Father in court action seeking information about son in foster care

Father in court action seeking information about son in foster care

By Ann O'Loughlin

A father is seeking High Court orders requiring social workers to provide him with information about his young son who has been in foster care for a large part of his life and who has developed behavioural problems and self-harmed.

He also wants the court to order that he be provided with better access to his son following what he says has been a nine year battle to be reunited with his son and his two other younger children.

He says Tusla the Child and Family Agency (CFA) has spent most of that time reducing his access and ultimately limiting it to only short periods of supervised access.

He wants the High Court to order that a Circuit Court order giving discretion to the CFA about access rights be varied and exercised in a more reasonably manner.

The CFA has denied his claims or that it has not provided him with information.

Bernice McKeever BL, for the man, told the court the CFA has told him that, among other reasons for refusing him better access,he was not working in his son's "best interests" or engaged positively with his son's care. It says it obtained a full care order in 2012 which was not appealed and that it has treated the father fairly.

The man says his son, as well as one of his other children, have on a number of occasions expressed a desire to go and live with him but that this has been ignored by the CFA which says he does not have the capacity to look after this children.

He denies he does not have capacity or that he is not working in their best interests.

In an affidavit, he says that until 2007, the three children lived with their mother who was not able to look after them and social workers took them from her and put them into care.

The father sought to have them live with him but was refused on grounds including that he and the mother were not married.

He took legal proceedings and in 2007 the High Court ruled the HSE, whose functions were later taken over by the CFA, was wrong to refuse reunification on the basis the father was not married. The High Court sent the matter back to the District Court but the HSE/CFA gave the children back to the mother.

Once again, that did not work out and the children were removed from the mother and placed into foster care.

The father says he is not informed of many important matters, including his health and schooling.

The fact he was put into a supervised residential unit after he started to self harm was kept from him (father) for a lengthy period, he says.

His son has left the residential unit he was in for days at a time and the father has found him in an unkempt condition wandering the streets, he says.

He says the CFA is engaged in wholly unlawful discrimination towards him in circumstances where the mother and his foster parent are allowed access to the boy, but not him.

He also says his son has told him on a number of times he wants to live with his father, at least two days a week, and has asked "when can I go home".

All his children are in care because of the failure over several years of the CFA to prepare a reunification (of family) plan, he says.

The case continues before Ms Justice Una NiRafeartaigh.

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