surgery appointment a number of days later.
The mother’s solicitor said that there were initial concerns regarding the mother’s engagement and asked if there had been any improvement. The social worker said that the mother had attended both meetings on time and highlighted the fact that they were early morning meetings. The social worker said that the mother had also been on time for access and was happy to engage with the children on her own. The solicitor asked for sibling access and the social worker said that the CFA hoped there would be sibling access with the mother once per month. The social worker was keen to highlight that there were video calls between the siblings.
The mother’s solicitor asked if there would be a complete assessment in six months and the social worker said that she was hoping to have a better picture of the situation then. The solicitor asked if there was anything further the mother could do to progress matters and the social worker said that the CFA would probably be looking for a psychiatric assessment and the mother would need to take on board the advice given. The social worker also said that she was concerned that the mother’s support system was small.
The judge was satisfied that there were continuing concerns surrounding the injuries of child A and that the grounds necessary for an order under section 18 (a), (b) or (c) existed.
He extended the care order for 12 month with a review in six months to ensure progress was being made regarding the assessments.