A judge in a district court in a rural town said a grandmother should have access to her grandchild, who was in care, at not less than two-monthly intervals. The grandmother had brought a Section 47 application seeking increased access. The mother was not present in court, and the father, who was the son of the grandmother, was abroad.
The grandmother told the court that when the child first came into care she saw him every few weeks. It was now every three months, in her daughter’s house. She did not see him on her own. Her parents, the child’s great-grandparents, did not see him at all now and they were very fond of him.
There were difficulties between her and the child’s parents because of their drug use. “I stood up in court and said they were not capable of minding the child because of drugs.”
She said the CFA said she was drinking alcohol, based on an anonymous referral. “No-one knows where these accusations are coming from. I have no issue with alcohol, I drink champagne at special occasions. I have a letter from my GP saying I have no history of alcohol or drug abuse.” She said she’d like to see the child every second weekend.
The solicitor for the CFA said that it was difficult for the child to keep up with everything. “He’s a very little boy with huge commitments. The CFA is trying to put his needs first. The arrangement was that every two months he’d have access with your daughter (the boy’s aunt) and you.”
The social worker told the court the child had been born with very complex needs, due to his mother’s drug abuse. He was very profoundly deaf and needed speech therapy. He was embedded in his foster family and had activities with them.
At the moment he was having access with his mother every two weeks, which was problematic and required the presence of an access worker. The priority was maintaining that at the moment. He had had monthly access with his grandmother and aunt, but it was decided to reduce this because of the demands of his complex needs.
The social worker said there was an anonymous referral of alcohol use, but that was not a major factor in the decision.
Asked if there were any concern around access with the grandmother, the social worker said: “Not specifically. We weighed up everything relating to the child.”
The judge said: “The child is doing very well in his foster placement. Given his past and his challenges he will need continued support. That puts into sharp relief the application today. The grand-mother put her grandson’s needs first in drawing the attention of the CFA to his parents’ drug use. She is to be commended. I don’t put too much emphasis on this historical allegation [relating to alcohol use] at a time when relations were very fraught.
“I would be of the view access should be every two months with a view to it being more frequent into the future. The time span should not exceed two months under any circumstances. The matter should be in for review in six months and we’ll see how it goes.”