A full care order was made in respect of a child whose mother was from an Asian country. The mother, who was Muslim, had recently travelled to her country of origin and there was a concern she was being forced into marriage. A GAL had been appointed to the child and the mother. The GAL for the child had no contact with the mother and was supporting the application. The mother was represented but was not present. She was not objecting to the application.
The child was born in 2017 at 31 weeks gestation and was admitted to the special care unit following her birth. A referral was received by the social workers three days later outlining concerns for the mother’s safety. The mother had the baby out of wedlock and she claimed to have been raped. The mother’s brothers appeared at the special care unit and threatened to throw the baby in the bin as the mother had brought shame on the family.
There were concerns about the ability of the mother to take care of the baby as she was not able to take advice on board. The baby was in foster care since her discharge from hospital and she had a number of appointments. The mother consented to all of the appointments.
The mother did not provide any details about the father. Following the birth of the baby the social worker received a phone call from a man who claimed he was not aware that he was the father. The social work department received funding to carry out DNA testing but the man failed to attend the meeting. The social worker had difficulties contacting the man. She managed to send him a text message but she suspected he blocked her number.
The mother had access to the child before she travelled to her country of origin. When she returned to Ireland she said she did not want any more access. Access had been in place three times a week. The mother failed to turn up to some visits and access was subsequently reduced to once a week. The access worker expressed concerns about the mother’s ability to change the child’s nappy and hold her in a safe way at access. The social worker was of the view that the child was in need of long-term care as the mother could not meet her needs and reunification was not a possibility.
Counsel for the mother said the mother believed the child was best placed with foster carers. The review period was open to the court and a review of one year would give the mother a chance to re -engage with the child and with access.
The GAL for the child said the mother had a very low IQ. A wardship application was brought due to concerns about capacity of the mother. A medical visitor had been appointed to assess the mother. The social worker said she met the mother last week and the mother was in agreement with medical visitor. There were issues about the mother meeting with a man on her own.
There were significant concerns about the mother’s whereabouts. The mother travelled twice, to United Kingdom and her country of origin. There were concerns she was travelling to get married. The mother was currently in Ireland and due to travel to her country of origin later in the year to get married to her first cousin. The social worker met with the mother and discussed the risks of the arranged marriage. The mother delivered the baby by caesarean section and had a scar measuring 15 centimetres in length.
The social worker outlined to the mother the risks to the woman in her country of origin. Following a wedding in the mother’s country of origin, the groom’s family would stand outside the door of the bedroom on the wedding night. When the marriage was consummated, the bedsheet would be held up to the family to show the bride’s virginity. If there was no blood on the bedsheet, there would be an honour killing or mutilation of the bride.
The mother said the practice did not happen in the area from which she came. The solicitor for the GAL said that part of the mother’s county of origin was the “honour killing capital of the world and there was a real risk to the mother.”
The solicitor for the GAL for the child said: “It is not a matter of if but when. There [will be] ramifications for the child if the mother disappears. Would the social workers speak to the mother to liaise with international social services?” The social worker said they could look into that and they were creating a memory box for the child.
The mother had been reticent to engage with the GAL of late. The GAL would continue her role with the mother for a period of three weeks and explain the court process to the mother. The GAL said: “There is a whole cultural aspect to it [the case]. It is in the context of the mother having a low IQ, she is extremely vulnerable and open to suggestion. She is a lovely, gentle young woman but her ability to understand and know what is the truth is is difficult. She has come up with different times and dates about what is going on in her life.”
The mother spoke of her desire to tell her future husband about the child. The mother told the GAL: “I know he [the husband] loves babies and he will grow to love the child.” The GAL said: “This is how naïve she is. She wants to believe she is not at risk. If the child goes back for her files, it be recorded that everyone helped her mother.” The child was thriving in her placement. The foster carers were understanding of the mother’s position and photographs were taken during access. A memory box was being created for the child.
The GAL for the mother was appointed when the child was seven months old and supported the care order. The GAL had not had enough information about the culture and capacity of the mother and asked for the solicitor. The HSE brought the application to the High Court to prevent the mother from leaving the jurisdiction and returning to her country of origin. The President of the High Court, having heard evidence from the mother and due to the lack of medical evidence, felt the mother had capacity and had the ability to travel to her country of origin and the mother did not return on the agreed date.
The GAL made a visit to the house and the mother’s brother said the mother was in her country of origin when the mother told the GAL she was in Ireland. The GAL said she would meet with the mother and explain the care order.
The judge said she was satisfied the threshold was met. She listed the matter for review in 12 months. The GAL for the child would to be reappointed six weeks in advance of the review.