Mother successfully challenges plan to cut access to son in care

Judge rules boy should see mother weekly

 

The mother of a child in State care has successfully prevented the Child and Family Agency from reducing her access to her son.

The agency wanted to reduce access to once a fortnight, but the mother, her son and his court-appointed guardian believed once a week access should continue.

The boy has been in care for more than two years, Judge Colin Daly at the Dublin District Family Court was told.

There was a history of domestic violence and he was “traumatised and sexualised” while his mother was his custodial parent.

On coming into care, the boy had demonstrated aggressive and oppositional behaviours. But since he moved foster placement to live with relative foster carers, the behaviours had reduced. He has weekly access with his mother at a supervised access house, the judge was told.

Under childcare legislation, the agency is required to give parents “reasonable” access to a child and a parent can make an application to the court to challenge that access.

The boy’s social care worker, who supervises access, said the boy tried to control and dominate his mother and was “hypervigilant” around her.

She said only 45 minutes of the two hours access was “quality”. She had tried to support the mother when the boy became aggressive, but she had told her to “back off”.

Quoting a clinical psychologist, the boy’s social worker described the mother and son relationship as “toxic”. He said the “habitual pattern” of weekly access needed to be broken and if there was fortnightly access, the boy might look forward to it more and there would be less negative behaviour. Under cross-examination, he agreed the boy had said he would like access weekly “because he’d miss his mum”.

The boy’s guardian said there was no evidence the current arrangement was harmful, no indications it jeopardised the placement, the boy’s mental health or his education. She told the judge he was very happy with his relative foster carers and wanted to see his mother every week.

She was disappointed the agency was relying on an access report written in June.

Different location

She also asked how anyone could keep a child happy “sitting in a room just looking at each other and the social worker looking at us and writing everything down”.

Judge Daly said the boy was doing “remarkably well” in his placement and appeared to be managing access well. He changed access to once a week at the dance class for three hours; when the class was not taking place, access should revert to two hours at the access house.

He also said the agency should continue to support and supervise access, including working with the mother.