Drug addict’s newborn taken into care – 2013vol2#29

An interim care order was made in the Dublin District Court for a week-old infant who was still in the maternity hospital. The mother was a drug user and had a history of addiction problems.

The HSE solicitor told the court that she had not been able to serve the mother at the hospital three days earlier because she had discharged herself. She had been served the night before the hearing at her homeless accommodation. She was advised the case was being heard today and indicated she would attend but did not turn up.

The HSE had made every effort to meet with her before and after the birth. There had been pre-birth planning meeting due to serious concerns about her drug use, at the latter end of her pregnancy in particular.

A social work report confirmed the baby was experiencing feeding difficulties, but was now improving. The child may be ready for discharge the following day and a short-term foster placement was available, said the solicitor.

The judge said the question was whether sufficient notice had been given to the mother in order for the case to be heard, the rules provided for two days’ notice. The issue was the amount of notice that she got and the amount of time she had to get legal advice.

The solicitor for the HSE said that no one had known where she was after she self-discharged. The judge said: “If you don’t know where someone is you go looking for them … she’s entitled to appropriate notice, that’s why it’s there,” even if she had no intention of attending.

The judge directed the solicitor for the HSE to move an ex-parte application because the mother had not been served in accordance with the rules. “I would probably not consider hearing this if we weren’t about to have a week with no courts,” he said.

The hearing then proceeded. The social worker told the court that the father was present at the hospital, he was served with notice of the proceedings by post and had two full days’ notice to attend court. He had no reason to believe the father was the child’s guardian.

The social worker was notified when the mother presented to the maternity hospital when she was 22 weeks pregnant because she had another daughter placed in the care of the HSE as an infant. There had been little contact between the mother and this daughter in recent times. There had also been little contact with the social work department despite letters and phone calls to the mother.

She had a lack of engagement with her drug treatment programme, according to her doctor, resulting in a lack of information regarding her current drug use. She had told the social worker she was buying her methadone off the street instead of engaging with her clinic.

When she was 10 days overdue she told the social worker that she did not intend going to the maternity hospital when she went into labour as she knew the intention of the social work department.

There were concerns in relation to criminal activity in the home and her inability to meet her children’s needs. During her pregnancy she had been living with her mother but had been asked to leave due to her drug taking.

The judge asked had she been back out to her mother’s house regarding preparation for the child. The social worker said she had not, nor had she any equipment in her mother’s house for the baby. The judge asked if she had indicated there was “another plan”. The social worker said the day after the baby was born she suggested she would go into treatment and her mother would look after the child. This morning she had mentioned another relative who had rung them, the social worker said an assessment of this relative would be made.

The social worker told the court that in relation to drug withdrawal, the baby had had difficulty feeding and was being tube fed for the first week. The withdrawal seemed to have retreated a little and she had started bottle feeding that morning. She had also required oxygen in the first 24 hours. There had been on-going methadone and benzodiazapine use before the birth which had led to this.

He felt the mother could not meet the needs of the baby at this time, there had been no planning as to where she would live, she had no equipment, there would also be concerns about the ability of the grandmother to provide appropriate help. Furthermore, that relationship was tenuous.
The father had not made himself available to the social work department. There were also concerns about his drug use

The mother did not meet the criteria for the mother and baby residential units due to her drug use. With regard to access, social services would provide it three times a week. They could consider emergency relative assessment. She had been in homeless accommodation with the father, cooking facilities were not available to them as it was not an all-day hostel, the homeless service would not allow a baby to be accommodated there.

The judge was satisfied it was proportionate to make an Interim Care Order for seven days, a supervision order would not be appropriate. Reasonable access was to be allowed.