A District Court judge told the mother of two young children that she could get her children back from care if she dealt with her drug problem. The children are in foster care under the terms of an Interim Care Order (ICO) which was extended by the judge for a further period of 28 days.
The Child and Family Agency (CFA) brought the application to extend the ICO at a family law court sitting in a rural town. The mother’s solicitor told the judge that his client had a history of difficulty with drugs and alcohol. She had engaged with a drug treatment centre but there had been a relapse. She was the mother of two very young children.
The father of one of the children had a heroin addiction and DNA tests were currently being carried out to establish if he was also the father of the second child. The mother said he was the father of both children. The solicitor told the judge that the mother wished to speak to him (the judge) soon about getting her children back under a Supervision Order.
The judge told her she had a right to address the court but she needed to be physically and mentally ready to have her children back. “I’m prepared to help you but you have to earn that. The sooner you are reunited with them the better,” he said.
Mother: “They need to be with me.”
Judge: “It’s simple. You stop taking drugs and the kids are yours. You help yourself and I will help you. If you’re strung out on heroin, I can’t take the risk with two babies. You try and beat the drug addiction and the kids are yours. It’s hard but it’s simple as well.”
She told the judge she had passed her Group Certificate examination but had not done the Leaving Certificate. She was thinking about doing a training course. “There are plenty of mature students who have gone back to school. Try and get something that suits you,” he told her. He said she should let the CFA know what her interests were. “It is in their interests as well that they have a fit mother. It’s not in their interests to have the children in care.”
The mother told him her urinalysis tests had been clear since last January and she said she had stopped attending a drug treatment centre because she did not want to be around other addicts for fear of relapsing. The judge told her: “Keep it up. It’s a simple thing. You stop abusing drugs and the kids are yours. The CFA will set up a programme for reunification.
“The state will try to reunite you in the right circumstances. The structure is there to help you but if you don’t help yourself, nothing is going to work. Nobody forced you to take drugs and there is no better incentive than to get back your two boys. I want to reunite you. Do you think I like putting kids into state care? I hate it but sometimes I do it in the best interests of the kids. Please prove me wrong.”
The solicitor for the guardian ad litem (GAL) said the children had been moved to a second foster home. The GAL had been concerned about the difficult and disorderly behaviour of one of the children in the first home. He had been getting up in the middle of the night and had spent long periods staring into space. This behaviour had ceased since he moved and the GAL was delighted with his new carers.
The CFA solicitor said the social worker’s report stated the mother had the capacity to be considered for reunification. “She knows what she has to do.” “You can do it,” the judge told the mother. The CFA social worker assigned to the case said a consistent engagement by the mother with a drug treatment centre was required and “so far we haven’t seen that evidence.”
The judge said everybody wanted to help her and “nobody wants to take her kids away from her. It’s not a lost cause for her and we’re heading in the right direction.”
The judge extended the Interim Care Order for 28 days with the consent of the mother.