A judge made an Interim Care Order for a young child whose mother had been served with an Eviction Notice for alleged anti-social behaviour. The mother is a member of the Traveller community and the child’s father died when she was three months old. The case was heard in a rural town and the judge had made an Emergency Care Order at a previous sitting.
The social worker allocated by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) outlined the concerns the agency had. These included a lack of appropriate accommodation as well as the child’s fluctuating weight, missed medical appointments and the mother’s presentation during social work visits. The CFA had historical concerns about neglect, previous drug misuse and domestic violence.
Matters had come to a head when the mother was given a seven day Eviction Notice for anti-social behaviour and she failed to come up with an acceptable plan for alternative accommodation. The social worker said the CFA had sought and obtained an Emergency Care Order because the mother and daughter would have had no fixed abode. The mother, who is on the local authority housing waiting list, had three other children and she was now residing with her sister, who had two children, in a three bedroom house.
The social worker said this was a short term option for the mother. The CFA would be prepared to see the sister’s house and do an assessment. Other options acceptable to the CFA would be private rented accommodation and the agency had met with the mother three times to assist her and had given her contact details of letting agencies. “We’ve continued to give her support,” she said.
The social worker said the agency was concerned about the child’s feeding routine and her loss of weight. The agency was looking for some stability for the child where she could get into a routine with normal feeding. She did not believe that routine could be formulated in the sister’s house. They were giving ongoing support to the mother which included help with feeding techniques.
The child was not walking at 22 months of age and the public health nurse has seen her strapped tightly into her chair with no sign of toys. If the Interim Care Order was made, the social worker said that the mother would have access twice a week for one to two hours. It would be supervised for the purpose of guiding the mother for feeding and providing stimulus for the infant. “It’s an educative piece,” she said. The CFA also wished to carry out a parenting assessment of the mother.
The mother’s barrister said she was finding it difficult to get private rented accommodation because she was a Traveller and the social worker had confirmed this. The mother would consent to a Supervision Order. She was prepared to fill in diet sheets and would take her child to all medical appointments. She was prepared to work with community health and social workers.
The social worker said the mother had made commitments “for a lot of things” in the past but had difficulty in carrying them out. The barrister said the mother’s sister was living in the house with a young son and the mother would have her own room with a cot in it. The social worker said the sister had said in the past that she would support the mother but there had been a drop off in commitment over time.
The sister gave evidence that the child had been a difficult baby to feed but the mother tried her best. Her sister was now living with her and she would keep her there for as long as possible. She would be prepared to attend medical assessments with her sister. She had been helping her sister since her husband died. The baby had been born prematurely and had a number of medical problems.
The mother told the court that she was on the housing list and had been unsuccessful in obtaining private rented accommodation. She said one of the reasons was because she was a Traveller. She had three other children and there had been no involvement with them by the HSE/CFA. Asked about the child’s weight fluctuations, she said “She is a very fussy eater. You have to take your time with her.” She said she would do a parenting course if her child was returned to her and she would agree to supervised access. “I would do everything,” she said.
The judge said that, having heard all the evidence, he was satisfied he should grant the Interim Care Order.