Interim care order extended where mother suffering from mental health issues

An interim care order was extended in a provincial town in respect of one child in a direct provision centre. The child had been taken into care on two separate occasions since 2020 after the Gardaí had invoked their powers under section 12 of the Child Care Act, 1991 following concerns about the mother and child’s presentation. The mother was from an African country and had traumatic experiences in her country of origin contributing to her mental health issues and alcohol misuse. The guardian ad litem (GAL) supported the application.

At a previous hearing of an extension application the social worker told the court the child had had a placement move and a placement had been found for him in another town. On the journey to the placement, the social worker noticed the child was unwell. He subsequently recovered and was doing well in his new placement and was enjoying the company of the foster carers’ teenage children. A psychologist had been identified for the mother and he would conduct an assessment in the following month.

Access had increased since the last date and the mother was able to have access twice a week. The social worker did not have feedback regarding access yet but she was to check in with the next access. The social workers invited the GAL and the Gardaí to the next strategy meeting. The social worker was trying to source a psychologist who would also be invited.

The child sustained unexplained injuries when in his mother’s care and the GAL felt it was important that medical evidence on these injuries would be made available.

At this hearing the court heard there was a history of social work involvement with the family. In 2020, staff at the direct provision centre had contacted the Gardaí in relation to the mother’s presentation. The mother had received news that her application for a declaration of refugee status had been refused and she was holding the child and threatening to kill herself. The mother was taken to hospital and section 12 was invoked by the Gardaí.

The mother had then engaged with mental health support services and developed a support network and the child had subsequently been returned to her care. In late 2021, the Gardaí again invoked section 12 on foot of concerns from staff at the direct provision centre that the mother was intoxicated and the child was bruised. The child had been admitted to hospital and found to be severely dehydrated, hungry and lethargic. The mother’s residence was unsanitary with lots of wine bottles strewn around.

The mother had initially given no explanation as to how the child sustained his injuries. She later gave three possible explanations for the child’s injuries. The social worker said: “we are concerned about those scenarios and we are requesting a forensic psychological assessment. We have made contact with three psychologists.” The mother was consenting to the assessment.

The social worker said: “I worry about her insight. During the ‘child in care’ review, she was focussed on wanting the child back and she did not evidence insight into the concerns.” The social worker was of the opinion that a GAL would be important for the child.

The mother was looking for three hours’ access but the access centre could only facilitate one hour due to Covid. The child was described as a “lovely little boy, very active and sociable.”

He did not cry when he fell and he did not get upset. The child was too young to start life story work. The social worker said: “We are keen to support the mother. The child was in care twice and if he returns [home], we do not want him back in care.”

The new social worker had undertaken significant work with the mother in the two weeks the case was assigned to her and she had arranged to meet with the mother and discuss the support she needed. The mother’s traumatic experience in her homeland played a part in her mental health difficulties and her drinking.

The interim care order was extended for a period of 28 days.