Uncontested care order for young child where siblings also in care – 2023vol1#34

Dublin District Court granted a care order for a young primary school age child whose mother was living in a hostel. The mother was informed of the proceedings and formally called but there was no appearance.

The child in question was turning five. The court heard that the mother had been living in a hostel and was in the process of moving to another address but had been served. The court was told that she was aware of the proceedings and had also been texted by the social worker. The court heard that the guardian ad litem (GAL) was supporting the application.

The allocated social worker told the court that she had known the family since 2002. Six other children were in care and seven were in voluntary care. There was a history of drug misuse and mental health issues.

The social worker was asked if there was any contact with the mother between 2015 and 2018 and she said no, though she had contact with the Rotunda about drug misuse. The baby had been in the neonatal unit. The mother signed a voluntary care agreement in 2018. The mother was visiting the hospital twice a day initially, however she could not maintain access. In relation to the child the court heard that she was getting on well in her placement and had been long termed matched with two of her half siblings.

The child had recently recovered from a chest infection and in relation to her speech the court was told that an assessment had been done in 2022 and there were no major concerns.

The court heard that the mother had not had any access since 2020 though the foster mother sent messages to the birth mother. In relation to sibling access the foster carer arranged these visits informally. In addition, the court was told that there was phone contact and special access and there was sibling access and that the most recent of these had taken place the previous month.

The social worker said she had met with the mother in early 2023. The mother was updated on the children and was told that they were safe and she was happy. The social worker provided the mother with the foster carer’s new address. The Child and Family Agency (CFA) solicitor asked the social worker why they were asking the court for a full care order and whether the mother addressed any of the concerns. She replied “no”. In relation to the GAL’s recommendations she said the case should be relisted for review when the child reached 16 and a half.

The judge said that the child was doing well and the placement was long term matched and the foster carer kept the mother informed, however the mother did not attend sibling access.

The GAL confirmed that in her professional opinion it was in the child’s best interests for the order to be made and she was supportive of the full care order being made. The GAL confirmed that she had been involved with the elder siblings since 2010. The GAL had been involved in the case since this child was received into care and the interim care order had been made.

The GAL said that they did have contact in November 2022 with the mother where she reintroduced herself. She had met the child on one occasion and had updated the mother, encouraging her to engage with the CFA. The GAL said that she visited the child at home that she was a very bright, happy, bubbly child she was living with her half-brothers. She said she was affectionate and loving, she had an understanding of her other siblings and what she referred to as her “tummy mummy”. She said the child was well integrated and well settled and she was satisfied that the full care order was in the child’s best interests. It was suggested that there would be a review at the cusp of secondary school and an aftercare review scheduled at 16 and a half and that reunification would always be an option.

In relation to the evidence, the judge said that the child was well placed and enjoyed her half-brothers and enjoyed access with her siblings. He agreed there should be a review at 16 and a half. He noted the sad circumstances of the mother’s past and that the foster care placement was long term matched. The judge said that the child was entitled to “safety, stability and certainty”.

The judge said that the mother seemed to have engaged well when the child was born but that that had fallen away. The GAL should be discharged as and from the date of the making of the full care order.

The judge said that the GAL’s recommendations had been accepted by the CFA. The case was re-entered for 2034.