An interim care order was extended in respect of an eight-year-old child in Dublin District Court. The mother was Irish and the father was from an Asian country. The child had been in seven foster placements since he came into care five months ago and the current placement was about to come to an end. There were concerns on behalf of the mother that the child was unclean and sustained bruising in the placement. An assessment of need was warranted. The GAL was supporting the application.
The social worker said the threshold had been met. The social worker was newly allocated but had known the child previously and met the mother. A psychologist would conduct the psychological piece of the parenting capacity assessment and other assessments were ongoing. Access was ongoing and unsupervised. The mother usually collected the child from school and she engaged with the family support worker.
Counsel for the mother said there concerning issues, “some new and some long-standing” in the reports of the GAL and the social worker. The child was taken into care on foot of an emergency care order. The current placement was the seventh placement since the child came into care five months ago and the foster carers could not continue the placement after the end of the month. The social worker said the foster placement was a short-term placement and the social work department was unsure if they could extend the scope of the placement.
The foster mother was open to maintaining the placement and she said she would feel bad if the child moved into a new placement. It was hoped that the child would eventually return to the care of his parents. The foster father did not want the foster mother to be overburdened as the foster carers had a foster child with special needs and they were committed to him long-term. The foster carers were aware that the child needed a placement.
There were concerns about bruising on the child that remained unresolved and there was a concern about his prior placement. Counsel for the mother said: “We propose a vigorous safety plan so that the matter will be back before the placement expires.”
There were also concerns about the hygiene of the child in the placement and he was reported to be filthy. The child was wearing a dirty tee-shirt and did not want to change his clothes. The child was reluctant to shower or be showered. The teacher remarked that there was an odour from the child.
The mother had to shower the child as he would not allow the foster carers to shower him. The social worker said: “He [the child] is getting older and will have to take more responsibility washing himself. I have not spoken to the foster carers about washing.” The previous social worker outlined that the child would not change his clothes but did not consider it a huge issue as he was an active child who got dirty.
The GAL was surprised by the washing issue as the child always seemed clean and tidy. The child was doing well in his foster placement and expressed a desire to go home. The child asked the GAL to make representations to the judge asking for his return home. The GAL explained to the child that the judge would be delighted to hear that the child was doing well in care but “there were things that mammy still had to do.” She said the child accepted that explanation reluctantly. The child had mixed views about the placement. He said it was “OK” but found the placement lonely as the other child in the placement was older and had special needs.
The GAL was concerned that the child was so far behind at school. The GAL was shocked that the child had not been picked up as having a high level of need. An education assessment of the child was undertaken but the mother did not have access to a copy of the assessment. The social worker said she made contact with the school and planned to meet with the principal.
The mother completed the form in order for the assessment of need to take place but was informed there was a waiting list of 14 months for the assessment. The GAL and social worker made a complaint to the HSE regarding the delay of the assessment. The HSE said they needed a copy of interim care order as the CFA was acting in loco parentis in relation to the child.
The social worker said: “We spoke to the HSE but did not know if it was appropriate to forward the court order [to the HSE].” Counsel for the mother said a full assessment was needed for the child as he had a mild intellectual impairment.
The GAL said the educational assessment was just “a snapshot of his needs and the child was presenting as more disabled than having a mild disability.” The child recognised few words when reading. She said: “The assessment must be started as a matter of priority and be pushed from the school’s point of view.”
She said: “This boy has slipped through the net and he should have had at least two of those tests [for intellectual disability]. The tests should be there in his school reports and it is a mystery as to his education history.” The GAL was delighted the child was having access with his mother and he was staying connected with his friends and not losing a sense of where he belonged.
The GAL said the change of placements was not in the interests of the child.
The judge noted the consent of both parents and extended the interim care order for 21 days.