Interim care order granted following incident, replacing supervision order

A judge in Dublin District Court granted an interim care order, after a judge in the same court had one month earlier declined to make an interim care order and granted a supervision order instead.

This matter concerned two children a school aged boy (A) who had significant difficulties and a pre-school aged girl (B). Both parents were in court, and each had their own legal representation. One month earlier the Child and Family Agency (CFA) had made an application for interim care orders, this was declined but the judge made supervision orders for both children.

The CFA applied again for an interim care order for both children and also made an application under section 23 of the Children Act 1997. A section 23 application allows for comments made by a child to be admitted into evidence without the child having to give that evidence in court.

Solicitor for the mother

The solicitor for the mother said an interim care order (ICO) hearing had been held one month earlier, which lasted two days and included six witnesses. The judge had given a very comprehensive decision and decided against making interim care orders and instead made supervision orders.

The CFA had now come back within one month for a second bite at the cherry. She said the parents had complied in full and with all the conditions of the supervision order. An ICO interim care order was the most draconian of orders as it deprived a child of the society of their parents and vice versa. It was well accepted that boy A was a child of exceptionally difficult needs. He required two special needs assistants (SNAs) to care for him at school. For the CFA to return after the mother had cared for both children in a one-bedroomed flat over a two-week school break was unfair.

Part of the supervision order stated that A would have to have a 100 per cent attendance at school. The one day he was late was on the morning after the two-week break. The family lived in a one-bedroomed flat and the father worked from home. During the two-week school break the mother had had no respite or help. The family support worker had been off and had not been replaced.

There had been a report by A of an incident. He alleged that on his way to school his mother punched him, he had fallen back and hit his head. The solicitor said the mother would tell the court she did push A to prevent him from running into the road. Rather than an interim care order, the mother wanted respite care. The solicitor said that the mother was willing to consent to respite care with the supervision order and this would be a much better option than that of an interim care order.

A had an allocated youth advocate programme (YAP) worker who would be the proposed foster carer. It had been suggested by the mother and her legal team to the CFA that respite be offered, which would be a half-way house and the YAP worker, the intended foster carer, was amenable to this also. It could be tried and if that did not work then the CFA could come back and apply for an interim care order. The mother’s solicitor proposed an adjournment. She said the interim care order was the nuclear option and all other options had not been exhausted. She said such an order was neither proportionate nor necessary.

 

Solicitor for the father

The solicitor for the father also said that the supervision order that had been granted was only a month old and there were already improvements. It had to be given a chance to work. The parents had agreed and followed all the agreements. She repeated the difficulties A had and his requirement for two SNAs in school, yet the mother had been expected to care for him without any help for over two weeks. The mother had done so without incident until the day she tried to take him back to school.

The solicitor said there had been no assessment as to the effect such a move or a removal would have on the children. Like the solicitor for the mother, she said an interim care order was a nuclear option when both parents were consenting to respite care of three days per week with the supervision order and the proposed foster carer was also willing to accommodate that.

She said the parents were desperate to improve their lot and have ambitions. The previous judge had placed significant emphasis on A having been hit by his mother and accepted that A had been physically chastised to an unacceptable standard, but this had stopped. A had been pushed so that he would be stopped from running into the road. It was accidental to prevent him from harm.

Solicitor for the guardian ad litem (GAL)

The solicitor for the GAL said that the GAL had recommended the supervision order one month ago but since then there had been further incidents of concern that had resulted in injury. He said the GAL was concerned that A had made a number of disclosures so that she now resiled from her previous position. The issue was safety and risk.

The GAL had met with the parents, and they accepted there were risks and were willing to accept help. She said the parents needed to undertake some work and attend to their own mental health. The work they needed to do could not be done if they were also trying to care for the two children. If the children were in care, it would free the parents to undertake this work. The mother was vulnerable, and the father was doing his best. An interim care order would permit the mother to obtain the help she needed.

The solicitor for the GAL said at present the supervision order did not meet the welfare needs of the children. There had been changes but they were not sufficient. He said the GAL thought the order was proportionate and was a short-term measure. The YAP worker who was the proposed foster carer for both children was known to the family and A had an incredibly good relationship with him. A had described the YAP worker as one of his significant people. The GAL recommended a good level of access and that a reunification plan be put in place.

Respite was a legitimate option but having recently visited the family the level of respite would not be enough. A voluntary care arrangement would not be sufficient. The GAL accepted that the parents wanted the children at home but that was not viable and weekend respite was not enough. The situation needed to stabilise. The parents needed the space and time to build robust supports around them. The GAL believed if the situation at present was left something untoward or inadvertent would happen. As of today, the GAL’s position was the supervision order was not sufficient and she recommended the interim care order.

Solicitor for the CFA

The application of the CFA was based on a section 23 application. All parties had agreed that it was not in A’s best interests that he come to court to give evidence. It was stated that evidence could be given on behalf of a child by an intermediary. The CFA said even if the section 23 application was contested there would be other witnesses who would give evidence and their testimony could be tested.

He said a section 23 application was part and parcel of the application for the interim care order and the CFA would not concede the statements were not made. The CFA said even with the supervision order and all associated supports there was an alleged incident of physical abuse, therefore an interim care order was the only option that would keep the children safe.

The judge gave the parties time to ascertain if they could reach an agreement or compromise that would meet the needs of the children and satisfy the concerns of the CFA and GAL. No agreement was reached. The judge said things change, the supervision order was then, this was now and he heard the application. The CFA opened the hearing on the grounds that the statements of the section 23 application were contested. Evidence was heard from the CFA social worker, the GAL, A’s school principal and both parents.

Evidence of the school principal

The school principal stated that she had known A for some time. She had been aware of all the previous proceedings and had given evidence at them. She had prepared reports for the court. She said she was aware that part of the supervision order was that A was to have 100 per cent attendance at school.

On the first day back at school after a two-week break he was not in school. She called the parents at 10.00 am but by 11.30am he had still not arrived in school. He arrived at approximately 12.05 with his father and ran into the yard. She said he was heightened and stressed, she was unable to help him regulate his behaviour. He was with one SNA and a second SNA had to be called to help. She said as the SNA was trying to calm him, the SNA ran her hand over the back of his head in a gesture of support and reassurance and said: “[A], what’s going on.”

A said: “Ouch, that’s sore.” She reported A said the back of his head was sore and that his mother had punched him in the tummy on the way to school, he had fallen back against a wire fence and hit his head.

The principal said she followed the school procedures for such a statement. This was to report the incident in the correct forms, manually and in the reporting school systems. She phoned the social worker to inform her of what A had said. The social worker and the social work team leader attended the school.

A had been taken to the nature room. The nature room was a quiet space in school for children to calm down or have some quiet time. The principal said she met with the social worker in the school. The social worker spoke with A before his parents arrived. The statement that A had made in the presence of the SNA in the yard was made again, that his mother had punched him in the tummy, he had fallen backwards and hit his head against a wire fence. She said that it was a remark, not solicited or asked for. She said other statements were made, not to her but were reported to her. She had no reason not to believe what A had said. The principal did not call an ambulance or the GP. She confirmed that she called the social worker first and then the boy’s parents. A attended school as normal the next day.

The principal also gave evidence that after the school break A’s behaviour was more difficult and he was difficult to settle or calm. He seemed overwhelmed. His behaviour had been particularly challenging since the break, and he required two SNAs to protect himself from himself.

The mother’s solicitor cross-examined her. She accepted that A was a difficult child to manage. She confirmed that A had used the term punched and that he used that term when the social worker saw him. She said he was not prodded or probed for further information.

She was not present when the social worker interviewed him. The social worker had asked her not to call the parents and that was unusual. She confirmed there was an improvement in attendance at school since the supervision order.

A was often overwhelmed and his behaviour was overwhelming. She had had to be allocated two SNAs as one SNA found it difficult to manage him all day. One SNA would cover the first part of the day and the second the latter part of the day. He had incredibly challenging behaviour and an assessment of his needs was needed. She said that all staff in the school were doing their best, as they did not know what he needed. She accepted that since the supervision order things have improved.

The solicitor for the GAL confirmed this information was freely offered by A and not solicited. The principal confirmed this. She said that he linked the punch in the tummy to the pain in his head.

Evidence of the social worker

The social worker said after she received the call from the principal she attended the school with her team leader and met with A. She asked him about his day. She sat in A’s classroom, with the social work team leader and one of the SNAs.

She said that A said to her on the way to school that morning his mother had punched him in the tummy, he had fallen back, hit his head, it was cut with a bump, and it made him cry. She said A reported that his mother punched him in the belly button, then she brought him home and his father had bought him to school.

When mother arrived to collect A, she was told of the disclosures A had made. The mother said that did not happen and that physical abuse had not occurred. The mother said that A had lied. The mother and A left the school and walked home.

The social worker and the team leader arrived at the home within 15 to 20 minutes to undertake a safety check. The social worker said that when she arrived at the door A greeted her and it was obvious to her he had been crying. She said A blurted out to her that he had meant to say that he was pushed and not punched. He told the social worker that he had lied. She said it was approximately 15 to 20 minutes between leaving A at school and arriving at the home.

She said from knowing A she did not think he lied. He tended to speak as things happened and he said exactly what happened. She did not think he was the sort of child that was manipulative. She said he was the type of child who was very sure of what he said. His presentation when she was with him in school was normal for him and he was not upset or crying. She said that A can act out especially when he was stressed. When she met him at home just 20 minutes later, he presented as upset and stressed. This was discussed with the mother. The mother was upset, she said she had pushed him to stop him from running into the road.

A safety plan had been made with the parents and part of this plan was the father was not to leave the children unsupervised in the care of the mother. The father was supposed to do the school and creche collects and drop offs. Following this incident, the father had called the social worker and asked if he still needed to supervise the children. The social worker confirmed it, however she had since received a call from the school to say that the mother had been dropping and collecting A from school.

She visited the family on the day that followed from the school contact to ask why the safety plan was not followed. She said the mother had said the safety plan was not court ordered and therefore she did not have to follow it.

The social workers had put in place extensive supports for the family. There had been referrals to mental health services for the mother, as the social worker had significant concerns for the mother’s mental health. A family support worker and referrals for more supports had been made. She said currently the family support worker was on extended leave, but she had been trying to source a new family support worker.

Referrals to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) had been made for A twice, but these referrals had been declined as CAMHS had said A was too young to be referred to their service. The family had been referred to an intensive home support service. A YAP worker had been appointed to A. She said there had been improvements, as the home was cleaner and more organised. However, she still had serious concerns for the family.

In late 2021, there had been an incident where the father was alleged to have pulled B when she was in her cot. A had said that his father had broken B’s arm as B had been crying. The social worker reported that the father did not seek medical assistance or take B to his GP or to hospital but looked at a YouTube video. He reported to the social worker he had put B’s arm back in place. She said that when A had said this, which was number of days after the incident, she advised the father to take B to hospital immediately, which he did. The arm was not broken, and no treatment was ordered.

Her concerns remained and centred on physical and emotional abuse, and neglect. She said the parents had not demonstrated enough insight and there was much work they needed to complete. The social worker had tried to ascertain a timeline for the parenting capacity assessment that needed to be done but did not have one at present.

She felt the issues the parents had to address could not be done while they also have to care for the children. She said no other extra services could be put into the home. The safety of A and B could not be guaranteed. The last option was the interim care order, but it was necessary.

There had been several child protection and safety plans over the previous years. The social work department had considered respite but felt this was insufficient to protect the children. There was no safety network and the mother had not agreed or followed the safety plan as it was not court ordered. Every support had been put in place and still the safety of the children was at risk. The children needed to be somewhere where all their needs would be met. It was not in their best interests to remain with their parents.

Mother’s solicitor: “What qualifications do you have for interviewing children in circumstances like this? Do you have any special skill, or have you undertaken any specialised training?”

Social worker: “No, but I have a number of years of working with children and their families as a social worker and in my present job.”

Solicitor: “But you are not specially trained like the gardai are you?”

Social worker: “No.”

Solicitor: “You said that [A] said in school he was punched in the tummy, then the stomach, then the belly button which was it?

Social worker: “[A] said the tummy.”

Solicitor: “Did [A] say anything else when you spoke with him at home?”

Social worker: “He said that he had told a lie and was upset.”

Solicitor: “Did he not say that he had been acting up and acting the maggot?”

Social worker: “No, he said he had been acting the magnet.”

Solicitor: “What do you think that means.”

Social worker: “I am not sure.”

The solicitor for the mother said that the mother would give evidence that A had been difficult and that it had been a difficult two weeks. He had not been in school, they lived in a one bedroomed flat, the family support worker had not visited during those two weeks. She [the mother] would give evidence that she had to push A to stop him from running into the road and to save A from himself.

She asked the social worker if she accepted that this could be a plausible explanation. The social worker said the mother should have anticipated this scenario and have plans in place to address it. The social was asked if she accepted that it would have been difficult after a two week break and the mother had to get A to school to comply with the safety order.

The social worker said she believed A. He was definitive in his story when she had spoken with him at school but then he had changed his story at home 20 minutes later. The social worker said that since the safety order there had only been an increase in her concerns, that nothing had improved sufficiently to allay them.

The social worker would not accept that there had been lack of services. She said the mother needed to address her mental health needs, undertake a parenting course, needed to undergo urgent psychological assessments and any associated therapy and help. The mother had agreed to a parenting capacity assessment. The mother and father had to be fully engaged with the safety plan and needed to provide evidence of activities they had undertaken with the children. She had attended at home to propose this plan, part of which was that the mother was not to be left unsupervised with the children, but she had been. The parents then said they did not have to comply with the safety plan as it was not court ordered.

Mother’s solicitor: “Since the supervision order have there been any referrals apart from this one to social services regarding these children?”

Social worker: “No, no, but I cannot say these children are safe at home.”

The solicitor for the mother said there was a social worker, a family support worker, an application to increase the family support, a creche, two SNAs and a YAP worker. The parents had done everything that had been asked, what more could they do. The social worker replied that in her professional opinion the children were not safe at home in the care of their parents.

The social worker was asked how being removed from their parents would affect the children and what assessment of this had she done. The social worker said she had not done any assessment of the risk or effect removing the children would have. She repeated that she could not stand over the safety of the children and the risk of them staying at home was greater than being removed.

The solicitor said this case was here today because there had been one referral and one incident. There has been no assessment of how the children would react to being removed from their parents and fostered. The proposed foster carer was known to A, he was not known to B. The foster carer had never cared for A for more than three hours at a time.

The solicitor said to the social worker: “Surely it would be better to road test that placement with respite and respite would be a reasonable halfway house. A is a difficult child and these foster carers are not experienced, they have never fostered before have they?”

The social worker repeated that she could not guarantee the safety of A and B at home and would not change her position.

The social worker confirmed in cross examination by the father’s solicitor that there was no written safety plan, that the family had not had a family support worker for a number of weeks because the worker had been on leave.

Evidence of the mother

The mother said the school break had been difficult. A had been playing video games during the break. He had started to play a game that morning as she was trying to get him ready for school. When she removed the game, he became upset and angry. He had started to hit and kick her. It had been really difficult to get him out of the house to school that morning. He started to cling to the gate, and she had to drag him off the gate. He again started to kick and hit her.

He started to run to the main road, and she pushed him away from the road and he fell backwards. When he cried she had tried to comfort him. She said she was sorry, it was an accident. She then decided because of his behaviour it would be better to go home and try and calm him down. She said she had been trying to protect him and that he had fallen accidently.

She had asked if he was hurt. She rubbed his head and asked if anything was hurt. She had noticed the bump and had put ice on it. When asked again he said he was fine. He stopped crying quickly. She said she felt under pressure to get him to school because of the supervision order. He had calmed down and he seemed well, so his father took him to school.

She said A had told lies, and he did not understand the difference between a push and a punch. The mother said she was contesting the application because it was better for children to stay with their parents.

They had no family supports and little social supports from other parents, her children had never, ever stayed with anyone else. The separation would be dreadful, absolutely awful and she could not bear to think of the effect it would have on her children. The supervision order had only been in place for one month. She needed longer to prove herself.

She said that all of her failings had been heard by the other judge and now the CFA, because they had not got what they wanted, after one incident had made another application to take her children, after a period of two weeks when she had cared for A at home with no support. She said the father had done his best, but he was worried about his job and although his employer was supportive, he had to complete his work.

The mother was cross examined by the solicitors for the CFA and the GAL.

The CFA solicitor said the social workers did not think the incident was intentional but this was not the first time something like it had happened. “The social work department has given you every support they can and despite that physical abuse has happened.” The mother said A was challenging and they lived in a one-bedroomed flat. She said A had been with them for two weeks with no help. The mother said that she had had to implore people for help with A.

The solicitor for the GAL asked: “Why did you not tell of the bump when you got to school? Why did you leave it for the child to tell?” The mother said she was afraid of further referrals, but she would now tell of everything. She said she was afraid of how things would look, and they looked bad.

The mother said she thought that A needed psychiatric assessment, but CAMHS kept declining the referrals because of his age. The GP had prescribed Ritalin for a while, and he had improved with that, but the GP would not keep the prescription going without a psychiatric assessment and CAMHS would not assess him. She asked what was she supposed to do, she was sure he was autistic.

The solicitor for the GAL asked the mother if she understood the concerns of the CFA as it was A who had told the social worker about B’s arm and not the parents. The mother said A told lies, there was nothing wrong with A‘s arm. It was not broken. B was not taken to hospital because she was using her arm normally. When the social worker asked for B’s arm to be reviewed that was done. The hospital said there nothing wrong with it.

The mother confirmed that the parents had smoked cannabis in the past but that had stopped and would take urine tests to prove they were drug free now.

Evidence of the father

The father said that leading up to the two-week break A had been better and in a better routine but that the two-week break had been difficult. On the day of the incident it was the first day he was due to go back to school. He was being difficult and was strongly objecting. He did not want to go. He had been kicking, biting and fighting but a 100 per cent school attendance was part of the supervision order and there was significant pressure to keep to that.

His mother took him to school, but she had returned with him after about five minutes. She had said that she had pushed him back against the fence to stop him from running into the road. A was upset and was crying, his mother was upset and stressed. The father said they had looked at the bump and put ice on it. He said he calmed A and then took him to school.

The father said that on the way to school he spoke to A and said that he had to go to school and that actions had consequences. He said that he and A would talk when he came home from school. When A had arrived home from school he had not had the opportunity to speak to him before the social worker arrived. He said the social worker accepted it was an accident and there was no malice or intention to hurt A. He said the social worker advised that A be taken to hospital to be checked. The hospital said he was fine.

He said about one week later the social worker asked him to supervise the mother when she was caring for the children and she [the mother] was not to be left alone with the children and that had been done. He and A’s mother were open to all supports, that the mother was linked with mental health services. They would undertake a parenting course, they would both link with addiction services and undertake urine tests. He had been trying to source a urine test centre.

He hoped the parenting capacity assessment would be done as soon as possible. He said respite was a much better option as it would be a break for the children. It was difficult, especially as he worked from home. His work had accommodated him and allowed him to take his breaks to take and collect the children to and from school and creche. He said he could not begin to describe the distress of A and B if they were removed, they had never spent one night away from their parents.

He was also cross examined by the solicitors for the CFA and GAL. The solicitor for the CFA said that a safety plan had been in place which included that he was to always supervise the mother with children, but he had not done this. He replied that was incorrect, it was discussed but nothing had been finalised. The solicitor said that the social worker had made it clear that she had expected the father to do all the school runs.

The father said this had been the first and only incident since the supervision order had been made over four weeks earlier. It was one error on the back of two very stressful weeks. He said it was a complete over-reaction on the part of the social workers. He said that if he thought or believed there was any abuse, he would make a referral himself. He said he had referred the mother and child to social services in 2017, therefore the social workers could be assured that was sufficient safety to protect the children.

Evidence of the GAL

The GAL said A was a ball of energy. He was always on the go. He loved sports and video games. He never sat still. He was always wanting to move. He had that typical up and down like a yo-yo behaviour that children with poor attention spans portray. He was a handful and exceedingly difficult to care for. He needed to be assessed and was on a waiting list. She said that if he could not be assessed quickly within the public sector, a private assessment should be sought. The mother had consented to this. This assessment was essential if there was to be a plan to meet A’s needs.

The judge said it sounded as though this young boy needed activities to keep him occupied. There was no doubt he needed a full assessment of his needs. It was unusual for a school to provide two SNAs for a child.

The GAL said the mother and father had enrolled him in a course in a university for gaming. She said that A had disclosed a number of things to a number of different people. Then after he had spent time with his parents, he would take back what he had disclosed. When he did this he presented as upset and distressed. She said it was a sign of emotional abuse, if A told a professional something and then was being told by his parents to say or tell something else. She had spoken with A who asked if she was going to punish him and when she asked why would she punish him, he replied because he had told a lie. She reported he looked uncomfortable and anxious. This caused her to have concerns about what had or was happening at home.

She said that A had reported the most important people to him are his mother and father and the YAP worker. It was intended the YAP worker would be the foster carer to A and B.

B was engaging, playful and social but was behind in her development. Some progress and improvement had been made but she was difficult to understand. The GAL was unsure how or if her speech was delayed and this was something that had to be monitored.

The home was a busy environment as the father worked from home, it was a one bedroomed flat. It was difficult to juggle work, the needs of a family and the specific needs of the children. The children slept in the bedroom and the parents slept in the lounge. It was an overwhelmed space. She said it was a perfect storm that was brewing. The summer was coming, and A would be out of school for at least eight weeks. The parents and social worker had only been able to secure one summer camp.

She had met with the parents. The father had no concrete plans to have time off. He was worried about his job. His employer had given him as much latitude as they could. The mother recognised her mental health difficulties and her need to address them.

The mother had said she needed to be readmitted but had not been readmitted and was attending a day hospital instead. The mother’s medication had been increased and this had helped. The mother had told her she was feeling better but that was not sufficient. She [the mother] needed to develop better coping strategies.

She said the parents needed to complete the parenting capacity assessment and undertake any therapies this assessment might recommend. They needed to complete a parenting course, address their mental health issues, liaise and engage with addiction services and put themselves in a position where they would be able to cope with the stress of parenting a child like A.

She said she did not know how the parents would be able to undertake all these things if they had to care for A and B at the same time. It was not just the logistics of attending appointments but the mental effort and struggle that it would take. She supported the interim care order because it would give the parents the time and space to do those things. It was not a punishment, the children needed to be somewhere safe to allow the parents to undertake this work. The parents did not have enough internal resources or external supports at present.

In the previous hearing she did not suppor the interim care order and supported a supervision order but had now changed her position. She said there had been referrals and finding of fact in the previous hearing which did point to some physical abuse. She said: “We are not here today because of one incident we are here today because of a continuance of incidents.”

There had been a history of long-standing neglect. There was a risk to A, there had been and were deficiencies in parenting. There were significant concerns because of the lack of supervision. She said the supervision order with the safety plan and the input was not sufficient. The incident was a continuation of what had happened before. Her position now was that a supervision order was not enough. A supervision order and respite would be insufficient to meet the needs of the children and the interim care order was needed.

She recommended the interim care order on the grounds that the proposed foster carer was well known to A and as she had said was one of A’s most important people. The proposed foster carer had a good relationship with A and B would be in the same placement. She recommended access twice weekly and day long access on a Sunday.

The mother’s solicitor asked her what other resources were needed to keep the children with their parents. The GAL said the parents had engaged with services and improvements had been made but she could not think of what other resources would help. She said the parents needed to internalise coping strategies and this could only be done by addressing their own issues. It was unrealistic to expect the parents to change overnight and develop these skills. There needed to be a breathing space, where the parents could concentrate and learn new skills.

She was asked why would respite not facilitate this. The GAL replied that logistically appointments take place during the week and if the children were with the parents at that time that would make appointments difficult. It would just add another layer of pressure. Respite would not allow the parents that breathing space.

She was asked if the move for the children would be traumatic for children who had never even had a sleep over. The GAL said there would be some trauma, but it was balanced by A knowing the proposed foster carer well, and the children would be together. The interim care order was a balance of risks and which risk was greater. There was a risk of trauma to the children by placing them in foster care but the risk of leaving them at home with their parents was greater. This was not a punishment, and she expected the CFA to have a robust plan of reunification in place as soon as possible.

Submissions

The solicitor for the CFA said all alternatives had been exhausted and accepted that the court could not attach significance to the section 23 application. A had not given evidence in court of what had happened. This was a family in crisis and the interim care order was necessary and proportionate.

The solicitor on behalf of the mother said the supervision order was a month old. People were only human, the concerns of the CFA had not been lost on the mother. She would have acted differently. She would have told the school about the incident that morning, she would have called the social worker.

They had cared for A for two weeks without any assistance, the family support worker had not been replaced and there had been no school. The parents had addressed their deficits, they recognised the work they needed to undertake and had engaged. The supervision order was enough, and respite had not been tried. It was unfair to grant an interim care order when respite had not been tried. The interim care order was draconian, for so little evidence it was not proportionate. The CFA had not exhausted all alternatives when they had not tried respite.

The solicitor for the father said he echoed what the solicitor for the mother had said. Respite was a viable alternative. The CFA could always come back if they were not satisfied or concerned for these children.

The solicitor for the GAL said that the GAL was supporting the application on the condition that the children were kept together and a reunification plan was put in place. The elevated risks and stressors made it proportionate.

Decision

The judge said he had heard the evidence. He said where there were concerns for children they must always come before the court. It was not a question of anyone getting a second bite of anything. The child was first and always. This was a difficult decision.

The father had a clear understanding, the mother less so. The previous judge had made a finding of fact in relation to physical abuse. The judge said he could not ignore the evidence of the GAL who said the court must balance the risk. In the GAL’s assessment the risk favoured the making of an interim care order.

The judge found the threshold was reached and made an interim care order for 28 days. He directed the parties to act swiftly with regards to the parenting capacity assessment and said nothing should delay reuniting this family. He specifically highlighted to the social workers that the CFA had a duty to reunite families.