Sunday 17 December 2017

Child found down a lane while his mother 'smoked heroin'

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo) Newsdesk Newsdesk

A baby was taken into care after a garda found the child''s mother "smoking heroin down a lane" while the baby sat in a buggy looking "grubby and distraught".

The details of the case are included among 20 published today by the Child Care Law Reporting Project, an initiative launched in 2013 after the law was changed to allow reporting on cases involving orders under the Child Care Act.

The mum in question 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 according to the report.

On the day she was discovered by the garda the baby "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".

The court heard the mum had "innate" parenting skills and would have done very well if she was able to attend a residential treatment centre.

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.

The mother, who was just a teenager, was then 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.

Read More: Questions raised over ability of courts to deal with complex cases of children in care

On her 18th birthday she had to find private independent living. The court heard that moving out would have significant impact on the mother.

Two people desrcibed her "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 report said.

The judge granted the 14-month short Care Order which would expire when the mother turned 21, giving the mum time to "take responsibility" for her addiction and her son.

But just over a year later she did not return to court and a social worker gave evidence that the mum was "sleeping in a tent" and had been "fully overwhelmed" by her drug problem. At that time she was living in a tent.

“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.

The mum was "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 social worker also said.

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?

"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.”

At the time of the hearing, for a full care order for the child, he was making a birthday card for his mum for the following week.

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