The judge in a District Court in a rural town granted an application for the extension of an interim care order in a case where the CFA said it was planning the reunification of a teenage mother with her 18-month old child. He adjourned the full care order application and appointed an advocate for the mother. This was among six cases heard that day.
The court heard the parents were consenting without prejudice on the basis that reunification was planned. The mother had moved out of her mother’s home and was residing with her older sister.
The maternal grandmother, who was a non-custodial guardian of the baby, told the court through her counsel that she was not consenting to the application.
The CFA social worker gave evidence that in the past the parents’ relationship was of concern as there were threatening messages and there was violence. At a pre-birth assessment, the social worker said the child’s father became aggressive and she had to ask him to leave.
There were concerns regarding the father’s substance misuse. The social worker said the father advised her he was not engaged in substance misuse, but he had a cannabis-induced psychosis in the past and was found in possession of cannabis.
On the birth of the baby in January 2017 the court heard a high level of support was put in by the CFA with the mother and a supervision order was granted. The mother was living with the maternal grandmother and after the baby was born was spending large amounts of time away from the baby while the grandmother cared for her.
The mother was referred to a teen parenting support programme and the CFA social care leader and family support worker tried to empower the mother, but the mother did not engage with the supports and she was discharged from the teen parenting support programme. The court also heard that the mother allowed the father to have unsupervised access with the baby in breach of the supervision order.
The social worker gave evidence that A was a premature baby and the mother did not follow-up on feeding advice or developmental delay and concerns were noted by the public health nurse concerning missed physiotherapy appointments for the baby.
The CFA held child protection conferences in May and December 2017 as the CFA was concerned that there was no contact from the mother and that the grandmother, who had her own health issues, would be unable to care for the child in the longer term.
The social worker told the court there were concerns regarding the family relationship in the family unit. At times the mother said her family was a support. However, there were other occasions when the social worker said she witnessed arguments between the mother and the maternal grandmother of a “heightened nature”.
She had received a phone call from the mother who said her mother was “kicking her out”. The mother was quite emotional and the social worker was concerned that the baby was witnessing this. The social worker said there were concerns regarding the maternal grandmother’s engagement with the CFA regarding missed appointments and non-attendance at a meeting to discuss the interim care order application.
The court previously granted an interim care order on the application of the CFA and the child was placed in general foster care. Since then the child’s diet had improved and there was regular access.
The court heard that the CFA had a reunification plan in place for the mother and her baby to reside with her sister. The social worker met the mother first before meeting with her sister to ensure that this is what she wanted. The social worker assured the mother that the CFA would do their best to support the mother with reunification.
When asked by the mother’s solicitor about supports for the mother given her age and vulnerability, the social worker said she could advise the mother on how to access counselling and that she would be doing a one-to-one reflective parenting programme with the mother in her sister’s home when the baby returned to her care.
The social worker told the court the reunification plan very much depended on the mother’s engagement. The mother’s solicitor told the court the mother’s relationship was over with the child’s father and she was confident that her sister with whom she resided supported the reunification plan.
The judge noted her concerns about the welfare of the mother and said she “she should be encouraged and assisted. She had a lot of work to do but the prize is she would be looking after A.”
The judge said that it appeared that the mother had navigated her way through a lot of relationships with her mother, the baby’s father, the CFA and a range of people with regard to her child. She was concerned that it was overwhelming and the mother might very easily retreat which might look like the mother was not engaging. She suggested the appointment of an advocate for the mother.
The judge: “At the end of the day [we are] working for the one person who is not in the room, A’s best interests. I’m going to appoint an advocate for the mother.” The CFA solicitor and the mother’s solicitor agreed to liaise about the matter.
The judge said the reunification plan needed to be on solid ground and the mother needed help and “the sooner the better”. She said she was “satisfied at this juncture” to extend the interim care orders until the September date and to adjourn the section 18 to the same date and to appoint an advocate for the mother.
Two-year-old with medical needs waits in hospital for specially trained carer
The court granted an extension of interim care orders on the consent of the parents for three children and adjourned full care applications. The youngest child, aged two, was in hospital waiting for a foster carer to be trained to deal with her medical needs.
The mother was unrepresented but consented. The judge asked the mother if she understood the application and asked if she had applied for legal aid. The mother explained that previously she was not in a position to apply for legal aid as she was homeless, but she now had accommodation and would be pursuing a legal aid application.
The father was consenting through his solicitor who informed the court that the father was also pursuing a guardianship application for the three children and the mother was evading service. The judge said she considered that the mother was now served with the father’s application for guardianship and she suggested that she discuss this with her legal aid solicitor.
The social worker told the court that the case was opened by the CFA in 2011 due to concerns regarding substance misuse, reports of domestic violence, physical and verbal abuse of the children and evidence of the parents holding drug dealing parties with the children present.
The court heard the youngest child, C, had medical issues and needed 24-hour monitoring. Originally the children had been in foster relative care, but this had broken down and the two older children were now in general foster care. The CFA had been funding a night nursing service to support the relative carers with C. It had been brought to the CFA’s attention by the service that the relative carers were not adequately caring for the youngest child’s medical needs.
When the placement broke down two weeks ago two of the children were placed together in general foster care. C was admitted to a local paediatric ward and was now being treated for an infection. The social worker said that a foster carer for C would need forty hours training to deal with her medical needs and a meeting was being held by the CFA the following day to put a “definite plan” in place for C.
The guardian ad litem(GAL) told the court she visited the children in their current foster placement. They were going to activities and had settled well. She noted that the foster carers were attuned to the children’s feelings.
She had attended a multi-disciplinary professionals’ meeting of everyone involved in C’s care and she said the social work department was fully pursuing the matter of foster care training for C’s medical needs.
The GAL said she supported the CFA application to extend the interim care order for all three children and adjourn the section 18 care order application to the same date.
The judge said she was satisfied on hearing the evidence and having the benefit of the social worker and GAL reports that the threshold continued to be reached for an interim care order for all children. She extended the interim court order to the next month’s court date and adjourned the care order application to the same date.
The judge said she was concerned that C “might languish in hospital until September” and asked about the possibility of her going back to foster care. She said “the court needs to keep an eye [on this and to] fully understand how this has arisen and the decision to have her in hospital to [meet] her needs.”
She put the issue regarding C’s foster care placement in for mention at the next district court sitting the following week.
Foster mother cannot sign consent for everyday activities for 16-year-old
The court granted increase autonomy to the foster carerof a 16-year-old girl so that she could sign consent for everyday activities, such as school trips and holidays.
The foster carer’s solicitor handed up a copy of the application which was on notice to both the CFA and the mother. The CFA and the mother consented to the application. The father was not the biological father and was not contacted.
The foster carer told the court that the girl had been with her since she was eight. She said the girl was in transition year and there were a lot of extra activities which required consent. She said it had been difficult to get consent forms signed by the mother.
The CFA produced a report for the court. The foster carer told the judge that she had discussed the recommendations in the report with the CFA social worker and she was happy to abide by these. The recommendations specified that the foster mother was not to make any significant changes to the girl’s care plan and to notify the social worker of any changes in care plan, immunisations and the provision of passport facilities.
The CFA solicitor told the court that the CFA supported the application and the social work team leader was present in court.
The judge said she was satisfied on hearing the evidence and having the benefit of the social work report and the child’s wishes that the making of the order was in the best interests of the child subject to the conditions as set out in the CFA report.