Interim care order granted where mother has mental health issues – 2022vol1#13

An interim care was granted in a provincial town in respect of one child whose father was in custody in the United Kingdom. The mother, who had mental health issues, frequently accessed homeless accommodation and it was difficult to contact her.

The Child and Family Agency (CFA) brought an application under section 47 of the Child Care Act, 1991 seeking to dispense with parental consent as the child was anxious to have a COVID vaccine and required a medical procedure. There were concerns about the delay in the adoption of the child by the foster carers.

The mother gave her consent every year since the child’s birth for her to remain in voluntary care but the social worker was unable to contact the mother now to obtain her further consent. Access had not taken place since 2018 and the mother usually turned up with alcohol and accompanied by different men just to give her consent for the voluntary care arrangement to continue.

The social worker had made contact with the mother the previous year. She had since left the homeless accommodation and it was hard to find her. The social worker contacted Dublin City Council to find the mother and he had been informed she was at a hostel in Dublin. The social worker sent two emails to the hostel and had received no response. It transpired the mother regularly visited the hostel but was not staying there.

The mother used to have a mobile phone and had contacted the social worker on a monthly basis. She did not have a mobile phone now and her calls to the social worker stopped due to the deterioration of her mental health. The guardian ad litem (GAL) was concerned about the mother’s mental health issues and felt it was important to contact her to ensure she was attending treatment.

The child was anxious to have the COVID vaccine and approached the social worker on three occasions about it. The child could not go out with her friends to coffee shops as she did not have the vaccine. She also needed a medical procedure, was in a lot of pain and unable to train with her sports club. The child was going through an unsettled period and had one incident of self-harm but the foster carers had diligently managed her. She had since been referred to CAMHS.

The child felt as though she had been abandoned by her parents and they had no role in her upbringing. The GAL said there was genetic loading with the mother’s mental health condition and the father’s mental health should be checked. The current foster carers were engaged in the process to adopt the child. There was a meeting with the Adoption Authority scheduled in the next week.

The first piece of the adoption process was to assess the foster carers and then to complete the matching process. This part of the process was delayed by the adoption team. The GAL was anxious that the adoption process be progressed and if not, the matter should be brought before the High Court as the child needed permanency. The GAL said: “It is a worry about the message the child picks up from the long time [she had been] in the voluntary arrangement. The child just wants to be part of the family.”

The judge granted the interim care order and dispensed with consent to enable the child to have the COVID vaccine and the medical procedure.

The interim care order was extended at a subsequent hearing. The court heard the father was in custody in the United Kingdom. The mother suffered from mental health issues, was homeless and difficult to contact.

The social worker had located the mother in homeless accommodation and had visited her. The mother could not remember the child. The mother had five children but she told the social worker she only had one child. She had no interest in access. The mother left her accommodation that day and moved to another homeless accommodation. The social worker emailed the mother’s new accommodation but did not receive a response.

The child was anxious about the adoption process which had taken seven years to progress. The papers were currently being prepared for court. The social worker recently contacted the father of the child in the UK and he indicated he was happy with the plans for the child and supported the care order application.

The child had been sent a letter from her father through the prison service in the UK, but the social worker did not share the contents of the letter with the child. The child asked the social worker about counselling. Her GP suggested CAMHS but the child sought an alternative referral and a private psychologist was identified.

The interim care order was extended for a period of 28 days.