A woman who had been in the psychiatric ward of a hospital for the past two years became very distressed in court because she had not had access to her young child.
The matter came up during a hearing to extend an Interim Care Order, when her solicitor said she had had very little access to her child. The solicitor for the HSE said it had been difficult to arrange access, as the mother had significant mental health issues and behavioural issues around that.
She said the nursing and psychiatric staff had said if was difficult for her to engage with access, and already there had been an unpleasant incident with the social worker in the corridor outside the court that morning.
“The bitch. I spat in her face. She’s trying to steal my child from me,” the mother said.
The social worker told the court that the woman also had problems with drug and alcohol misuse which created difficulties in arranging access. Sometimes she was not present and at other times her behaviour might put her young son’s safety at risk.
“We need to make sure it’s a safe place for him to be. She loves her son very much. We would like to be able to promote that. There was a meeting with the hospital team about how to promote access. The outcome was that it would not be safe. In the meantime she gets photos, he has access to the music she made, etc. He has settled very well with the foster parents and has good attachment to them,” she said.
“I haven’t been taking drink or drugs for months,” the mother told the court. “I’m on lithium and sleeping tablets. These are the toys I have for my son. I’d like to see him tomorrow. I’m sorry I spat in [social worker’s] face. She’s trying to take my son away because she can’t have children of her own.”
Asked if she was taking her medication, she said: “Too much. I wake up every morning and I can’t move my body.”
Her solicitor said that what the social worker wanted was for her not to leave the hospital for 48 hours or use illicit drugs or alcohol during that time, in order to see her son in the hospital.
“I want to see him tomorrow,” the woman said. “I’ll go to him. I’ve seen children brought into the hospital. It upsets me. My son’s going to be a rock star when he grows up. I want to give him my banjo ukulele for Christmas.”
The guardian ad litem for the child said that she would welcome access if it did not compromise the child’s safety. “There is no doubt about the integrity of the assessment of the medical staff when they say they don’t think it can go ahead safely. I would have no objection to access even tomorrow if she complied with the conditions. We all support her having a meaningful relationship with him. He is a beautiful little boy, very like his mum, very happy, very smiling. The foster parents are very committed to preserving his mother as the natural mother in his life.”
Asked what were the conditions for safe access, the guardian said: “No shouting. No unpredictability. There is no suggestion she would deliberately harm him. She must stay in the ward for 48 hours with no drugs or alcohol. She should stay calm.”
“I give up. I give in. I’ll never see my son again. I’m leaving,” the mother interjected.
“You have to remain calm,” the judge said. “You don’t want to upset [your son].”
“The day he was born was the best and the worst day of my life,” the mother said. “They took my son away.”
Renewing the Interim Care Order, the judge said: “All you have to do is remain calm so that access can take place. You can see him if you stay calm for 48 hours and don’t take drugs or alcohol which you say you don’t take anyway.”
“Thank you very much,” the woman said.