Access was increased for a mother who was recovering from alcohol addiction during a review of a Care Order in a rural town. The Care Order had been made for three years in December, and the mother had attended a residential alcohol treatment course.
The mother’s solicitor said that since the mother returned to her home town she was attending between seven and ten meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous a week. She had supervised access with her child after school twice a month in a HSE centre in a neighbouring town. She was looking for weekly access.
The child was asking to see where she lived. He probably wanted to see if there was a man around or alcohol in the house. The mother would hope to be moving towards overnight access in the summer.
The social worker said it was not the policy of the social work department to continue supervised access. They encouraged the child to go to the library and a coffee shop with his mother, to build trust between them. Trust was very important to the child.
In the past the mother had asked him about the foster family and he felt intimidated by that. In relation to asking to visit her, the social worker said he wanted to know who she was with and what she was doing. At the moment she was not in a permanent address. In the past she had moved from place to place and that made him anxious. “Right now this is what he’s happy with. It’s not a permanent arrangement.”
The mother told the court she had been sober for a year. She had weekly access before she went on the treatment programme and when she came back it had been reduced. Her son had been in the St Patrick’s Day parade and she was not allowed to go and see him in it. “The guardian ad litem suggested I be involved in significant events but I am not allowed. I am not allowed watch him do Irish dancing. He showed me his medals.
“I don’t ask him about the foster family. I did ask him three years ago if they asked about me, that was the addictive behaviour. I did tell him I would be a year without alcohol and the social worker rang and said that was not appropriate.”
Mother: “I don’t know.”
Judge: “For his whole life he will have that fear.”
Mother: “My primary purpose is to stay sober. In relation to visiting, I think he’d like a picture in his head of where his mother lives.”
“Judge: “Do you accept that part of it is seeing there is no alcohol and no undesirables there?”
Mother: “Yes. I’m not seeing [the partner] who was causing him anxiety. I have a one-bedroom apartment and I hope to get a two-bedroom house so my son can visit.”
The CFA solicitor asked her if she accepted her son asked for access to be supervised.
Mother: “No. The last time in the library he did not ask once for the social worker who was at the other end of the library.”
She said she accepted that trust had to be re-built with her son, but she said that the level of access was straining the relationship. “I missed his last two birthdays through addiction. His next birthday is next month. I feel the social workers are holding up the GAL recommendations.”
“I feel things should be progressing much faster,” the judge said. “This woman has neglected her child, she is an alcoholic and there will never be 100 per cent trust from her child. I think the access is insufficient, I think it should be weekly. I think arrangements should be made for him to visit her and he should be left for a time with his mother in her apartment. I don’t accept arguments about it being temporary. Most apartments are temporary.”
The CFA solicitor said there was no difficulty with birthday access, but there was such a jump to both weekly access and a visit to the apartment. This should be supervised.
Judge: “She has to live with the fact that he is the son of an alcoholic mother who treated him badly in the past. He has to live with that too. Weekly access to be supervised at the moment, carry out the GAL recommendations and there will be a review in July.”