Interim care order extended where mother suffering from mental illness – 2019vol1#20

See also Vol 2 of 2018: Interim care order extended for baby of mentally ill mother

An interim care order for an infant, granted on the basis that the mother could not adequately care for him due to her mental health problems, was further extended by the District Court. At the call-over, the court heard that an advocate for the mother had been appointed. A meeting with the mother was facilitated that morning prior to the hearing.

The registrar showed a handwritten letter to the judge. “I am concerned that I am receiving letters from parties who are not part of the proceedings,” said the judge after reading it.

The social worker told the court that the same concerns regarding the welfare of the child continued to exist. There were a lot of issues that had been previously identified such as difficulties with feeding, in particular the mother not preparing his bottles appropriately and in a timely manner, and maintaining safety in car seats. The mother did not seem to be in tune with and was unable to read the baby’s cues.

The social worker summarised the background of the case. She explained that the mother was in psychiatric services at the end of May the previous year and had left the baby in the care of friends. The friends were travelling to the UK to a wedding for a weekend and were unable to mind the baby. The CFA was contacted and the baby had since been in foster care.

A mobile phone started ringing and the hearing temporarily stopped. The mother answered her mobile and started a conversation with someone at the other end of the line. The solicitor for the mother and the advocate tried to warn her that she should hang up. As she engaged in a brief phone conversation, the judge warned her to put the phone down immediately, which she eventually did.

The court heard that her mental health continued to be a factor in her capacity to care for the baby. She had been readmitted as an inpatient in psychiatric services. “Her delusional thinking makes it very difficult,” added the social worker. The mother did not make eye contact with the baby and anyone walking into the room would distress her.

The social workers had tried to support her in addressing these deficits before a parental assessment would take place. Unfortunately, she did not engage with social services. The social worker confirmed that the roadmap to reunification required the mother to engage with social workers and housing services. A parental assessment was due to commence a couple of months earlier but it had to be rescheduled because she was readmitted to hospital. The parental assessment had been rescheduled.

The social worker said that the baby had settled very well with the foster carers and all vaccinations were on track. It was suggested that access should be reduced to twice a week for one hour each time as it would be less distressing for the baby. The social worker explained that in the past eight months there had not been a consistent period of stability with circumstances always fluctuating. “It could go well then the next day it doesn’t. It is a daily assessment for the baby,” said the social worker.

During cross-examination the social worker clarified that the access was to take place Mondays and Fridays from 12.30 to 1.30 pm at a café but it was subject to review. She added that on the date the six months’ statutory review was due, access would take place after the meeting with the social workers. The solicitor for the mother told the social worker that her client would like to be at the reception when the baby arrived so that she could take the child straight into the access room.

The mother had instructed that she would not give evidence but changed her mind suddenly and she was sworn in. She started talking about her son’s health details. The judge explained that it was important to ascertain whether she consented to the extension of the interim care order.

The mother said that a doctor had been called in New Year’s Eve and had given antibiotics to the child due possibly to complications with teething. “Any medical issue related to my son, I should be told,” said the mother, adding that the social worker’s excuse was that it was New Year’s Eve. The mother said that the child had also been given medication for winding. She explained that she was concerned her son was only having a dirty nappy a day and that generally children do more than one movement a day. “Why is that? Because of the organic formula that the foster carer is giving (to the baby),” she added.

When the mother started speaking about issues with the social workers the judge asked her if she had anything to say in relation to the interim care order. She responded that she had tried to get her child out of care since June 2018. The mother was concerned about his nappies and was going to subpoena them. She complained that at the last access visit members of staff were passing her son around. “Please can I get my child back? I am a fit and able woman,” she said eventually before she left the witness box.

The GAL told the court that she had met the baby a week ago and that he presented very well. He was alert and engaged and she was satisfied that the placement was meeting his needs. The baby was attached to the foster carers and the other children in the home. The GAL was satisfied that a reduction of access would meet the child’s needs. The GAL supported the application for an extension of the interim care order.

The judge said that he was satisfied with the evidence given that the threshold was met according to section 17 (2) of the Child Care Act 1991 and extended the interim care order. The judge added that there were no medical directions in place. “I have no opinion in relation to what may have occurred on New Year’s Eve. That should not be the matter or subject of an application” added the judge.

The court heard that the CFA was seeking the same directions to remain in place. The solicitor for the mother told the judge that his client would like to address the court briefly in relation to a particular medical matter.

The mother went back to the witness box. She told the judge that the baby was due his vaccinations the following week and that she was very concerned. She started talking about Scientologists and brain-washing. “If you want to tell me anything in relation to a medical direction, do. This is not the time to tell me those things,” said the judge.

Mother: “I am concerned about the teething. The poor child is suffering. I don’t want my child to have any more complications that he already has. Thank you.”

Judge: “I accept that you should be consulted (in relation to medical matters).”

The judge noted that an application for a care order according to section 18 of the Child Care Act 1991 was listed for hearing for three days in June. Regarding the handwritten letter handed to him, the judge said that it was in breach (of the rules) and that he would deal with it.