Care Order and guardianship granted for toddler whose mother mentally ill – 2020vol1#14

The CFA withdrew their application for an Interim Care Order (ICO) in respect of a toddler whose mother suffers from chronic schizophrenia. The court heard that the child’s father is unknown and that his mother cannot exercise her rights and responsibilities of guardianship due to her mental illness.  The court heard that the child was taken into care when he was one month old. The Child and Family Agency (CFA) became involved due to the mother’s ongoing mental health issues.

The child’s maternal grandmother had earlier made an application for guardianship. The barrister for the grandmother told the court that the child’s mother supported her mother’s guardianship application.  He told the court that the Children and Family Relationships Act allows for private family law solutions to be put in place so that children can be placed with a family member and that the court can make an order assigning guardianship to a nominated person to become temporary guardian of the child. The court was told that there had been relationship difficulties between the grandmother and the social work department because of the child being taken and placed in foster care. The child was in his fourth foster care placement.

The child’s mother nominated her mother and a second family member to be guardians. The second nominated guardian told the court that his family is willing to care for the child only if the grandmother is unable to do so. It was proposed to the court that a relationship between the child and the second nominee be built up over time by incorporating the child into the second nominee’s family as deeply as possible so that if any issues were to arise with the grandmother the child would have minimal disruption.

The mental health expert gave evidence that she was in favour of the proposed plan, however due to the grandmothers’ age she told the court that she would have preferred if the child transitioned to the second nominated person directly, however she acknowledged that was not what the families wanted. The transition plan was outlined to the court providing for a six-month transition period ensuring that the child’s attachment to his current carers is not damaged.

Judge said: “It is very clear who the mother wants to be the guardian of her child. She may lack capacity to make certain decisions, but she has capacity to make decisions on matters close to her heart.”

The guardian ad litem (GAL) told the court that the child was doing well in his foster placement and has a good relationship with his extended family. The GAL was supportive of the proposed transition plan to move the child to the grandmother’s care.

The court granted temporary guardianship to the grandmother, made an order to increase contact with her, and gave a three-month time frame to move the child from foster care to his grandmother’s care. The court heard the child was now in his grandmothers’ care and the court heard the family are very happy that the child can grow up within the family unit. The court ordered a review at twelve months.