Care orders for two children, mother homeless with addiction issues – 2020vol2#31

The District Court has made a care order in respect of two children whose mother, who did not attend court, was homeless and had addiction issues.

A social worker with a drug treatment centre gave evidence that she had first met the mother in 2015 when the mother had asked to attend a drug treatment programme. She said that the mother was addicted to heroin and cocaine but had also previously attended an addiction service for alcohol abuse. The mother commenced treatment with the centre and engaged so well that the children were returned to her care in 2016. However, matters had deteriorated quickly and the children were returned to the care of extended family members. The social worker told the court that the mother’s life was quite chaotic.

The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA): “We spoke about the children being returned to her care in 2016. Has she reached that level of stability since?”

Drug treatment social worker: “No, she has not reached that level of stability since 2016.”

The judge said that the witness had given enough evidence about the mother’s addiction issues. He did not want to compromise her future relationship with the social worker as she might be a valuable future resource for the mother.

The family’s allocated social worker told the court that the children had limited contact with their mother. She said that the mother’s drug use had had a significant impact upon how she can parent and that they had considered having a parenting capacity assessment done.

The judge asked the social worker if a parenting capacity assessment was practical asking, “Why obtain a parenting assessment if there is no stability or ongoing contact with the children? What sort of stability should she have before we consider access?” to which the

social worker responded: “I would think stable for at least two months.”

The judge said that in his view it is stability first, then a relationship with the parent, then if the relationship is positive reunification can be considered. He said that there was an obligation to consider reunification with the mother, but that that consideration could take two minutes: is she stable, is she still homeless, does she have any contact with the children? The judge said that people knew when they are deficient.

Judge: “They are vulnerable, and they don’t need an expert to tell them that. It is important to ensure the children are not let down again.”

The GAL told the court the children were doing well in their placement. She said that the children were with their grandparents with whom they had a positive relationship. She said that the house was very relaxed and open and that the grandparents were open to conversations with the children about their mother.

The judge said that when dealing with a mother who is unwell and had a lot of difficulties, he saw a good role for the guardian ad litem (GAL) to stay involved. He said that he would like the GAL to speak to the mother to tell her that the court would be willing to listen to her if she was able to get to a stable condition.

The court made a CO with a review in two years. The judge directed that the current placement was to continue and that the court must be notified if there was any change in placement.