An interim care order was extended in respect of two children. Child A was of school going age and child B was a toddler. The birth mother of the children was deceased. The father, who was from another European country, was in custody for a very serious offence and was represented. The father’s partner, the child’s stepmother, was a party to the proceedings and was represented. The father did not consent to the application. The guardian ad litem (GAL) supported the application.
The judge said: “This case should be expedited to the utmost. We have a good GAL in the case and I am glad to see her. We have the father in prison and he is coming up and down [to court].”
Child A and child B were in the same foster placement and were doing well. The social worker said she met with child A twice and the child was getting on well at school. A psychologist was conducting an assessment of child A’s therapeutic needs. The report was due to be finished by the end of the following month. The psychologist was initially required to carry out therapeutic work but her work was expanded. The preliminary report of the psychologist did not encompass the extended work and a second assessment was due to take place.
The solicitor for the GAL asked: “[With] the psychologist’s assessment of the stepmother, there are two options, one [psychologist] can start in next month and another [psychologist] can start the following month.”
The GAL said: “I do not consider it to be relevant that one [psychologist] lives in England. We are all of the view that this is complex and, in such circumstances, we should not just get someone qualified, we need the best person. The time frames of one psychologist can be extensive and she has not given [a time frame]. It matters when this assessment is completed. We are better off getting the best assessor and moving in that direction. There has been considerable delay.”
The solicitor for the GAL asked: “Once the assessment is completed, it must be seen in the section 18 position?”
She replied: “Yes. There are a number of factors, one being [child A] and the other being the DNA testing. There is a refusal on the part of the prospective father to engage and DNA samples were procured. [Child A] is fragile and is doing OK but she has returned all the Christmas presents she received. I remain concerned. [Child A] should be approached with great care.”
Child A had been previously transferred from the stepmother’s care to her birth mother’s care. Child A told her foster carer she did not want to see the stepmother.
The solicitor for the stepmother said: “The stepmother does not support what happened. The longer this goes on, the worse the relationship is getting. What context is being provided and what has [child A] been told?”
The GAL said: “[Child A] knows the stepmother wants to come to court and the stepmother wants to see her. A number of statements have been made. I cannot represent to [child A] what the stepmother’s intentions are and what her position is. I have had ongoing conversations with the stepmother. This recurrent theme that the child has been denied access is inaccurate.
“[Child A] said she would be open to seeing a photograph [of the family] and it was too traumatic. [Child A] went with her mother to collect her brother and witnessed her father allegedly assault her mother. We cannot lose sight of what that has meant [to her]. It is being portrayed that this child is being illogical that she would not want to see her paternal family.”
The judge extended the interim care orders in respect of both children for a period of 28 days.
In another case proceedings were withdrawn in respect of one child from the Travelling community who was to be placed with a family member. The Child and Family Agency (CFA) was proposing to allow the matter cease the supervision of the court but the GAL had a different view.
The solicitor for the CFA said: “The issue for a supervision order is moot as the social worker has access to the property [where the child is staying].”
The judge said: “I will not do what you want as I am prepared to do what the GAL wants to do. She is my eyes and ears.”
The social worker said: “The reunification plan has gone well and we have no concerns about the placement with the child’s brother. We have full access to the parents’ home. Their co-operation has improved and we have no concerns about them being honest. We do not have grounds for a supervision order.”
The judge said: “I have a GAL report which says the supervision order is needed.”
Counsel for the parents said: “The court cannot make a supervision order where there is no application by the CFA.”
Counsel for the GAL said the GAL wanted a supervision order but the parties had agreed terms. The social worker said the terms included allowing the social worker to visit the school of the child, to meet the child alone and visit the child at the foster carer’s home. The child was also to attend a CFA social club.
The matter was withdrawn and the GAL was discharged.