An interim care order was extended in a rural town for a primary school aged child, who had significant physical and developmental needs, but it had been confirmed that he did not have a genetic disorder. The child had been in voluntary care for five years and had been in the same foster placement since birth. An interim care order had been applied for and was granted, though allegations had been made against the son of the foster carers.
The judge extended the interim care order and directed the Child and Family Agency (CFA) issue a witness summons to the garda investigating the allegations. The mother was not in court and there had been no contact with the social worker, neither had there any contact with the child’s father.
Evidence of the social worker
The social worker told the court that the mother had addiction issues and difficulties with accommodation. She said that although the mother had a good relationship with the foster carer she had not been engaging with services for a while. The mother had made an access application but had failed to attend in court on the day it was due to be heard. She said access was being facilitated with the maternal grandparents in the social work office.
She said historically allegations had been made against the foster mother and father. These allegations were fully investigated and determined to be unfounded. However, lately a child had made allegations against the child of the foster carer and these allegations were subject to an investigation by An Garda Siochana. The investigation was still ongoing and was not completed.
The social worker told the court she had phoned the investigating garda to ascertain the progress of the investigation and was told the garda was on leave. She was aware that some specialist interviews had been completed but some were still outstanding. She said that was all the information she had about how far along the investigation was. The nature of the allegations had necessitated the social worker putting a safety plan in place which was having a detrimental effect on all the family. She said that within the home another foster child could not invite friends back to play whereas they had been able to do that previously.
However, despite these issues the placement for the child of this application was still going well and it was meeting the child’s needs. She assured the court the placement was being closely monitored.
The child had significant needs and needed specialist equipment. A specialist chair had been ordered which had arrived, but the child could not sit in it as it needed adjustment and the social worker hoped that this would be done imminently. The judge said: “That is just ridiculous.” The judge asked the social worker to ensure this problem was addressed promptly.
The social worker said in the area where the child lived the early intervention team had been recently reconfigured. This had meant that the child would come under the auspices of one multidisciplinary team rather than have separate assessments with individual assessors. She said that she hoped this would be much more beneficial to him as the speech and language therapists, the occupational therapists and all the other therapists would all be working within the same team.
Evidence of the GAL
The GAL said the allegations had had a significantly detrimental effect on all concerned and had created huge difficulties. She said initially the foster mother had refused to inform her of the nature of the allegations and would not discuss the matter with her. The GAL said she would not have been able to complete a full and thorough report without knowing some elements of the allegations that had been made.
However, the GAL acknowledged that the foster mother had thought that she had been forbidden from discussing the allegations and not that the foster mother was being difficult. The GAL said that she had received only pertinent information and from that could make her report to the court.
The GAL said there was a safety plan in place. She said it was exceedingly difficult because it required things such as all doors being left open and no other children could come back for play dates, which this child did not understand. The foster carers were sticking rigidly to the plan, but it was difficult. She approved and was satisfied with the safety plan, but it came with a cost. It would be difficult for the court to fully determine if this placement was the correct placement for this child until the investigation by An Garda Siochana had been completed.
She said she believed the investigation was taking too long and needed to be completed as quickly as possible and any assistance the court could bring to bear would be of assistance.
The judge extended the interim care order and recognised the stress such an investigation must cause. She said that it was in everyone’s interest that this investigation was completed as quickly as possible. She directed that the solicitor for the CFA issue a witness summons to the investigating garda for the next court date.