Care Order for infant of addicted mother – 2015vol4#14

A Care Order was granted in the Dublin District Court for an infant until the age of 18.

Although the mother did not consent to the application she did accept the contents of the statement of facts. The father was unknown.

At the end of the hearing the judge described the mother as having an embedded addiction to polysubstance misuse. However this was the presenting issue, underneath that “a whole pile of remediation work is needed,” the judge said. “Why does she take substances? Why does she need to numb the pain in her life by taking substances? That’s a big problem as well.”

The guardian ad litem (GAL) had recommended the mother start attending Narcotics Anonymous immediately. It was the best option available to her and she could benefit greatly from lay support there. He felt that other addiction services had too many hoops for her to jump through.

The Hearing

A parenting capacity assessment had been prepared for the court by a clinical psychologist.

The mother’s solicitor told the court that while the mother had instructed that the parenting capacity assessment accurately reflected her attendance and conversations, she had issue with the characterisation of her “as someone who loves her children but as someone whose own needs take precedence over the needs of her children”.

“She does love her children,” said the psychologist. “It’s unfortunate and sad for her that she has this desire and behaviour that prevents her from engaging fully as a parent with her children.”

The mother’s solicitor asked if she could get clean could the relationship be re-looked at.

“Should she become available and sustain a significant long time free of drug use then a parenting capacity assessment could begin and then her attendance to be assessed as a functioning caring, sensitive parent, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.” The psychologist also felt that the mother’s very difficult upbringing and circumstances had impacted on her life heavily and she was “simply not available”.

“Right now you’re saying [the mother] doesn’t have capacity because her drug dependency is impeding her capacity as a parent seven days a week,” asked the judge.

The psychologist confirmed this. The mother had a strong commitment of love to her children but was just not always available.

Current social worker

The social worker told the court that the mother was always contactable and was very honest about the struggles she had had.

An intensive detox programme had been offered to help her in her addiction but because she had not stabilised over the summer it could not go ahead. The detoxification could aggravate her current mental health concerns.

“At the moment she needs to be built up emotionally and psychologically in a community detox service,” said the social worker.

While the mother had worked around her children’s needs and appointments, in terms of her own personal issues she was at a standstill. She had a lot of emotional issues and past experiences. “In terms of addressing that, it’s a huge issue and I don’t underestimate it.” The social worker felt that a Care Order until the age of 18 was proportionate because the infant was in a foster family with her older brother and she needed long term security in her life. “It is important that she has security in her life so she can flourish, the mother’s drug use is long term, it is at a standstill at the moment,” the social worker said.

“But you haven’t gave me the child to take home to see what I can do with her,” said the mother from her seat.

Reunification would be considered at every child in care review on a six monthly basis for the next two years, said the social worker. The social work department would be available to the mother for support and if she wanted to activate enquiries in the future about an appropriate residential detox centre they would facilitate her.

The GAL solicitor asked the social worker why the decision was made at the pre-birth conference to place the new born baby into care. The major concern was the baby’s safety, the social worker replied. The mother had on-going drug use and problems with her emotional well-being and she was not in a position to meet the baby’s needs.

At the moment the mother’s role in access was not hugely positive and a supervisor had been brought in. She needed a lot of support to engage and interact with her older child.

Access had been cancelled when the mother had arrived under the influence.

The mother needed to address her own personal issues, address her drug abuse and take part in counselling and psychological support. She had a lack of insight into the role she played into her children coming into care.

Guardian ad litem

The GAL told the court that the mother’s drug use for a sustained period of time had left her unable to prioritise the needs of the baby and keep her safe. He said that behind her drug use there was a very vulnerable, hurt young woman whose life was tragic.

“Even if she was to work through the presenting problems of drug misuse there are the long standing circumstances of her life, the inner distress that she talks about, the inner turmoil.

Her drug abuse is a symptom of the underlying factors, those underlying factors without the attendant drug abuse would be a concern themselves because [she] is so distressed she is unable to focus on her own needs.”

He had suggested she try Narcotics Anonymous but she was not in favour. He had suggested just to sit at the back of the room even if she was under the influence.

“Somewhere along the line someone would come up to her, put her arm on her and tell her: ‘You know something, 30 years ago that was me.’ And it would have more impact on her than jumping through the hoops. ‘Here’s what happened to me and here’s what I did, my kids were in care as well.’ There is a possibility of someone coming into her life from one of those meetings and helping her. The beauty of that service is that it is free, it’s lay psychotherapy, it’s experiential,” said the GAL.

He believed the threshold had been met and that it was not possible for the infant to return to her care. She had not had the potential to make changes after the older child had been removed from her.

The GAL also felt that even if the mother was drug free it did not necessarily mean that reunification was definite. She might not be then able to focus on her recovery. “Some people can’t do both,” the GAL said. His recommendation to her was to go to Narcotics Anonymous.

“No, I’m still not going to get my kids back. You never gave me a chance. You took her off me when she was eight days old, how can I care for her when you never gave me a chance,” said the mother from her seat. “Yous never gave me a chance to take me daughter home, fuck off. Ignorant.”

The Care Order was granted until the age of 18 under Section 18.1.c.

“It’s a terribly distressing day [for the mother],” the judge said. “I can see that she’s upset and angry, it’s an awful day for a parent to cope with. There has to be a certain latitude in that regard.”

The threshold of 18.1.c had been met on the evidence, said the judge.

She noted the CFA were obliged to look at reunification at every child in care meeting. For the first two years that would be every six months. Thereafter it would be every year.

“The Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights has said that where a child is taken into care the objective must be to reunify the child with the mother if it’s a possibility,” the judge said.

The mother had been very, very unfortunate, continued the judge. She had an embedded addiction involving polysubstance misuse. That was the presenting issue. “Underneath that a whole pile of remediation work is needed, why does she take substances, why does she need to numb the pain in her life by taking substances? That’s a big problem as well.

“I hope that [the mother] can listen to the GAL about the benefits of Narcotics Anonymous.

The addiction services allow too many hoops for her to jump through and it is too complicated for her to engage in that long haul. It may well be that it is a combination of things that will highlight the road out of the maze she finds herself in.” There was no required way out, concluded the judge.

“The guardian’s view is that [the mother] should use all appropriate supports to be in [the child’s] life. She only has one mother, she may have a foster mother but she needs a mother in her life,” said the judge.

“Well, she’s not living with me,” replied the mother.

The hearing concluded.