The judge in a rural town granted a six-month extension to an interim care order for a family of two preschool and three primary school age children whose parents were waiting for a residential place at an addiction treatment centre. The CFA was given permission to make a full care order application in two months’ time.
The court heard the children had been in care on two previous occasions for a considerable amount of time and that the children’s guardian ad litem (GAL) recommended a long-term plan for the children with a built-in review.
The CFA solicitor said she was seeking a hearing date for a full care order hearing as the children were in care for almost two years. The mother’s solicitor said she did not want a care order application until the parents had completed their treatment and the mother was anxious, meanwhile, that the care hearing should not go ahead.
The father of the two oldest children, who was a guardian, was present in court with the mother and both parents consented to the extension of the interim care order. The father of the third and fourth child, who was not a guardian of the children, was not present in court. The father of the fifth child, who was also not a guardian, had access with this child and was not present in court.
The judge said he was not expressing any view, but the situation had been going on for a while and “nothing but the best interests of the children could be served” by putting the CFA care order application in for mention in two months’ time.
A maternal grandmother and infant’s guardian cannot overrule a mother’s consent to an extension of an interim care order
The judge granted an extension to an interim care order for a one-year old child in foster care on the consent of the child’s mother and overruled the maternal grandmother who was the legal guardian of the child. The mother was present in court with a court-appointed advocate and she was legally represented. The father, who was not a guardian, was not present or legally represented.
The CFA social worker told the court the 18-year-old mother, who lived with the maternal grandmother, frequently absented herself from the home leaving the infant with her grandmother. The court heard the mother and grandmother had a complex relationship. There was a history of arguments and difficulties in the relationship, which the social worker said impacted on the infant.
The social worker said the mother’s older sister wanted to support her and she was currently being assessed as a relative foster carer.
The social worker said there were a number of issues which needed to be addressed in order to make progress on plans to reunify the infant with her mother. The mother had engaged and disengaged twice with a teen parenting programme. On occasion, the mother did not turn up for access and this meant that the infant was left waiting for up to an hour. A safety plan was put in place which the mother did not follow. There was an ongoing communication issue with the mother and she was very difficult to reach by phone. There were concerns that the mother lacked insight into the infant’s needs and protective parenting.
The social worker agreed with counsel for the grandmother that she offered the mother support in the past, but said it was a complex relationship and inconsistent. She agreed with counsel that the grandmother provided a “warm secure settled home and [there were] strong ties between the grandmother and the child,” as referred to in her report.
The grandmother told the court that she felt the best place for the child was to be with her mother rather than in foster care. The grandmother said the mother was a good mother and she asked the judge to return the child to the mother’s care under a supervision order so that the same supports could be offered to the mother at home with her child. She felt the child was “used as a toy”. She said she would be “able to keep an eye” on the mother and the infant. She agreed with the CFA solicitor that the mother still had a lot more work to do.
The judge said the primary carer under the Constitution was the child’s mother and the grandmother was not in a position to overrule the consent of the mother and he extended the interim care order for a further month along with the mother’s access application.