A judge in a rural town granted one-year care orders for two children of primary school ages, children A and B, and made a continuing order that their mother was not to attend at the children’s school. The Child and Family Agency (CFA) lawyer reported that the mother had ongoing serious mental health issues and had not engaged with medical treatment.
The CFA lawyer said there had been two serious incidents when the mother had attended at the children’s school and Gardaí had to be called. Children A and B were represented in court but their lawyer, social worker, the CFA lawyer and the judge were constantly interrupted and shouted at during the proceedings by the children’s mother.
The CFA lawyer explained to the court that she was seeking a one-year care order for A and B. Their mother, who was present in the court, immediately shouted out that this “was not happening”. A Garda who was present in court began to intercede but the judge asked the Garda to wait outside the courtroom for a while. The judge asked the mother if the children’s father was present and the mother replied that he had been present but had since left.
The lawyer for the CFA told the judge that there had been a second incident at the children’s school. The mother’s lawyer said that this matter had been before the court in the past and the mother interrupted, saying that she did not need or want a solicitor to represent her. The social worker told the court that there was a letter from the principal of the primary school where A and B attended.
The CFA lawyer asked the social worker if the mother had been presenting as unwell to which the social worker replied that she was. The social worker reported that she had only recently taken on the case and had spoken with the children’s doctor who said the mother had not engaged with medical services or treatment and that he had not seen her. At this point the children’s mother interjected that this was a false allegation and she was not unwell but was taking mood stabilisers. The social worker told the judge that she had tried unsuccessfully to contact the children’s mother on her mobile.
The social worker reported that she had contacted by the children’s school about two incidents that had taken place there. On one occasion the children’s mother had wanted to pass a parcel to her children. The school principal met the children’s mother off the school grounds. On a second occasion when the children’s mother attended at the school, it led to the principal having to take all the pupils in from the school yard for safety and she had called the Gardaí.
The social worker reported that children A and B have been in the care of foster parents for over a month, have settled very well with the foster family and are happy in their school. When the judge enquired about the father’s access rights, the social worker said there was an informal arrangement for access with the father. The mother shouted up that the children’s father was “smoking heroin” and that he was a “scumbag”. The social worker said the CFA was concerned for the children’s safety and stability and was concerned about the mother’s presentation. The lawyer for the CFA asked the social worker about concerns expressed by the mother’s neighbours and the social worker said neighbours had expressed concerns about the mother’s behaviour.
The judge told A and B’s mother that he had read the statement written by the children’s school principal. Addressing the mother directly, the judge said that the social work department had concerns.
Judge: “The social work department say you have serious mental health issues and that they want you to engage… they are so concerned about the children in your care”.
The children’s mother approached the judge’s desk and told him that she suffered from being bi-polar. He asked her if there had been a time in the recent past when she was sound and stable and she replied that there was. The judge told the children’s mother that he was acquainted with the characteristics of bi-polar and the highs and lows that went along with it. He advised the mother that she needed to stabilise and balance again. The mother told the judge that at times she could be very agitated when things were getting turned over in her mind.
Judge: “I understand, I am sympathetic.”
The judge asked the CFA lawyer if in the event of the care orders being granted they had planned access visits for the mother with the children and the CFA lawyer replied that they would discuss this again when the mother was “in a good place”. The children’s mother continued to interrupt and the judge intervened and asked her to sit down when the mother physically approached the CFA lawyer, having removed her own protective face mask. The judge again asked the children’s mother to sit down when she started shouting at the social worker and the CFA lawyer: “Have you got any children?”
The judge stated that he was making four orders.
Access for the children’s father was not to be arranged without the approval of the court.
The CFA should consider the suitability of the children’s maternal grandmother as a foster carer for A and B.
The CFA should make arrangements at the earliest opportunity for safe, suitable, supervised access for the mother with her children. The CFA should halt any access visit should the children become distressed by their mother’s conduct or outbursts.
The judge granted the care orders in respect of A and B for one year.
When the lawyer for the CFA asked the judge about the direction that the children’s mother not attend at their primary school, the judge replied that the order that the mother not attend the children’s school was to continue.