A judge in a rural town granted an interim care order for a four month-old child and dispensed with the mother’s consent for a passport application.
Initially the Child and Family Agency (CFA) had thought a supervision order would be appropriate but had since decided an interim care order would better serve the best interests of the child. It also brought a section 47 application to apply for a passport for the child. The mother was not present in court as she was in a residential detoxification centre, but she was legally represented. The mother was opposing the application for the interim care order and the section 47 application.
It had been initially planned that the child would join the mother in the residential unit and the child would have the benefit of a supervision order. However, at a supervised access by the social worker when the safety plan was presented to the mother she had become overwhelmed and distraught. The mother had said that the safety plan was a prison sentence. She said she had been promised the baby would be reunited with her in the residential unit and no safety plan was needed.
The social worker said that no such promises had been made and the situation was constantly reviewed. The mother would not agree to the safety plan and that was the reason the application had changed from a supervision order to an application for an interim care order.
The infant had significant withdrawal issues when she was born and spent six weeks in hospital. Safety plans had been put in place pre-birth and there had been numerous safety planning meetings. The mother had addiction issues and was also homeless. The mother had lost her accommodation because of rent arrears. She had been placed in a mother and baby unit where a parenting capacity assessment was due to be completed but this was unsuccessful.
The infant was placed in a temporary foster arrangement. The mother had been admitted to a residential unit for a 16-week detoxification programme. The social worker said the first week went well but by the second week the mother had disengaged, and unfortunately she was once again overshadowed by addiction.
She said the mother had not been honest about her drug use. The social worker had said the mother had made and retracted allegations about her and the staff at the residential unit. Whilst under the influence of drugs she had been difficult to work with.
The mother had two other children who were both subject to full care orders. The social worker said that she had repeatedly tried to engage with the mother to make a plan that would guarantee the safety of the infant, but the mother had said that her recovery came first.
She said the mother’s position varied. She had a history of significant trauma and this and her addiction issues had to be addressed. The social worker said the mother was happy with the foster placement but would not consent to the passport as the foster carers had planned a holiday and she thought the infant was too young to travel. She was concerned about the heat and what would happen if the infant became unwell. The social worker said if consent for the passport was not forthcoming the infant would have to be moved again and this would be a fourth move in as many months.
The social worker was cross examined by the mother’s solicitor. She agreed that detoxification was a gradual process. She accepted it was exceptionally difficult mentally and physically to withdraw. She said there were great supports on site in the residential unit which included a creche but that the mother would not agree to the other parts of the safety plan and therefore they could not in good conscience risk the infant being returned to the mother.
She confirmed the mother had supervised access three times per week but some of these accesses had been missed by the mother. She confirmed the mother had consented to vaccinations and all medical treatment the infant required. She said it was important the infant started to form attachments and bonds that would be secure and stable. If the infant was moved again it could be detrimental to her.
Children, even young children, go on holiday, she said. If the passport did not materialise in time one of the foster parents had said they would stay behind. However, if the mother was not going to consent to a passport, the foster carers had said they would take their holiday.
The mother’s solicitor asked if the social work department had examined the possibility of placing the child with the maternal grandmother. The social replied yes, they had canvassed that, but the grandmother was caring for the mother’s other two children and had said she would not be able to cope with a third child.
The judge said she had heard the evidence and the threshold for the interim care order had been reached. She said that whilst she appreciated that people had concerns for young children on holiday it happened every day of the week. She would dispense with the mother’s consent for the passport application and would allow the child to go on holiday. She also appointed guardian ad litem (GAL) to the infant.