An application by the HSE for a Supervision Order was refused in respect of a mother who had a difficult history with alcohol, but was now doing well. She had opposed the Order. Prior to the SO application, the HSE had applied for an ICO based on historical information. It had not been granted as the judge did not feel it was appropriate and the application was adjourned.
The mother had left the city in which she had been living for 20 years when she was pregnant, she had left her partner and come to a treatment centre, where she was doing well. She also had two children in foster care and two children living in the care of their fathers.
The mother chose to represent herself and did not wish to seek advice from the Legal Aid Board. She told the judge she had looked up information on the Supervision Order on the internet and was happy to continue. Before proceeding, the judge passed down a copy of the Child Care Act to the mother and explained in detail what a SO entailed.
The social worker read out her report, describing a history of excessive drinking which dated back to 2007, the fathers of her children had “alluded to excessive drinking of mother and her leaving her children with teenagers.” In 2009 she had admitted to binge drinking and in 2010 she admitted to a drinking problem and that she could not care for her children. A number of times over the years she was admitted to a detox clinic. She had been homeless and living on the street. There had been domestic violence from her ex-partner.
She had moved [to this city] during her pregnancy and was reported to be sober. She had attended a treatment centre and was living in a residential centre with her three month old baby. She had lost contact for three years with her other children, but had begun to re-establish it now. The father of the baby and one other child (her ex-partner) was currently incarcerated and had 70 previous convictions.
There was a crèche in the treatment centre where she lived and her current plan was to move to transitional housing when it became available. She was planning to travel to the other city to see her children every two weeks.
“Although she is doing well…[the baby] remains at risk…she is at the initial stages of recovery, there is a pattern of returning to alcohol once she leaves treatment, she is at risk of relapsing once she leaves the facility,” said the social worker.
“It is acknowledged she has made huge efforts to abstain from alcohol. Once she leaves treatment she fails to engage in aftercare services and begins to drink again. When she can easily access alcohol a high level of risk is involved,” she continued.
She was concerned about her returning to the other city to see her children, the children would come here instead because it was a safer option. She had been approved by the local council for accommodation.
The mother told the court that the report was based on her life with her ex-partner. “It’s taken me 20 years to get out of [the other city] and re-start my life,” she said. In her past she had been homeless and there had been constant domestic violence. When she moved into supported housing she would stay in contact with her residential unit, she would be attending programmes for the next two years.
The judge told her the reason the HSE solicitor was “concerned about the future is because he knows about the past, it’s a predictor.”
The project worker in the residential centre told the court that the centre worked with child protection first. The mother had come in homeless in April and had made huge progress since then. She had been allocated a place with the council for housing. She went for a protection order knowing that her ex-partner would receive a copy of it.
The baby was meeting all his milestones. She was implementing a parenting programme, she was going to group therapy, she was making structural changes and promoting her life skills and parenting skills. The mother had a set routine every day and was involved in running aspects of the residential centre.
She would enter a “step down programme” for eight weeks, and would always be open to random urine and breathe tests on moving into transitional housing, where staff would be present. The baby would still attend the crèche facility in the residential centre. She was also looking at completing her child care qualifications.
If her behaviour changed it would be flagged straight away and an instant report would be made. She understood the concerns the HSE had due to past behavioural issues and she accepted that in the past when the mother lapsed it could be very damaging.
If her behaviour slipped the project worker would call the social worker up for an agency visit. She would also notify her when the mother moved on to transitional housing. Her behaviour would indicate she was at high risk long before she picked a drink, she told the court. If she did slip, she would get the mother back into the residential centre, then ring the social worker and the Gardaí. The residential centre could facilitate her access visits.
In light of the evidence the judge found the application to be premature and did not grant the Supervision Order.
The mother promised the court that she would undertake to tell the social worker when she moved on to Step Down, before the transition into final housing; if she intended going to go to [the other city] for any reason for the next year; she also gave permission to the project worker to notify the HSE if there was any sign of a slip.