A judge in a rural district court granted a full care order until the age of 18 years for a pre-school child, who had been in care since the age of four months. The lawyer for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) and the child’s social worker outlined the reasons for the application and the judge was satisfied that the required threshold for the order was reached.
The parents were not present in the court and neither parent was represented. The lawyer for the CFA told the judge that the child’s mother had consented to the application for the full care order.
She told the judge that the girl had been in care since the age of four months and was now of pre-school age. She outlined the history of the care applications made in the intervening period. A two-year care order was due to expire at the end of the current month and the CFA was seeking a full care order until the age of 18 years. The child had been in the same foster placement since the age of four months and a full care order was necessary to provide her with a sense of security and permanency.
The lawyer for the CFA told the court that the child’s parents were not married, they were members of the Traveller community and they were second cousins. Three siblings of Child A were already in voluntary care. The social worker outlined her concerns for the health, safety and welfare of this child.
She reported that the parents had a historically volatile arrangement. A number of protection orders had been obtained by the mother against the father. She said the child’s mother had addiction issues with alcohol and drugs. The death of the child’s maternal grandmother had led to mental health issues for the child’s mother who had now developed an eating disorder.
The social worker reported that the mother now had a one-year-old baby and had suffered from post-natal depression. She had a “transient housing issue” and had applied for the Housing Assistance Payment scheme. The mother “surrenders houses often” and was difficult to contact. The mother was now homeless for two years.
The lawyer for CFA asked the social worker about A’s father. The social worker reported that the father had addiction issues and had spent time in prison. She said that she did not know of his current whereabouts but that he regularly reverted to spending time at his grandparents’ home. The father had had no contact with the child for over a year. The social worker said that A had once been exposed to a violent incident in her home and as a result of this she had been removed from the home.
The lawyer for the CFA enquired about the access between A and her mother. The social worker told the court that there had been some access between them but that plans did not always proceed very well. The child last met with her mother following the birth of the mother’s baby over one year ago.
The CFA lawyer asked about the child’s statutory review meeting that had taken place three months earlier. The social worker said that the CFA had written to the child’s mother and had invited her to the meeting to update the current care plan. However, the mother did not attend the meeting and no contact had been received from her.
The social worker told the judge that A was in good health and was in the care of the same foster family since she was four months old. The child got on very well with the foster family. Her foster parents always promoted her sense of her own identity and she had monthly access with her older siblings.
The judge decided that she was satisfied that the threshold for the making of a full care order until the age of 18 years was reached and that it was in the child’s best interests. The judge granted the full care order and set a date for review to take place after two years.