Interim care order for newborn where mother’s mental health deteriorates – 2022vol1#18

A judge in a rural town granted an interim care order for a newborn infant and appointed a guardian ad litem(GAL) following an unexpected severe deterioration in the mother’s mental health. The mother was legally represented but not in court. The father was in court and legally represented. Evidence was heard from the social worker on behalf of the Child and Family Agency (CFA).

The social worker told the court that the mother had been known to social services prior to the birth and things had been going very well. The mother had attended all her ante-natal appointments and it had been anticipated that the baby would go home in the care of the mother.

However, the mother suffered a significant deterioration in her mental health following the birth which had necessitated inpatient psychiatric treatment and care. This had not been anticipated by either the obstetric or mental health teams of the mother and it was most unfortunate. Both teams had been surprised how unwell the mother had become and how quickly it had happened. She said the mother was in the throes of a psychotic break. The mother would be in hospital for at least another three weeks or more.

She said the father had a significant history of substance abuse and schizoid affective disorders. He had been previously detained under section 12 of the Mental Health Act 2001. He had a history of violence and was known to An Gardai Siochana. The social worker said she had significant concerns the father would unintentionally neglect the child and not be able to meet the needs of a newborn.

Neither the father nor the mother had any extended family or friend support networks. The infant was placed with a foster family and was doing well. The judge asked why the infant had not been placed with extended family, pointing out that a recent High Court judgement had stated that where possible a child should be placed with extended family. The social worker replied that she had tried to place the infant with extended family but no-one suitable had been found. She had interviewed the paternal grandfather as a possible foster carer but for various reasons it was not possible to place the infant with him and no-one else had come forward. The social worker said the infant was in limbo and had no protection orders in place.

The solicitor for the mother told the court that he had been to see the mother in hospital to take her instructions. He said that he was told by the mother’s psychiatrist that she did have capacity to give instructions, but the solicitor said: “I do not wish to go against expert medical opinion but I cannot say that the mother could give me instructions. I sat with her for some time to explain the proceedings, but she showed no comprehension of what I was talking about.”

The solicitor continued: “Although I must tell the court she was aware she had had a baby and was concerned for the baby’s welfare and was reassured when I told her the baby was safe and well. She then again rambled incoherently. She had no recollection of a previous visit I had made to her.” He said despite the assurance from the mother’s psychiatrist, he did not believe the mother could consent to voluntary care.

The father’s solicitor told the court the father was not a legal guardian, but he would like the infant returned to his care. The father’s solicitor said as he had only been appointed that day, he could not provide the court with any evidence of the father’s suitability.

The judge said she was satisfied the threshold for an interim care order had been reached. She said it was needed by the infant and in the infant’s best interests that it be made. An interim care order was made for 28 days. She also appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL) to the infant.

She spoke directly to the father and said this was not closure but an interim measure and that he [the father] had to work with the professionals and on himself so that the infant would have the best life possible.