A four year old girl whose young mother spent years in care has also been taken into the care of the HSE.
Compounding the tragic case - the young woman had earlier this year made a very serious attempt of her life - was the fact that the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) assigned to represent the infant’s legal interests had previously represented the young mother when she was in care.
The case, described as “deeply saddening” by a judge, is one of a number of harrowing cases contained in the third volume of the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP)
The project, led by Dr Carol Coulter, was set up last year in order to report on cases where the HSE seeks orders involving child protection.
The report outlines how an emergency care order was granted for an infant, whose mother was herself a minor and also in care in a mother and baby unit.
The infant was taken into care after a garda passing a group in a patrol car suspected the mother was smoking heroin.
The mother denied smoking the drug.
The garda told the court that the baby boy had no food around his mouth or on his clothing and said the mother had no wipes with her.
Back at the station the baby had a jar of baby food and a bit of Liga according to the garda who testified in the care hearing.
The newly published cases detail, once again, the risks caused by alcohol or drug abuse on the part of the parents whose children are the subject of care proceedings.
In one the children of a homeless drug user were taken into care.
In another, a Care Order was granted for a child whose mother was unable to provide basic care because of her addictions.
The third volume brings to over 90 the number of reports of such cases published by the CCLRP.
The project will launch its first interim report, containing an analysis of more than 300 cases where data was collected during court hearings on the children and their parents, next month.
The interim report will be launched by Chief Justice Susan Denham.
*A baby born to a homeless drug addict suffered withdrawal symptoms for the first six weeks of her life:
A full care order was granted for two young children of a homeless drug user in the Dublin District Court.
The younger child was born with withdrawal symptoms. She was having tremors, and had to be swaddled and kept in a dark room for the first six weeks of her life. A condition called neurofibromatosis was also being watched by the authorities.
The judge granted a full care order for both children until the age of 18 and directed that the HSE provide the mother with therapeutic support so she could engage in access, as it was in the best interests of the children.
The mother had started using heroin at a very young age and had had her first child aged 15. The children were her fifth and sixth children; all of her other children had also gone into the care of the state.
The younger child's father had served time in custody in Ireland due to drug charges and had been evasive with the HSE and vague as to where he lived.
When the mother was 20 weeks pregnant with Child A, the older child, doctors said she was not co-operating in providing urinalysis at the drug clinic. On the day of discharge after the baby's birth, the mother had not tested positive for opiates, but had the previous day for cocaine. She had attended a detox programme prior to the birth and was stable on methadone maintenance.
The mother was going out all night, leaving the baby with father A in their B&B accommodation, and she missed several weight checks and vaccination appointments for the baby.
An Interim Care Order was sought due to serious concerns regarding the neglect of child A and to allow the mother to stabilise on her drug use and find supported accommodation. While the child was in foster care, the mother did not engage in the visits, she had missed 41 access visits with no explanation or contact.
A doctor told the court he had been treating the mother for 13 out of the 20 years she had been attending there, for use of heroin, cocaine, cannabis and benzodiazepines.
*Baby found in buggy beside mother injecting heroine:
An emergency care order was granted for an infant, whose mother was herself a minor and also in care in a mother and baby unit.
The baby was found by a Garda in a buggy beside a group of people hunched in a corner down a laneway.
The mother jumped up when the garda approached the group, and she had a white ring around her mouth. The garda told the court: "people injecting and smoking heroin would have a ring around their mouth, it’s like a white ring stain, it’s really from the fumes."
She was in the company of another woman and a man, who had three “toots” (rolled-up tin foil for smoking heroin). The mother denied she had smoked it, but the garda suspected she had been and deemed her unfit to care for the child at that moment. A Section 12 (taking the child to a safe place) was therefore invoked.
“The infant looked grubby, he had tears in his eyes, he looked a bit distraught, he had a rash under his chin, he was scratching on the back of his neck, there was no smell of sunscreen, he looked red from the sun on his cheeks and legs,” the Garda told the court.
The social worker told the court that the HSE had been involved with the child since he was born, as the mother herself was in care. There had been a pre-birth conference prior to his birth in late 2011. However there had been on-going concerns relating to the mother’s engagement with her placement in the mother and baby unit as well as her alcohol and drug use.
Since late 2012 there had been six child abuse notifications. These were produced in court as matters of fact. They included the mother being found intoxicated and asleep beside her child on the ground at a violent party to which the Gardaí had been called. She had also been found in town intoxicated after being reported missing from her placement, she was abusive and caused property damage. On that occasion the infant had been with the grandmother.
In a separate incident, the court heard that a 30 mg benzodiazepine tablet was found beside the infant’s buggy. The worry was that it may have been the mother’s or the child may have picked it up.
*Children found unwashed and smelling; faeces found on bedclothes
An application for an interim Care Order was part heard and then adjourned for three weeks at the request of the HSE so that grandparents could be assessed as foster carers.
The case involved three children who had been neglected under the care of their mother who had low intellectual ability. Earlier on in the year, the mother had separated from her partner due to domestic violence and had spent time in a women’s refuge.
However she had been asked to leave after the first month due to the fact she had consumed alcohol on one occasion at a family funeral and the refuge had a zero tolerance policy regarding alcohol consumption.
The children were not being washed and were in dirty clothes.
The mother told a keyworker that the smell in the air was there when they had moved in.
The court heard that the children were “in need of better hygiene care, feeding, clothing, she said she was finding it hard.” She was not changing dirty nappies, the children had not eaten sometimes and were often left unattended in the building, in the back yard and on the stairwell.
The infant was spending long periods of time strapped into his buggy and not meeting his developmental milestones, the court heard. Child B’s speech was very minimal.
When child B caught her finger in the back door, the mother stood there but did not seem to know what to do so a staff member attended to the child instead, said the manager of the accomodation where the family were staying.
By the fourth week the mother had started to come back late several nights in a row. A decision was made for her to move on as she had come in smelling of alcohol, they had a zero tolerance policy on women coming in under the influence of alcohol. The social worker was rung.
It took the staff over three hours to clean the apartment, there were faeces on at least one duvet, stains on bedclothes and beds and the kitchen and bathroom bins had been un-emptied.
*Garda was met by a toddler who had such a dirty nappy that there was excrement spread up her back:
An Emergency Care Order was granted for two young children who had been left in the care of their grandmother when she was intoxicated.
Gardai received a 999 phone call from the grandmother, in whose care the children were, and immediately went to her house. A garda described being met by a toddler who had such a dirty nappy that there was excrement spread up her back. The other child was hiding behind a bed.
The grandmother told the Garda that the children’s mother had gone out and left the children in her care. The grandmother told the Garda that she suffered from bipolar disorder.
The Garda invoked her power under section 12 of the Child Care Act, 1991 and took the children away with her and immediately applied to court for an Emergency Care Order. The garda could not find any clothes that fit the children and there was no cot in the house for the baby.
A second 999 call was received that evening from the house where the grandmother lived. When gardai arrived the children’s mother was home with a group of friends and was, in the Garda’s opinion, heavily intoxicated with alcohol and drugs. The Garda saw that the doors and glass cabinets in the house were smashed. There were pots and pans thrown around and the toaster was strewn in the hallway. The Garda found the mother screaming and described her as distraught.
The garda found the grandmother “beaten to a pulp” in another room in the house and was unable to rouse her. She said that she thought that the woman was unconscious and immediately called for an ambulance.
The Garda’s evidence was that the grandmother had texted the mother to tell her that the children had been taken into care after the Garda had invoked section 12 of the Child Care Act on her earlier visit to the house.
*Care order granted for child whose mother has mental health issues:
A full Care Order was granted for a four-year-old girl whose mother had also spent some years in care, and who had had the same guardian ad litem (GAL) as was allocated to the child.
The HSE had concerns about the maternal grandfather [of the child], who had been the subject of the mother’s sex abuse allegations. They were monitoring this situation. The maternal grandmother had told them that the child had witnessed the rape of her mother by the child’s father when she was a baby.
Granting the order the judge said: “This is a deeply saddening case. The medical reports paint a very sad picture. Even more sad is that the GAL was previously the GAL for the mother when she was in care.”
The mother had been in the care of the HSE herself, where there had been allegations of neglect and sexual abuse within her family. The father of the child was known to the HSE and well-known to the Gardaí, and there had been interventions in his family.
He was a “dangerous and volatile man” and had perpetrated a lot of violence against his family and against the mother of the child, including attacking her with a knife and with a chair. There were concerns about domestic violence, his alcohol abuse and his criminality.
The mother’s mental health was a concern, the court heard. She suffered heavily from depression. She had a number of hospital admissions and made a very serious attempt on her own life in February 2013. She had great anxiety she would be rejected by her daughter if she made the wrong decision about her future.
*Care order for a homeless and at-risk teenager engaging in benzo use and carrying out bicycle theft:
An interim Care Order was granted in respect of a teenager who was homeless and whose voluntary care arrangement had broken down nearly three months previously, when he had been discharged from a residential unit.
The solicitor for the GAL said the teenager was homeless and at risk, and his mother was homeless. The HSE was now seeking his detention in a secure unit, though no place was yet available.
Last year the teenager was discharged from a residential unit and moved to another, where he resided for about three months. The boy was involved in Youth Reach, he had bereavement counselling due to the cot death of a younger sibling, he had a youth worker and key workers, but criminality kept re-occurring. The residential structure did not change this, so he was discharged for the second time from a residential unit.
While he was there a lot of bicycle thefts went on, he was getting perhaps €50 for each bike he stole and possibly using that money to acquire weed. There was also a concern regarding benzo use, he was “resting his head for the night and getting the food, but was out and about during the day.”
It was assessed that he would require a higher level of support which was in his interests before he would acquire a criminal record. He was “a very nice kid”, he appeared to have a lot of strengths, but his actions did not follow through. His safety, welfare and development were currently at risk.
“He was found unresponsive one morning, we assumed he may have taken some benzos without knowing the full consequences or dangers of overuse.”
An ambulance was called and he was revived.
“[The mother] is attending her methadone maintenance programme, she is breathalysed on a daily basis, she is attending her clinic, her urinalysis has been clean for some time, domestic violence is in the past, she is in a better position to assist [him],” replied the mother’s solicitor.
Since staying with his mother at her homeless B&B (the mother would not give her address to anyone) the teenager had picked up further criminal charges.
The judge said, “I’m very impressed with the efforts that [the mother] is making recently with regards to her drug and alcohol use."
But the judge added: “The future for [the child] looks very bleak, it seems to me unless there is intervention, and a well thought out intervention, that in a few years’ time [he] will be in jail, his health will be impaired, he could be killed by drug dealers, there’s a fair chance he will be addicted to alcohol and drugs
My Da hits my Ma:
The District Court granted an Interim Care Order in respect of four siblings following allegations of domestic violence later withdrawn by the mother.
Welfare concerns for the children arose when their mother had gone to a women’s refuge with them and sought a protection order against her husband due to domestic violence. However the mother later withdrew all the allegations, saying she had told her children to lie about the violence and now wanted to go home.
The mother had told staff in the refuge that her husband was regularly violent towards her, “he threatened to cut her, he told the children their mother is a whore and works on the street.”
The court heard that the mother had been concerned that “he smoked weed, he shaved a daughter’s head, he told her he could do what he liked and the older daughters would be next. On the day of arrival they appeared quite frightened, withdrawn and anxious, they were trembling, their eyes were on the ground”
A Protection Order was applied for two days later and dates for a Safety Order application were in place.
The social worker interviewed child A at primary school. She very distressed, upset and frightened when they explained her Mum wanted to return. She said out of the blue: “My Da hits my Ma.”
She said she was locked in the toilet with the light turned off. She said it was her job to look after the baby and her Mum let her. Children A and B said they wanted to stay in the refuge, that they liked being there.
Child A said she saw the father cut the mother with a knife, she was behind the couch. Child B also reported that she had been locked into the toilet, she also said she saw her Dad hit the baby on the chin and child A on the nose after which she bled.