Interim care order extended though CFA sought to strike out proceedings
An interim care order was extended in a provincial town in respect of one child though the CFA sought to have the proceedings struck out on the basis that the child was now in the custody of her father. The GAL and the mother sought to keep the care order proceedings in being in order to allow the GAL to remain engaged. There were allegations of child sexual abuse against a former partner of the mother in respect of another child, but there had been no outcome to the Garda investigation.
The solicitor for the CFA said there had been previous interim care orders and the CFA was seeking to have the care order application struck out. The case was now a private family law matter as the child had been reunified with her father. The GAL and the mother were of the view that it would be helpful to adjourn the care order hearing, rather than strike it out, to allow the GAL be engaged.
The GAL and the mother were concerned about the level of supports that would be available to the mother if the CFA ceased their involvement. The mother had not seen the child in over a year. The GAL was of a view that the child had been asking questions and if the care order proceedings were discontinued the parties would be left dealing with the father.
The solicitor for the mother said: “it would be difficult for us to make progress with access. There is a baby and the CFA is still involved with that child. I would be anxious that they would remain on and there be some progress in relation to access. We have offered supervised access and this issue has been left in abeyance. We would be anxious that the GAL remain [involved].”
The GAL was appointed in the proceedings involving another child of the mother and there were fresh allegations against the previous partner of the mother. The GAL could not say his position on access.
The solicitor for the CFA said the CFA was willing to engage in correspondence with the mother about access.
The judge extended the interim care order on the basis that CFA make progress with access.
Interim care order extended, advocate for parents, who had been in care, suggested
In a second case the interim care order was extended in respect of one child where both parents were represented and consented to the application. A parenting capacity assessment had been carried out and the parents had difficulties interpreting the psychologist’s recommendations. It was suggested that it may be helpful for the parents to have additional supports such as an advocate to assist them in meetings and in court but no one had been identified.
The solicitor for the mother said the national advocacy service only provided advocates for people with disabilities and the parents did not have disabilities.
The judge asked if the court could appoint an advocate to the parents.
The solicitor for the CFA replied: “You [the court] would have to hear the evidence of a mental health professional or a psychologist.”
The solicitor for the CFA said there was an advocate service for adults who had been in care.
The mother had been in the care system during her childhood and did not know what was required of her from the psychologist. The psychologist completed a cognitive piece with the parents. The GAL was of the view that the parents needed someone to work through the report as the information was “very technical.” Many difficulties were highlighted in the psychologist’s report and the recommendations went into detail of specific therapies. The mother went to her GP and she was on a waiting list for certain therapies but the treatment recommended by the psychologist would not be provided through the GP.
The psychologist recommended 30 sessions of counselling but the sessions would not happen for months. The judge asked if the CFA could organise the counselling for the mother.
The solicitor for the CFA answered: “That has been done and the social worker has been liaising with the [counselling] service.”
The judge asked: “Is it acceptable for the parents to be on a waiting list?”
The solicitor for the CFA said: “The first step has just happened as the mother went to the GP. The father has not gone to the GP.”
The mother was due to start a parenting course at the end of the year.
The social worker said the threshold continued be met. The access arrangement was going well. There had been issues with access when it began. The social worker said access continued to need a high level of direction and access had improved since it was reduced.
The judge asked why access had been reduced. The social worker said in the beginning the couple had arguments at access and they were not picking up on the cues of the baby.
The judge asked: “Would access not improve if it were more regular?”
The solicitor for the CFA said the CFA was looking at access outside of the [court] process and the first priority was what was in the child’s best interests. The CFA would continue to observe access.
The GAL was anxious that access would not be reduced further. The social worker said access would not reduce.
The interim care order was extended for a period of 28 days.
Interim care order extended among concerns about access
A third interim care order was extended in respect of five children where the mother consented but the father did not. The mother consented to the application on the basis that a meeting take place about the placement and access. There were concerns about access and the behaviour of the youngest child following a placement move. The GAL supported the application.
The solicitor for the CFA said that there had been discussions and some progress had been made but there were many issues which would be better addressed outside court. There was a meeting about the placement and there was a request for an agenda for the meeting so that legal representation could support the parents. The social worker agreed that it would be helpful to have a formal review of access.
The children were in separate placements, the two boys together and the three girls together. The social worker said there were concerns about the youngest child who had recently the girls’ placement. The social worker said: “Since the youngest has arrived [in the placement], she will not take direction from the foster carers and the foster carers said they are highly concerned.” The youngest child moved school and the move caused tension in the placement.
The mother was anxious to support the placement and meet with the foster carers. The solicitor for the mother said the family had no difficulty sitting down with the social workers and advising the children of the ground rules and discipline. The social worker said: “We thought we had an agreement with all the children that there would be no disruptions. The eldest child has been in care one year and the second child has been in care for six months.
There were ongoing difficulties with access including the location of access and how it was supervised which was not in the best interests of the children. The GAL was agreeable to attend access meetings to allow the parties to outline their concerns. The father raised issues about facilities at access as the venue was old and not suitable. The social worker said the new access centre would open in the next few weeks and it would be a more suitable environment.
The solicitor for the father said: “During the meeting, will you be open to discussing a different access venue?”
The social worker replied: “We are looking at moving it [access] to another facility but we could not get cooperation. The father refused to complete the meeting and was verbally abusive to staff. It sent a clear message to the children not to cooperate with access. The eldest child presented at the [CFA] office with concerns about access.”
The father did not want to continue attending access. The children were constantly looking for their father. The father turned up at access but did not participate and spoke to the children when they were leaving access.
The judge asked: “Why does the father go to access when he does not want to avail of access?”
The social worker replied: “Two access [visits were] offered. He [the father] stayed for nine minutes [at the first access visit] and did not return. Yesterday he left the area when the access started. The father was talking in a low voice within ear shot of the access worker. The access worker suggested he [the father] play a game [with the children]. He [the father] got mad and left.”
The interim care order was extended for 28 days and the judge noted the meeting would have taken place by the next date.
Interim care order extended where mother was in prison
An interim care order for three children of school going age, who were placed with their grandmother, was extended. The mother was in prison and had no access to legal representation.
The children had been in voluntary care with their grandmother since 2016. The social worker told the court the placement was meeting their needs and the children were thriving in care. The mother said she was happy for the children to remain with their grandmother.
The social worker said the mother “was not at full capacity.” The social worker tried to meet with the mother in prison but that was not facilitated. The social workers hoped to visit the mother to hear her views about the care order application.
The judge asked: “If the visit happens, how long will it take to get [legal] representation [for the mother]?”
The solicitor for the CFA said: “Where someone is in prison, the Legal Aid Board give her priority. If she [the mother] does not avail of the advice, she will need to be in court for the next date.”
The mother loved her children but her current lifestyle was chaotic and not appropriate. The mother had a fantastic relationship with the access worker, the court heard. The social worker said: “When she [the mother] presents for access, she is affectionate and takes direction.”
The interim care order was extended for a period of 28 days with the care order adjourned to the same date.