The court granted a supervision order for a 16-year-old boy who had moved to the care of his grandparents following the breakdown of his step-down residential care placement. This was among seven applications in a District Court in a rural town, of which five were extensions of interim care orders, the striking out care order applications and one related to an access application.
The social worker told the court that the boy had come into residential care in April 2017 due to behavioural issues and the management of a chronic illness. These issues escalated in August 2017 and the CFA made an application to the High Court for an order for a secure unit placement.
The boy commenced his placement at the secure unit in November 2017 and made significant progress in his behaviour and managing his illness. The boy moved into step down residential care in February 2018.
The court heard the boy continued to do well, despite some incidents of destructive behaviour. He was before another District Court in relation to one of these incidents where he was warned if he came to the attention of the Gardaí he would be remanded on the next occasion.
The mother had made correspondingly good progress with her treatment for alcohol misuse and there was a plan for family reunification in the month following the court date.
More recently, the social worker said, the behaviour issues had started again. Two weeks earlier the boy was involved in a serious incident in residential care where he drank a large amount of alcohol and needed to be hospitalised. The CFA considered it a risk for the boy to remain in residential care. The CFA held a care plan meeting and a decision to discharge him was jointly agreed with the family and reunification was brought forward by a month.
The social worker said he was doing well. The boy had met a youth training organisation and was starting there in September. The social worker said the CFA was bringing a six-month supervision order application as there was still a considerable amount of involvement with the family. The CFA application was also served on the father who was not a guardian.
She submitted a report to the court with seven conditions attached to the supervision order. The mother’s counsel and the solicitor for the guardian ad litem(GAL) told the court their clients were in agreement with the order and its conditions.
The GAL told the court that A conveyed his wish to return to the care of his grandparents. In terms of the reunification plan, she confirmed that it was a comprehensive reunification plan. She had sight of the proposed conditions and said they were necessary and proportionate. She said from the boy’s perspective, they were in his best interests.
The boy had not presented any negative behaviours since reunification. In light of the range of supports proposed, the GAL said she recommended that the boy be discharged from care
The mother’s counsel conveyed the mother’s thanks to the court and said: “She conveyed her gratitude to the GAL and [what] started as a rocky road was much better now and she wanted to convey her thanks.”
The judge said, based on the evidence she was happy to make a supervision order for a period of six months to include the seven conditions on the consent of the mother and to discharge the GAL. The judge said there had been significant progress on the mother’s part in addressing alcohol misuse and seeking appropriate supports. She said the mother was to be “commended” for this.
A family plan for the boy to reside with the grandparents was put in place by the CFA on foot of a direction by the court previously and the judge said the mother and all of the family bought in to this.
The judge said: “Counsel thanked the CFA and the GAL for the work put in. It doesn’t happen that people acknowledge the support they get and I’m sure they appreciate it. A month ago we spent a good few hours airing the issue. While difficult, it served its purpose as to how the [situation] unfolded.”
The CFA seek a full care order for four children to remain in care
The mother and father of four children who were present and legally represented in court agreed to consent to the extension of an interim care order “without prejudice” (admission of any allegations) and to a date for the hearing of a three- to four-day full care order hearing.
The social worker told the court the family of four were known to the CFA since 2005 and came into care in November 2016. The father of the two older children was deceased and the father in this case was the biological father of the younger children. The social worker said she had completed her assessment and the CFA was looking at the children remaining in care and would be seeking a full care order.
The CFA had concerns regarding the children’s nutrition, hygiene, and poor school attendance. The father had suffered with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and the mother had a personality disorder. The CFA had provided a family support worker who helped with budgeting and other issues, but by November 2016 the children had come into care. The two boys had gone into one foster home and the two girls to another.
The court heard a clinical psychologist had done a parenting capacity assessment and there were “great concerns about the parent’s ability to change and to parent.”
The children had undergone a medical assessment and there were concerns regarding neglect. This resulted in the children attending occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and being behind in school. There had been significant progress with the children in the last year.
In response to the CFA solicitor asking the social worker how the children managed socially and emotionally, the social worker said the two older boys were undergoing a full psychological assessment in November. She said there were concerns about post traumatic stress disorder with the children.
She went on to say that A was going into secondary school and doing well with therapy, but would need support. B, the next oldest boy, over compensated, was attention seeking in school and struggled to maintain friendships. C’s psychological assessment described her as “fragile”.
C had repeated senior infants as she needed to do so, both socially and academically. D presented as the least impacted and the psychologist had found no concerns. However, the social worker said she was concerned that she presented as “too good”. D might need a referral to educational psychology as she was academically weak.
The social worker said that originally access was unsupervised twice weekly in the family home. There were concerns about the state of the home and what was being said to the children, so in January 2017 access was supervised outside the family home in an access house. Access improved, but the parents found it difficult to give the children individual attention and access was alternated between the parents in the summer of 2017.
By November 2017 the parents had separated and the children were seeing the parents separately four times a year and for significant events. After access C said her mother had said “mean things” to her. There were concerns that this was triggering past experiences and access was reduced for C to 45 minutes with a support worker as recommended by her GAL. The social worker said the CFA was reviewing access and seeking to have it stay supervised.
The GAL said A, who was the eldest of the four children, was at times quite withdrawn and at other times he engaged well. A had identified his parenting experiences and “very much wanted to stay with his foster carers,” the GAL said.
A had a certain amount of anxiety about going into secondary school and was attending speech and language therapy. A and B spoke about their parents separating, being back together and then separating again. B missed aspects of home such as being out with his friends and the sense of freedom he had. B had a desire, if staying in care, that his parents “would have each other”. A was waiting for them to split up again and expected they would.
The GAL said C and D’s placement met their needs. She said C was struggling at an emotional and psychological level and that the psychologist who assessed her said she was being re-traumatised at access as it was bringing up issues from before she went into care. C had been referred for one-to-one handwriting with an occupational therapist.
The GAL recommended a private OT appointment for C regarding her handwriting if there were difficulties with the HSE occupational therapy appointment. The CFA social worker told the court she did not anticipate a delay with the appointment.
The psychologist recommended someone meeting with C before and after access for debriefing as she had been soiling after access and unsettled at school. The allocation of a community child care worker to C for access had “helped her a lot,” the social worker said.
D was very independent and the speech and language therapist had given exercises to the foster carer to do with D. C did not like the foster carer giving anyone else attention and the GAL said: “There needed to be an eye kept out for D as well, so that she valued herself.”
The GAL confirmed she was in support of the application for a full care order as it was in the best interests of the children.
The judge noted that having heard the evidence of the social worker and the GAL and having the benefits of the reports she was satisfied to consent without prejudice to the adjournment of the section 18 application and to the extension of the section 17 interim care orders to the following month and to allocate an early date for the hearing of the full care order hearing.
Reunification possible if mother continues on a path of addiction recovery
An adjournment of an interim care order on the consent of the mother was granted by the court where the judge heard there was the possibility of reunification if the mother continued on a path of addiction recovery for 12 to 18 months.
The CFA social worker gave evidence of the background as to why a six-year-old child went into care. Both parents had a history of substance misuse. The child came into care in 2013 when her mother overdosed on heroin. The mother had been known to the social work department regarding concerns about substance misuse and suicidal ideation since 2009.
When the mother was pregnant with A she detoxed and became sober but relapsed in July 2013 when she was at home with the father and A. She tried to hang herself and A’s father had to cut her down
Initially A was in voluntary care with a family friend chosen by the mother and then general foster care since February 2015. The mother attempted rehabilitation in April 2016 when she went to the UK for a one-year treatment programme. She stayed a further nine months for medical treatment.
She returned home in December 2017. The social worker told the court she had received positive references from both the Irish and UK treatment centres regarding the mother.
The court heard the mother had unsupervised contact with A every second Saturday for three hours and one day a week for two hours and there was the possibility of reunification of A with her mother.
The social worker said she discussed this with the mother and said if the mother continued on a positive path for a period of 12 to 18 months, the CFA would consider reunification bearing in mind the previous relapse and the impact on the children. The mother was in agreement with the plan.
A was getting on well in foster care and the social worker said she was a little less stable when access resumed with her mother. A had started voicing her concerns and confusion around her experiences and the court heard that a social care worker was meeting A fortnightly to do life story work to assist with this.
The court heard the father, who was not a guardian, lived abroad and was not involved in proceedings but was being kept updated. He was in contact with his daughter by Skype and his sister, who was a relative carer for an older child, was bringing both children with the consent of the mother and the CFA to visit him the following month.
When asked by the CFA solicitor if she believed the risks still existed if A returned to the care of her mother, the social worker said: “I believe there hasn’t been a sufficient amount of time to demonstrate that A could be returned to her care.”
The judge said she felt the threshold was reached for the extension of a section 17 care order until the next month’s court date and adjourned the section eighteen care order application to the same date with the consent of the mother.
Seventeen-year-old girl wants to stay with her foster carers when turns 18
The court adjourned an interim care order to allow the CFA social worker to submit an after-care plan for a 17-year-old girl. She was going into sixth year and she had quite clearly indicated that she wanted to remain after the age of eighteen with her foster family. The mother and foster family were in agreement with this.
The CFA social worker told the court that the girl was in foster care since she was nine years old and that her parents had substance misuse issues. She was very close with her foster family, and the parents had chosen her as god-mother for one of their children.
She had weekly access with her mother and an eight-year-old sibling who was in a separate foster placement. The judge asked the social worker if the girl returned home at 18, did she “believe the girl would be at risk?”
“Yes, [this would be] against her wishes and her primary attachments with the foster carers. She has asked to remain with them since she was twelve years old. She has been in voluntary care and then on an interim care order when her mother went to [another country] in 2016,” the social worker replied.
The judge said it was obvious from the evidence and reading the reports that considerable progress had been made and she did not want to do anything which could cause a difficulty down the line. She was satisfied the threshold had been reached for the extension to an interim care order and adjourned the case to the next months’ date to allow the social worker to come back to court with an after-care plan.