Interim care orders were extended for three brothers, B and C of primary school age and A, a teenager, because of parental drug use. C was placed in foster care while A and B were in a residential care unit. The mother was not in attendance and was not represented.
The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) said that the boys had been in the care of their grandmother and an interim care order was granted in early 2021. The social worker told the court that she had made strenuous efforts to contact the mother, but they had all been unsuccessful. She said the mother had no mobile phone or house phone and did not return any of her calls. She said she did not go to the mother’s house because of safety issues.
She said she had contacted the local addiction centre to try to establish contact, but this too had been unsuccessful. She said the mother had and continued to have significant ongoing drug addiction issues, including addiction to the strongest drugs. The social worker said the mother had never engaged with any services to address this addiction and had never been through any rehabilitation or treatment processes. She said the mother had no keyworker and would need one-to-one support.
She said the mother had been trying to enter into a residential programme but before that could happen the mother would need to achieve a period of stabilisation and she had not achieved this. “She [the mother] was in a pre-contemplation phase, which meant she has not even begun to think about stopping her drug use. She heavily associates with drug addicts and dealers, this compounds an already difficult situation.”
The social worker said the brothers had been doing well. She said C was doing especially well in foster care. He was settled and was going to school. She said A and B did not like their residential unit as it was in a different county, was far away from their home, family and friends. There had been family access between the brothers, but it was difficult because of Covid restrictions.
The GAL gave evidence and said that she had seen C, he was doing well and was attending school, he was content and there were minimal issues. She said that the boy had access with his grandmother and brothers. His brothers and grandmother were the priorities for him, he did not view his mother as a priority.
She said the brother’s grandmother had had difficulties trying to manage all three boys. She said it was difficult for her to set boundaries, but this was easier with C because he was younger and more reasonable.
She told the court A and B were placed in a residential unit in a different county, which they were finding difficult because of the situation and also because of the Covid restrictions. They had not gone to school and had not engaged with online classes. They were using this as a method to try to control the situation, to have access with their family or return home. She said that A had said that as long as he remained in care he would not go to school.
However, the GAL said she believed that there was hope, as she had spoken to the staff of the residential unit who had felt that the boys were slowly adapting. She said that their resolve may be waning and they were warming to the staff. A care worker at the residential unit had been unwell and A had expressed his concern for her. The GAL said this particular residential unit had a very low staff turnover which she thought would be good for in helping the boys establish relationships, but she said this would take time.
The GAL said the brothers had an older cousin who was a positive role model. They admired this cousin and he had influence with them. She and the social worker had tried to engage this cousin to use his influence to encourage the boys to re-engage with education. “All avenues and incentives have to be tried, all avenues have to be pursued to re-engage [A and B] with education, it might be necessary to consider home school.” The GAL said that the boys had wanted more access with their younger brother and with their family but the Covid restrictions made this difficult. She said more access could be used as an incentive to persuade them to return to school.
She said she had met with the boy’s mother but it had been very difficult to engage in any meaningful way with her. She believed the mother had been under the influence of substances because of her poor concentration, glazed eyes, and limited conversation. She said the mother only talked of the present and would not engage with making any plans. However, the GAL said the mother had wanted her to tell the boys she loved them.
The GAL said she thought the mother was embarrassed by her drug addiction issues, the issues had been going on for so long and she had not addressed them. The GAL said that before any residential drug rehabilitation programme would be offered to the mother, she would need to demonstrate a stabilised period for a least one month and she was very far away from that. The GAL said she was supporting the application as the boys needed certainty and a long-term plan.
The judge said the conditions of the original application remained. He said he would grant an extension of the interim care orders for 28 days and listed the care order application for case management.