A TWO-year care order has been made in respect of a one-year-old girl, who was taken into care after testing positive for opiates at birth.
At a sitting of Clare’s Family Law Court, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, made an application before Judge Gráinne O’Neill where they sought a full care order to be made in respect of the girl.
Last August the court heard the mother was in residential placement with her baby and that the baby had tested positive for opiates and had to be treated for this.
The following month, the mother absconded from the residential placement with the baby.
Tusla had learned that the mother had re-united with a partner, not the father of the baby, who was “an active known heroin user” and that the three had left the country.
They had gone to Britain where contact was made with Tusla by a social worker from the UK and it was conveyed that the mother “had to flee because of threats of violence”.
A care order had been made in Britain but it was decided that the habitual residence of the baby was Ireland and so the baby was placed in foster care in Ireland in early November, through the granting of an interim care order.
Since then this order has been made and renewed a number of times and Tusla were now seeking a full care order.
The court heard that the one-year-old girl is doing well in her foster placement.
It was explained that the mother had wished the child to be fostered by her brother but although he was looked at, it was pointed out that the brother fell out with the mother regularly and they had a volatile relationship, particularly when the mother was using.
The court heard that initially when the care order was made in Britain, the mother engaged well and attended access, even though she and her partner were actively using heroin and were homeless.
She had returned to Ireland for a period and attended access but returned to Britain with her partner. It was said that even if the mother dealt with her addictions, which she hadn’t, that the partner would likely continue to use around her and the baby.
A social worker assigned to the baby said she is “a lovely little bubbly child who is doing very well in care. She has developed a strong bond with her foster family”.
Contact was sparse with the mother the court heard and that the last contact that was made was in May. That time, she said she was living in another part of Britain with the same partner and was doing well and on a methadone programme.
The social worker said the mother could not give her the name or contact details for her counsellor or case worker. She said she asked if the mother wanted to come over to see her daughter but she said “she would not be coming back to Ireland because of threats against her and her partner”.
She said when the child turned one she made contact again and this was an “emotional” conversation, but the social worker said the mother could not say when she was coming back to Ireland.
“I advised her of the care review and she showed no real commitment. I rang her before court and she lied that she had given instructions to a solicitor. I learned she did not do so. I had three calls with her where she was emotional,” she said.
She explained that the mother’s last access with her child was in early May. She said there is a full care plan in place for the child and that she is in “a brilliant placement”.
“She is very settled there and is doing very well. The first six months of her life were very uncertain and she had a very changeable lifestyle. Since November she has had a consistent placement, which has been the first stable time of her life and she is doing very well,” the social worker outlined.
Mr Kevin Sherry, solicitor for Tusla, said he acknowledged that this child is still very young to make a full care order but he felt given the history, the failed attempts at unification and the mother’s decision to flee Ireland on two occasions that a full care order was warranted.
The social worker said she could not see any long term stability and, in order to provide stability, the child needed a permanent care order.
It was explained that the mother would have to come to the child and that it was not possible to deliver the child to her, which is what the mother was possibly hoping would happen.
The court heard “for unification she has to come over here and she’s not willing to do that. She said on two occasions that she can’t come back and has settled and that’s where she wants to stay”.
Judge O’Neill said this was the second “somewhat unusual order” being sought by Tusla that day for a very young child, this child being a little over 12-months-old.
She said, from the evidence, there seemed to be “little hope of progress”.
She said that given the child’s age there was no way to canvass her views but that her interests are paramount. Notwithstanding all this, she said the evidence suggested that the mother had gone through periods of engaging well and so she did not feel it appropriate to impose a full care order. She granted a two-year care order.