Interim care order extended for infant where doubt about mother’s capacity to consent

The Child and Family Agency (CFA) brought an application for the extension of an interim care order in respect of an infant girl who was a few months old. The child had been brought into the care of the CFA as a newborn baby. The solicitor for the CFA told the court that the application for the extension was uncontested and that she intended to rely on the affidavit of the social worker to support the application.

She told the judge that the mother was a vulnerable young woman and the social work team were trying to work together to support her. The solicitor said that the mother had made contact with a number of services and with a consultant psychiatrist who had completed an assessment a number of years ago. Another call was scheduled with the consultant psychiatrist to assess if a further assessment was required and to inform them how best to support the mother going forward.

The solicitor for the CFA told the judge that the child was in a placement with her half sibling and that she was not having contact with her mother at that time. The mother was also not engaging with any professionals or her solicitor. She said that the social worker’s affidavit stated that the circumstances that gave rise to the initial interim care order continued to exist.

The solicitor for the mother confirmed that the mother was not in attendance in court and that she had no instructions. She told the judge that she had had “sporadic contact” with the mother over the previous 28 days and that she had concerns about the mother’s capacity to give instructions. The solicitor said that the full care order which was listed for hearing in five weeks “might be ambitious”. The solicitor suggested that the full care order hearing dates should be vacated and listed for an alternative date to provide an opportunity to assess the mother’s capacity and her role in her children’s lives going forward. She said that in her view the mother had presented as “extremely child-like”, that she was not sure to what extent the mother had the capacity to take on board the information and that maybe some psychiatric input should be considered.

The solicitor for the guardian ad litem (the GAL) said that he “echoed” what was said by the mother’s solicitor and he was concerned about the mother’s vulnerability. He told the court that the mother was a former child in care herself and that she had been in special care. The GAL had reported that the child was doing well in her foster care placement. He said that the GAL supported the extension of the interim care order and that there was “sense” in the full care order hearing date being pushed back as given the child’s age the GAL did not think that it would prejudice the child.

The judge said that he had a note on the file and asked whether an issue in respect of the registration of the birth certificate had been sorted out and the solicitor for the CFA confirmed that it had been but said that there had been a delay in the passport office which still needed to be sorted out.

The judge noted that the mother had not provided instructions to her solicitor in respect of the extension application. He was satisfied that the affidavit of the social worker confirmed the continuing threshold for an interim care order and that the circumstances which gave rise to the initial care order continued to exist and he noted that the GAL supported the application. The judge made an order extending the interim care order for twenty-eight days and he vacated the section 18 full care order hearing date to allow a report to be prepared. The judge relisted the full care order hearing for a date in three months’ time.