An interim care order was extended in respect of one child whose mother was suspected of being forced into a marriage. The mother, who was from an Asian country and for whom a separate guardian ad litem was appointed, was represented by counsel and consented to the application.
The social worker said the CFA was seeking a direction that the interim care order be extended for a period of 28 days. The social workers met with the mother following an allegation that she had been raped. She said they attempted to meet with a disability service but the mother cancelled. The mother was also going to meet with an Islamic association.
The social worker said: “We are working with an adult disability service and assessing her consent to the [proposed] marriage. The [psychologist] is of the opinion that she does have capacity to consent [to the marriage].”
The social worker said the child was doing well in the foster care and meeting her milestones. Access was taking place once per week. The mother attended access each week but she struggled to take direction.
The solicitor for the mother’s GAL said: “We are very concerned about safety, in relation to consent and capacity. We ask that a capacity assessment be carried out.”
The judge asked: “Could the mother be made a ward of court?”
The solicitor for the GAL responded: “No, there is English legislation in relation to a Court of Protection Order and those orders are not as extreme as wardship. You might consider an application to seek an inherent jurisdiction order which might reflect the Court of Protection Order. We have concerns as the mother has been through a hard time. The GP believes that he must make a referral to Gardaí as there is an intellectual disability and a previous report indicated cognitive concerns. We are looking for a direction and funding for the psychological assessment. We are seeking a separate [capacity] assessment [for the mother].”
There were concerns amongst the parties that an arranged marriage had been set up for the mother with two suitors.
The solicitor asked the GAL: “You have concerns about capacity, whether there is ability to say no?”
The GAL replied: “There is no ability to say no. The mother herself said she was not able to say no.”
The solicitor asked the GAL: “In relation to the marriage, you had concerns that her brother was sitting in the car when the mother was to meet the man [one of the suitors]. Did the mother have a genuine choice?”
The GAL replied: “Her psychological assessment says she is vulnerable and compliant and agrees to things willingly. I am concerned for her welfare.”
The solicitor for the CFA asked: “is there a cultural inability to say no or an innate problem where she [the mother] does not know the difference?”
The GAL replied: “We need an assessment for those demarcations… It is better to do the psychological assessment before the capacity assessment.”
The judge said: “This is a complex case. I will grant interim care order but I think there should be a meeting [between the parties]. The section 47 order is granted in relation to funding for the psychological assessment.”
Interim care order extended where mother also had GAL
In another case an interim care order was extended in respect of a 16-month-old child. Both parents were represented and consented to the application. The mother was present but the father was not. The guardian ad litem (GAL) supported the application. A GAL had also been appointed to this mother, who had been involved with disability services in another part of the country.
The social worker said access was taking place with the mother five days a week and it was going well. She said there was a lovely relationship between the child and the mother and the social work department were reviewing access. In her opinion the threshold had been met to extend the interim care order.
There was a further application brought by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) under section 47 of the Child Care Act, 1991 to make files from another provincial town available to the parties.
The judge asked: “Why have all of the files not been [retrieved] from another provincial town [in which the family previously resided]?”
The solicitor for the father said: “The CFA say it is necessary to see those files…. the father is not consenting to the files being [made] available.”
The GAL said: “There are two files [relating to] when the child lived in the other provincial town and I need to see them. They [the files] are about disability… I want to see the files as there are complications in the father’s history… I spoke to the office in the other provincial town and she [the disability manager] is happy to let us go ahead… I cannot make a judgment until [I] have seen both sets of files.”
The solicitor said: “The psychologist [involved with the parenting capacity assessment] did a comprehensive report on the files she had already seen. Has she looked for more and do further files need to be analysed and viewed?”
The GAL said: “I must do my own investigation. She [the psychologist] did a report on the mother and father but my work is separate… I have been involved longer and I have been in contact with the child and her parents. I respect she [the psychologist] had [completed] a comprehensive report.”
The solicitor said: “Access has been suspended pending the issue?”
The GAL replied: “Yes, the father does not want to be involved now but that can change so I need to see the file.”
The solicitor said: “You had a professionals meeting and spoke to the psychologist. Did you ask her [the psychologist] if it were necessary that files be seen?”
The GAL responded: “We had a meeting to go to the other provincial town but the mother went to a solicitor saying the she did not want the CFA and GAL to see the files.”
The judge said: “I grant the application by the CFA and I am concerned that the recommendations of the GAL should be carried out. The files [should] be reviewed and a meeting be convened with the disability manager in other provincial town within 14 days.”
The judge said: “Whatever the GAL wants, she gets… I direct that the files be produced.” He said he was granting the extension of the interim care order subject to the recommendations and advices of the CFA and GAL.