ICO extended while mother engages with new doctor – 2014vol3#15

An Interim Care Order was extended for a young child whose mother had failed to address a number of issues that had been identified at a previous hearing. The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency told the judge at a hearing in a rural town that the mother had been told to arrange for a weekly urine analysis, visit her GP in relation to mental health concerns and to get her accommodation “sorted”. The mother had had access with her daughter five times since the previous hearing and the solicitor said the access had not always been “as positive as the social workers would like”.

The mother’s barrister told the judge his client had been frustrated during access as she did not get time on her own with her daughter (the access was supervised). The barrister said the mother had had a very sad life. Her parents separated when she was 14 and she went to live with her father. When he commenced a relationship with another woman, she left home. She had her daughter when she was 16 and was now only 19 years old.

The judge asked her if she had anyone to depend on now and she told him she had a partner for the last two years. “He is not on drugs. He is Muslim and doesn’t drink,” she told him. She said he had a job in the catering sector. She said the father of her child had served time in prison and was now living in another jurisdiction. The CFA solicitor said the father was a notice party to the proceedings but had not engaged with them.

The mother told the judge that she had moved from another town recently and that this was the reason for not having weekly urinalysis. She was now getting another doctor and had rented accommodation with her partner. She told the judge that her access was just for an hour and a half each week and she was unhappy with the presence of the social workers. The judge told her “the reason they are there is that they are standing in your shoes and they are responsible”.

The CFA solicitor said the CFA personnel were not there all of the time but there was someone there “for the first and last 15 or 20 minutes.” He added: “Sometimes she comes with friends to access and the CFA would prefer if she was on her own.” Her barrister said she was prepared to give an undertaking that she would only come in future with her partner.

The judge said he would note on the file that “mother expresses concerns re quality of access and supervision thereof.” He added: “Generally the HSE have always operated with a level that doesn’t concern the court and if the HSE wish to give you further access for the benefit of the child I am sure they will do so.”

He directed that the mother should engage immediately with her new doctor regarding urinalysis and psychiatric assessment and asked the HSE to “be as flexible as possible when it comes to access. A little bit of give and take is required.”

In another case in the same court, the judge told a mother he would discharge a Supervision Order if he got a positive report on her progress in four months time. The mother was in court with her young boy for a review of the order, which had been in place for six months. The CFA solicitor told the court the child had been taken into care in 2013 under an Emergency Care Order. This had been followed by an Interim Care Order and the child had been returned to the mother with a Supervision Order in place.

The mother now wanted it to continue until the end of the year when it would either lapse or be renewed. “She wishes to have the Supervision Order lifted at this stage but we want to keep it on”, he said. The father of the child had been involved in the proceedings but “no longer turns up”. The parents were no longer living together and the father attends access at her house. “She finds it difficult because he is getting into her head. She doesn’t want any further contact with the father,” the solicitor said.

A social worker from the CFA gave evidence that the young boy had been taken into care because of parental alcohol abuse. The mother, who is from another European country, had three other children in care. One of them was in care in her country of origin and two others were with their maternal grandmother in another town in this jurisdiction. The mother had contact with her two children here but none with the child in care in the other European country.

The social worker said that her visits to the mother and her child were usually announced in advance “because we can’t get access if unannounced.” The three older children had been taken into care, she said, because of chronic parental alcohol abuse. There was no indication of drug abuse but they (the CFA) were trying to get more information from the mother’s country of origin. The Supervision Order was helping to keep the situation stable.

The judge told her she seemed “much more relaxed and normal today.” He said he had met her three or four times and she had presented as “quite hysterical and agitated in the past. You come here today with a beautiful, beautiful boy and I can see a great bond there.”

He said he would consider discharging the Supervision Order in September if he got a positive report on her progress. The mother was not legally represented and he advised her to go to a legal advice centre. “She did have a solicitor before and discharged him even though I thought he was a good solicitor,” he said.