Care order granted for one year where mother cognitively impaired– 2015vol2#4

A Care Order was granted for one year in respect of a child whose mother’s cognitive ability was described to be in the “extremely low range”. The Child and Family Agency had sought a Care Order until the young child was 18.

The CFA solicitor told the court that the mother had gone to another city for a period of time but had recently returned. The social work department was concerned about the mother’s level of ability to resolve her own issues and her willingness “to put work in”. The CFA solicitor said: “She is going to have to engage to a high level to get herself back on track and there is a concern that that is not going to be achievable.”

The court heard that the child was doing well in her current placement and that a one-to-one parenting programme had been set up.

The CFA solicitor said that the mother was “a vulnerable adult” and there would be concerns about her ability to look after herself. The court heard that, at times, the mother was abusive on the phone to social work staff. The mother’s GP was heard to be very concerned about her and had asked her to attend his practice. She had attended A&E before Christmas and was given appointments to attend a doctor, but had failed to attend. She was engaging with a psychological assessment that had been set up but some appointments had been missed. A GP had reportedly expressed concern that the mother had an intellectual disability and that she “needed help looking after herself”.

The court heard that the mother had called the social work department saying that she had no money and she needed money. A social worker said that they tried to engage her in back-to-work initiatives but she had failed to attend meetings. “She was sleeping rough for a while and there is talk now of her going to another city,” the social worker said.

She also said that she would have huge concerns for her as she doesn’t have much support and she is “in no way able to parent a child.” The social worker said that access arrangements were in place for the mother and child but the mother was not returning the phone calls of the social workers in relation to reminders for access and was asking to be collected to be brought to access.

The court heard that the mother can be very inappropriate and on one occasion she took a photograph of the child and saying that she would send it to her friends as she was a “sexy little f***r”.

The social work department indicated that there would be an application for a long term care order but that the mother did not seem to understand the implications of a full Care Order, “she comes across as if she is confused and she can’t engage or come to access, this is on an on-going basis.”

The court was told that the child’s father was in the process of applying for guardianship. The court was also told that the relationship between the child’s parents was volatile and that the father had said that he was in fear of the mother.

The social worker said that it was her opinion that the mother had extremely low cognitive ability but that she was not qualified to give a definitive assessment. The mother’s solicitor asked the social worker whether she had gone through some of the reports with the mother. The social worker replied that she had only had the reports for a week and “it can be hard to discuss things with her”. She said that she had discussed certain parts of the reports with the mother, such as the parts saying that the mother required on-going support. The social worker said that other aspects such as feedback on care proceedings “needed to be handled sensitively”.

The court was told that a psychologist had said that she was going to refer the mother to an adult mental health service even though the mother’s solicitor pointed out that the report of the psychologist said that the mother did not require further psychological support but that she needed help in the community and perhaps disability benefit.

The mother’s solicitor suggested that rather than looking for a full Care Order until 18 there was work that needed to be done with the mother. The social worker replied: “The mother is the only person that could undertake that work and services have been offered (she was offered a one-to-one parenting service) and she wasn’t able to engage with that, she won’t engage in services.”

The social worker said that the mother will “continue to have a low cognitive ability, that is not going to change. I will still be concerned as to whether she can look after herself let alone a child.”

The judge said: “It appears to me that (the mother) is her own worst enemy in her lack of engagement with various services. Everyone that deals with her thinks she is a pleasant individual. (The child) is in a placement since she was three months old. There is a psychologist’s report that is only a week old. I think it would be good to have a final attempt for the mother to re-engage with services, the services can guide the mother.

“I don’t see the child suffering any prejudice if I make a Care Order for one year. I will look then at how many services the mother will have engaged in. I will make a note that the matter be concluded. (This is the) final attempt to get mother to engage with some services.”

The judge asked the lawyers whether there had been an issue with Facebook and the CFA solicitor replied that photographs of the child had been put up on Facebook by the mother. The judge told the mother that she must not put photos of the child up on Facebook or “I might change my mind”.