Health Service Executive -v- CJ (Shortcomings of Care Plan)

CourtDistrict Court (Ireland)
JudgeHorgan P.
Judgment Date19 December 2012
Neutral Citation[2012] IEDC 27
Case OutcomeApproved
[2012] IEDC 27
19 December 2012
1. This is an applicat ion for a Care Order under section 18 of t he Child Care Act, 1991 in respect of the Respondent’s third child
(“Child 3”) who is aged 17 months.
2. Child 3’s mother was not present in Court but w as represented by s olicitor and was in receipt of Civil Legal Aid.
3. Child 3’s putative father is not married to her mother although the c ouple have t wo other c hildren (Child 1 and Child 2). Both of
these c hildren are in the voluntary care of extended family members. The putative father is identified on c hild 3’s birth ce rtificate as
‘father’; however the mother has stated t hat he is not Child 3’s biological fat her and that his brother is in fact the c hild’s biological
father. Neither the putative f ather nor his brother were present or represented in the proceedings. T he putative father has been duly
4. The mother was in t he care of the HSE as a child and had 23 different placements in the thirteen years she was in HSE care. She
experienced a turbulent life in care and w as at one time made the subject of a High Court Secure Care Order. She is desc ribed as a
particularly vulnerable young woman on the HSE’s file. She is also a member of the trave lling community and it was emphasised by her
solicitor that she would prefer extended family care for Child 3 as she did not w ish her child to repeat her life pattern in stat utory
5. Child 3 was appointed a Guardian Ad Litem (“GAL”) to represent her separate inte rest in the proc eedings. The GAL is represented
by his solicitor.
6. The HSE brought this applicat ion on the basis t hat Child 3’s health, development, and welfare has bee n and is likely to be avoidably
impaired or neglected if she is returned at t his time to the c are of her mother because Child 3 has suffered unintentional harm and
neglect in t he care of her mother due to her mother’s chaotic lifestyle, mental ill health, homelessness, and poly- substance addiction.
7. The Court hea rd evidence from:
(i) Social Worker 1 (with The Drug Treatment Centre Board);
(ii) Social Worker 2 (HSE Team Leader);
(iii) Social Worker 3; and
(iv) GAL.
8. It was not c ontested that t he mother had a long-sta nding history of poly substanc e misuse. Her illicit drug use cont inues to be
chaotic despite her increased dosage of presc ribed Methadone. She c ontinues to be opiate positive on practic ally all samples provided
at t he clinic (save 2 in the last s ix months). She also uses head shop products such as ‘snow blow’ (a variant of mephedrone). This
has caused her to have periods of drug-induced psychosis. She is prescribed benzodiazepines. She has c onsistently at tended all
appointments at the methadone clinic. She was recently at tacked and stabbed out side the c linic and suffered considerable injuries.
Her lifestyle is chaot ic and she has not been able t o stabilise her drug use. Social Worker 1 stat ed in evidence t hat he found her t o be
good to deal wit h and has endeavoured to help her stabilise her drug use in order to gain some cont rol of her life. It was his opinion
that her daily at tendance at t he clinic was to sec ure methadone rather than t o avail of the other services, such as counselling etc
which would assist her in gaining tract ion on her addiction. In his professional opinion, her drug use and lifestyle would have a drastic
effec t on parental ability.
9. Social Worker 2’s evidence was that she knew this mother for a long period. A pre-birth cas e confe rence was convened t o consider
taking the infant into care following her birth; however, in light of the mother’s engagement with her Drug Treatment Centre at that
time, and her willingness to c o-operate with t he HSE, efforts w ere made to support her to c are for this child. These ef forts falt ered in
August/September 2011 as signs of chaos returned to t he mother’s life. Coupled with t his, her choice of partner at that time was
inimical to t he welfare of c hildren generally as he had a convict ion for aggravated s exual assault. While the mother agreed that this
was the case and that s he had informal acc ess to her two o lder children also, nonetheless, she exposed these children to this risk. An
Garda Síochána was monitoring the s ituation at t he behest of the HSE as the mother was c haotic in her engagement wit h the HSE
Social Work Department. Soc ial Worker 2 was also conc erned that the mother’s self-report of low mood and self-harm raised issues
conc erning her mental health and by extension her ability to cope w ith the c hild. While the child was physica lly well cared for, her
mother’s inability to at tune to her needs and her chaot ic lifesty le were deeply co ncerning to the Social Work Department. In addition,
the witness was c oncerned t hat the mother was enmeshed within a dangerous relationship. The mother poste d bail for this man when
he was incarc erated, alt hough she initially denied doing so. T he witness was conc erned for the mother who was vulnerable and who
presented with physic al injuries, which she said had been inflicted by her extended family because of her relationship with this man.
The witness engaged directly wit h the mother who ac knowledged all these conc erns. She said that she had seve ral meetings with t he
mother and she outlined for her what she needed to do in order to gain t raction on her addict ion issues and stabilise her lifestyle in
order to allay HSE fears conc erning the c hild’s safet y and welfare. In December of 2011, the mother showed the witness that s he had
endeavoured to c ut her own w rists; she exhibited and stat ed that she was suffering from low mood and was overwhelmed and unable
to c are for her child. She lost her acc ommodation even though she wa s being assisted by F ocus Ireland. She ac knowledged her

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