A judge in a District Court in a rural town extended an interim care order for a teenager boy and said access would be at the wishes and direction of the teenager and on the advice of the professionals involved. The mother had opposed the extension and sought access with her son.
The court heard there had been family law proceedings in the District Court several years earlier where the father had been awarded full custody. The teenager had had no contact with his mother since that time. The father had recently died and the teenager had come into the care of the CFA. The initial foster placement had broken down and a new foster placement had been sourced which suited the teenager much better.
The social worker said the teenager had formed a good relationship with his new foster carers and although it was early days it was going well. The teenager had started to use drugs with his father and he was resistant to change but as the foster carers were very health conscious and fitness oriented this had started to rub off on the teenager. He had started going to the gym and had also started back at school. She said he was resistant to change but had not used drugs in the last month. She said things were very positive.
She said the teenager had a brother who was in his middle twenties, he was currently being assessed as a potential long term foster placement, as was his current placement. The teenager also had contact with an aunt but she was not a viable long-term option.
The social worker said the teenager had clearly and repeatedly said that he did not want contact with his mother. She said she had spoken at length with him about this and his views were clear that he did not want contact with his mother. She said that he had not ruled it out in the future but at the minute he did not want it.
She said the mother had a history of addiction issues. She had met with the mother once, but that the mother had also failed to attend two appointments. The teenager was only now starting to disclose some of his experiences as a good relationship with the foster carers had developed, and as she had already said the CFA was examining this as a long-term placement. She said that she was concerned if contact with the mother were re-established as to how beneficial or detrimental it might be.
The judge invited the mother to ask questions of the social worker. The mother said that she had been given no information about her son. She said he had recently had a very serious accident, was in hospital and she had not been informed. The social worker replied that the teenager had fallen while playing and had a minor fracture to his wrist. He was treated and returned home the same day. It required only casting and no further treatment. She asked why the social worker would not give her access to her son. The social worker replied that her son did not want access with her at this moment in time.
The GAL said that the teenager was doing very well in the new placement, had gone back to school, had a girlfriend and had started to become very chatty with the GAL. She said that he reported he had found the previous placement restrictive but the new placement, although some way away from where he wanted to be, was good. She said that he reported feeling healthier and more settled. She said the foster carers had no concerns.
She said that presently the teenager did not want contact with his mother but this opinion changes. She said the teenager blamed his mother for the problems of his parents’ relationship and he took his father’s side. He had said he would be open to contact through social media but that was all for now. She said the teenage tended to fluctuate so any contact would need to be managed very carefully and in small steps.
The judge said she was happy to extend the interim care order and it was positive that the mother had attended court. However, from the reports she had read and the evidence she had heard the teenager did not want contact with his mother at this stage and she would take her lead from him. She advised the mother that she would be entitled to legal aid and directed her to the Legal Aid Board.
At a later hearing the mother brought an access application under section 37 of the Child Care Act 1991. However, the judge refused to grant the application as the social worker and the guardian ad litem (GAL) in their reports and evidence said the young person did not want contact with his mother. The mother was in court but was not represented.
The young person accepted the judge’s invitation to speak with her prior to hearing dates for a full care order.
The social worker said the young person was doing well in his foster placement and this placement was to be a long-term arrangement. Dates for a full care order hearing had been arranged. The social worker said that the teenager was attending school and had settled. The boy had very clearly and consistently stated to her he did not want access with his mother. She said that the boy had said that maybe at some point in the future he would see her again but not now.
The GAL said that he had met with the teenager on several occasions and his position had never changed. He had repeatedly said he did not wish to have contact with his mother. The GAL said that he had explored all avenues. He had suggested phone calls, social media, letters but the teenager was angry with his mother and remained resolute that he did not want contact with her.
The judge had previously asked the GAL to ask the teenager if he would like to meet with the judge. The GAL told the judge the boy did want to meet with her, and a date was set for this prior to the full care order hearing.
The judge invited the mother to ask the social worker and the GAL any questions, but the mother made general statements and said it was not right that she could not have access with her son. The mother repeated her request to the judge to be allowed access with her son, but the judge said she would make an order that access be at the discretion of the CFA. The judge extended the interim care order for one month.