Care order granted for a 14-month-old child to the age of majority, mother has intellectual disability – 2024vol1#30

A care order until the child reached the age of 18 years was granted by a judge in the Dublin Metropolitan District for a 14-month-old baby, where the mother had an advocate and did not either consent to or contest the application. The mother had an inherited intellectual disability that impaired her capacity to care for the child.

The solicitor for the mother indicated that her client was struggling to follow the proceedings. The mother had the benefit of an advocate and the solicitor had had a number of consultations with her. She said the mother loved the child and wanted to set out her wishes, but that she was not emotionally able to care for him and she was not able to consent to or contest the care order application.

She said the mother had set out her various wishes in a document and she said she wanted family access, she wanted the grandmother to have access and for the child’s sister to be part of the child’s life, but that she was worried about his father having access. The court was told that the father did not currently have any access and was not involved in the child’s life.

The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) said that the guardian ad litem (GAL) was supporting the application.

Social worker evidence

The social worker was called to give evidence and she confirmed that she had been allocated to the family since Autumn 2023. She told the court that the child had been with the same foster family since coming into care, they were committed to him and they wanted to continue caring for him. She said the child was thriving and was meeting his milestones.

There had been a question mark over whether or not he had the inherited form of developmental and intellectual disability that his mother suffered from. He had symptoms and had had a test done. She said the health indications were good, he got on well in his foster placement and he had access with extended family. She told the court that the child attended a play group twice a week and had access with his mother once a week.

She said no additional needs had been identified as of yet. The team was looking for long-term matching and once the care order proceedings were completed, they would look at long-term matching. She said they were cognisant of the mother’s needs and she said it would take approximately six months to complete long-term matching.

The CFA solicitor asked the social worker to outline why the child had come into care and she said the mother had an intellectual capacity impairment due to an inherited condition. She informed the court that the mother had gone to a mother and baby unit but had not completed her stay because she had been overwhelmed caring for the child and was not able to give the child the care needed even with supports. The mother did not have the capacity to care for the child or to meet his hygiene and feeding requirements and when the child was upset the mother became agitated and aggressive.

She outlined to the court that the parental capacity assessment had shown that the mother’s parental capacity would not improve therefore the CFA was looking for a care order until the child reached the age of majority, 18 years of age. The social worker was asked if the mother’s capacity issues could be overcome in any meaningful way, and she said contact was cancelled at times but when it did go ahead it went well with supports. In relation to holding a future review, she said a review of the order would be distressing for the mother.

After hearing the evidence, the judge noted that there had been interim care order proceedings before the court since the end of 2022. He noted that the mother was neither consenting nor objecting but had set out her wishes, with the help of her advocate, in a letter. The application was supported by the GAL and the court noted that the mother had her own issues, including domestic violence issues, and the respondent father had no place in the child’s life.

The court was satisfied that the threshold was met. He was satisfied that a shorter order would not be appropriate, the situation was unlikely to improve. There should be a welfare review for the child before the child transferred to secondary school and set a review to take place in 10 years’ time. He said the review should be done in a child- and mother-friendly way.

He discharged the GAL and said there should be the usual boilerplate paragraphs included in the care order. The judge said he wished the mother and the child well and said access should continue with the mother, sister and extended family.