Interim care order granted amid mental health concerns for mother – 2020vol1#9

An interim care order was granted in Dublin District Court in respect of a toddler whose mother had a history of drug misuse and mental health issues. The mother made allegations that she and the child had been sexually assaulted by a male.

The child had been in voluntary care and the arrangement was to be extended until the mother engaged with the process. The solicitor for the mother said she had been unable to contact the mother in the recent past and the voluntary care arrangement was due to expire. The judge noted that the mother was not in court but she had been served with the application.

A social worker from a hospital said she made a referral to the Child and Family Agency/TUSLA about the mother and child. The mother attended a sexual health screening and was seen by three people. She gave information to the nurse which raised concerns. The mother said she had been the victim of an alleged sexual assault and that her son may have been sexually assaulted by the same person.

The mother was concerned that the water in her home was poisoned and the alleged assailant was stalking her. The social worker told the mother she would make a referral and the mother appeared happy that the referral would be made. The mother expressed concerns that she had not made the referral herself. The social worker said: “It was difficult to clarify what the mother was telling the professionals as she jumped from one subject to another.”

The mother had not used drugs in over a year but her presentation was concerning. The social worker said it was unclear whether the mother was under the influence or had health issues. The social worker had concerns as to how the mother would manage to care for the child.

The social worker allocated to the child said the threshold existed for the interim care order and the health, welfare and development of the child would be impaired if the order were not made.

The child had come to the attention of the CFA after a referral was made in relation to the presentation of the mother. The mother had suicidal thoughts. Her family was concerned about both the child and the mother following the diagnosis of the child’s maternal grandmother with an illness. There were concerns about the erratic behaviour of the mother and her drug use. The mother had not been seen by family members for a period of three days.

The social workers made an unannounced visit and the mother gave them access to her apartment. The mother presented with paranoia and the social worker was concerned about her. The mother could only identify her own mother for the safety plan and refused to identify another person. The social worker conducted another unannounced visit and the child was placed into a family placement with the mother’s cousin for a period of time. The child was currently in a foster placement but the family placement was not available due to the circumstances of the mother and the maternal grandmother.

The social worker told the court there had been an arrangement that the child would remain in care for three weeks and the mother would visit her GP about her mental health in order to carry out a mental health assessment. The mother was to engage with the social worker and provide medical information for the child, to allow the social worker follow up his medical appointments. However, the mother had failed to attend the hospital or her GP and failed to engage with psychiatric services.

The social worker said: “When the mother is calm, she is engaging but she can veer off and focus on her past experiences, about water being poisoned and being infected with foreign medication. She [the mother] had not been taking care of the child.  It was difficult to engage with the mother. I would have concerns about her understanding of where the child is and voluntary care would not be appropriate.”

The child had a lot of needs including speech and language difficulties and had been referred to a disability service. The social worker said: “He has a few words and gets frustrated that he cannot communicate well. Since he came into care, he can sing nursery rhymes.”

There was an improvement in the child’s behaviour and his tantrums were less consistent since coming into care. The child was being referred for an assessment for ASD.  The social worker said the risk to the child would be great if he were returned to the care of his mother as his medical and developmental needs were not being met.

The mother only attended one access visit.

The creche manager

The creche manager told the court she met the mother in August 2018 and noted there were concerns about the child due to his behaviour and comments made by the mother. The creche manager and the mental health nurse met the mother and the mother said she was open to getting help.

The child was getting on well at the creche but there was a change in behaviour following an incident. In July the mother attended the creche and accused the staff of starving the child. In September, the child returned to the creche for one day and the mother threatened the creche staff and accused them of “doing things to the child.” The mother said she would “get one of the staff members.” The staff members were upset by the incident and the Gardaí were called. The staff members had to make alternative arrangements to get home following the threats by the mother.

The judge said the mother had been notified and the case raised serious alarms. She said: “On the evidence, the mother has mental health and addiction [issues] and they are severe.  I have concerns that she said the child had been sexually abused by a male she invited into the home. The child’s behaviour deteriorated. I am satisfied that child has been neglected and there is reasonable cause to believe his welfare will be impaired [if he were returned to the care of his mother].”

The judge appointed a GAL and allocated section 18 hearing dates as she was “so alarmed.”

She said access was to be at the discretion of the CFA and she was concerned that the mother had only seen the child once. The judge said the child was to be medically examined and progress made without delay.