Wednesday 21 March 2018

Roma baby girl to remain in HSE care

Four Courts and River Liffey
Four Courts and River Liffey

A ONE-year-old Roma baby girl is to remain in HSE care after a judge said there was "deeply disturbing" evidence of her mother's ability to protect and meet the baby's needs.

That evidence included, when the mother and child went to Temple Street Hospital last June, staff were concerned about the baby's diet and hygiene and because she had very serious nappy rash, Mr Justice George Birmingham said in the High Court.


The mother, aged in her twenties, and accepted to have a very close bond with her child, said she could only change the nappy twice daily due to financial constraints and was breast feeding the baby who, apart from a banana now and then, was getting no other solid food.


While the hospital had referred the mother, child and mother's then partner to the public health nurse, the family left their accommodation at that time.


In July, after the mother went to a Dublin garda station saying she could not get accommodation, the baby was placed in voluntary care.


The mother, who had received medical treatment in St James' Hospital, later sought to have the baby returned and wanted to return with her to Romania.


Other concerns were that the mother, despite having mouth ulcers, was prechewing food and giving it to the child and had been sleeping rough for a time.


She also told social workers in August last both she and the child had been subject to violence from her former partner, who is not the child's father. The mother is no longer with that man and no longer sleeping rough.


Given that and other evidence from social workers, Mr Justice Birmingham said it would have been "a dereliction of duty" on the part of the HSE had it permitted the child, at this point, to return with her mother to Romania.


He was giving judgment after the mother sought an inquiry under the Constitution into the lawfulness of her child's detention on foot of an interim care order issued by the District Court. She had asked the District Court to discharge that order because she wants to go home to Romania. She had raised €100 by begging which she intended to use to go home by bus with the baby.


Her application was opposed by the HSE on grounds there was insufficient information as to what faced the child in Romania and due to concerns about the mother's stability and ability to parent and protect the child. The District Court refused to discharge the care order.


It was argued on the mother's behalf that the District Court had wrongly placed an onus on the mother to prove the child was at risk if returned to Romania.


In his decision, Mr Justice Birmingham said the information before the District Court as to the mother's ability to protect her daughter and meet her needs was "deeply disturbing  and there was compelling evidence the baby's needs were not being met. The District Court was entitled to conclude there was no basis to direct the interim care order be discharged.


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