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'A very sad case': Addicted and homeless mother fails to be reunited with child

The case is one of twenty published this morning by the Child Care Law Reporting Project.

Image: Shutterstock/Kuzma

THE CASE OF a homeless and addicted mother who failed in her bid to be reunited with her child is one of several cases highlighted in the latest volume of reports released today as part of the Child Care Law Reporting Project.

Details of twenty cases have been published this morning on the project website.

The project publishes regular reports from courts which make orders under the Child Care Act, mainly relating to taking children into care

It collects and analyses data from the proceedings, reports on the nature and outcomes of the child care proceedings and promotes public debate on the issues raised.

Poverty and homelessness, drug addiction and allegations of sexual abuse feature in the latest volume of reports released this morning.

As the Child Care Law Reporting Project notes:

Some of the cases continue to reveal the impact on children and young people of drug addiction and homelessness, which are often linked. In one such case a young child who had been the subject of a Care Order for 14 months was placed in care to the age of 18 because his young mother had failed to deal with her drug addiction during the 14 months and was currently homeless and living in a tent.

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This is the case referred to: 

A FULL CARE Order until the age of 18 was granted for a young child following the expiration of a 14 month short term Care Order. The young mother (who did not attend the hearing) was homeless and had chronic addiction issues, and the court heard that she had had a very tough start in life. Her own mother, who was a long term drug user, had died when she was a young child.

The case had initially come to court as an Emergency Care Order in mid-2013 when the child, then a baby, was taken into care after his mother had been seen smoking heroin down a lane by a Garda. It had been late evening after a very hot day and the baby had been in the buggy beside her, looking grubby and distraught, and the Garda had said that the baby looked red from the sun on his cheeks and legs.

After the infant was taken into Interim Care, the mother was placed in a residential unit. She had no family support apart from her grandmother and two older siblings, one of whom was a heroin addict.

The young mother was moved out of this residential unit on her 18th birthday and had to find private independent living. The guardian ad litem [appointed by the court] gave evidence during the first application for the full Care Order (which resulted in the 14 month short Care Order) that being moved out of the unit would have had a significant impact on the mother.

A clinical psychologist and a drug treatment worker both said that the mother had a beautiful relationship with her son and innate parenting skills. If she could successfully attend residential treatment and supports were put in place for her, it was possible she could care for her son. However it was up to the mother to make the decision to attend residential treatment and move away from her circle of friends who were using drugs.

The judge granted the 14-month short Care Order which would expire when the mother turned 21. She advised the mother to take on her responsibilities during for herself and her child during the 14 months without delay.

Fourteen months later the court heard evidence from the social worker that the young mother had now become fully overwhelmed by her addiction. She was sleeping in a tent and had not had consistent homeless accommodation or begun to engage with drug services. The social worker told the court that the mother’s addiction had become more entrenched since the granting of the short Care Order, the relapse had accelerated since then.

The mother, who had been served notice of the hearing, did not attend. It was obviously a very sad case, the Child and Family Agency solicitor said, but to delay the matter any further was prejudicial to the child.

The social worker told the court that the mother’s situation had deteriorated very rapidly immediately after the short Care Order. Reunification had been planned and was being proceeded with but due to her relapse into drug use the Care Order application had been made. “She wants to do better but her situation is very serious at the moment, she is not engaging. She is very likeable, intelligent, warm, kind, and has insight into our roles but we are very worried about her,” the social worker said.

She told the court that the child’s foster family were very positive about his mother and towards her. “He includes his mummy in his nightly prayers. Despite her very serious struggles in her life she engaged very well at access and it was a very positive experience for him, the reports all said. But her health has deteriorated, her energy is a bit low,” the social worker said.

She told the court that the mother had bought the tent in order to avoid the drug users in homeless services. However what she needed was to be in a drug programme. Currently the mother was “immensely overwhelmed by her addiction, she is emaciated and not wearing clean clothes, part of the reason she is not presenting [at court] is that she would be embarrassed by being dishevelled. She is in full denial about the extent of her addiction.”

The guardian ad litem told the court that if the mother had been “given half a chance when she was a very young child who knows where she would be now?

“Observing access between her and her son was a pleasure,” she told the court, “he was so warm with her and loving like his mam, she was overwhelmed, she deserved all the supports she got from the services. She worked so hard to reunify with her son and only at the last stage, perhaps, self-destructed. The reality of parenting [her son] and the fears of failing and her awareness of it impacting on him and she didn’t want to disrupt him. I’m extremely concerned about her, Judge.”

She told the court that the child was fully aware of his mother and was making a card for her birthday which was the week following the hearing. His foster family had bought presents for her.

The judge granted a full Care Order until the age of majority for the young child. She asked the Child and Family Agency to encourage the mother to attend drug rehabilitation and return to her education should she ever come back to it.

Details of the others cases published this morning can be viewed here. Comments are closed for legal reasons. 

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