Care order for baby whose mother left country – 2020vol2#37

A District Court judge in a regional town made a full care order to 18 years for a six-week-old baby, where the mother had left the jurisdiction and was uncontactable. The young mother had three older children who were in care and the social work department was informed by a family member that she had recently left Ireland.

The social worker told the court that the Child and Family Agency (CFA) was initially only seeking an interim care order, as a parental capacity assessment had been sought. However, as the mother was now out of the jurisdiction and not engaging, the CFA believed the threshold for a full care order had been met.

The social worker informed the court that the baby was taken into care when she was born because the mother refused to engage with the social work department and attended only six of her 26 ante-natal appointments. The social worker said the three older children were in care and the mother was informed that if she had another child she would need significant supports. The social worker said that the mother engaged well in access for the first month, however, she had become uncontactable in the previous two weeks.

The social worker described how she had tried to contact the mother by calling her mobile phone and sending various text messages encouraging her to engage. The social worker said that she attended at the mother’s accommodation and it was completely locked up and she was informed by a family member that she had moved country and requested that photographs be sent through the father.

The social worker told the court that she had concerns regarding the identity of the father. The social worker was informed that he wanted to be involved, however, he never came forward to the social work department as a potential carer for the baby.

The social worker said that the mother had not engaged in counselling and was unable to put her children first or to prioritise their safety. She said that the mother did not take on board the advice of professionals, doctors or the social work team.

The social worker informed the court that the child was thriving in her placement and had been placed with a half sibling. The placement was a long-term one and there was natural contact with the other siblings, as the foster families got on very well. The social worker expressed concern that the child was exposed to drugs during pregnancy, but told the court that there had not been any negative repercussions for the baby.

The CFA solicitor asked if there had been any change of patterns of behaviours and the social worker said: “The mother is in a less favourable place now than she was when her third child was taken into care. She no longer avails of supports and at times she was living rough during her pregnancy and was unable to avail of homeless services due to anti-social behaviour.”

The judge had no questions for the social worker and decided that the threshold had been met and granted the section 18 full care order to 18 years. The judge also granted an application to lift the in camera rule so that the social work department could register the child’s birth.

The judge also ordered that the mother be notified of any future date in respect of the proceedings.