Three children to stay in State care until they are 18

Judge Colin Daly finds each child suffered ‘emotional trauma and neglect’

Judge Colin Daly rules that three children, who experienced emotional trauma and neglect,  are to remain in the care of the State. Photograph: Collins Courts

Judge Colin Daly rules that three children, who experienced emotional trauma and neglect, are to remain in the care of the State. Photograph: Collins Courts

Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 01:00

Three children who had experienced emotional trauma and neglect during their mother’s repeated episodes of mental illness are to remain in the care of the State until they are 18, a judge at the Dublin District Family Court ruled yesterday.

Delivering his decision, Judge Colin Daly said the mother, who had been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder or schitzo-affective disorder, had exhibited symptoms including paranoia, auditory and visual hallucinations, and religious persecutory beliefs. She also exhibited “bizarre behaviours”, which often involved the children.

During her periods of illness she did not believe she was unwell and refused to take medication or engage with mental health services.

Mental illness

The judge found each child had experienced “emotional trauma and neglect”. This was “not due to any intent to harm”, the judge said, but was “an unfortunate result” of the mother’s mental illness.

The mother had moved to Ireland from her home country more than 12 years ago and was detained at a psychiatric unit for the first time a few years after her arrival. Her eldest child was taken into care three times over a two-year period with gardaí attending the family home, but was returned to the mother after her husband moved to Ireland from their home country.

The couple subsequently had two more children, both of whom were diagnosed with a serious medical condition that required ongoing monitoring and treatment, could cause severe pain and could be fatal. The young children regularly missed medical appointments during the mother’s episodes of illness.

Between 2010 and 2012 a section of the Health Service Executive, now the Child and Family Agency, received “a number of referrals” about the children, the judge said. These included referrals from a hospital where they were treated for “various injuries”.

Last year, the agency applied to the courts for a supervision order, to allow them to monitor the care of the children, but shortly afterwards, the mother was involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric unit and the children were taken into care under interim care orders.

The judge also said the mother obtained a barring order against her husband last year, alleging domestic violence, and she was the children’s main carer for six months until she was admitted to the psychiatric unit.

The eldest child told professionals his mother became particularly unwell prior to being admitted and he felt unsafe and felt his siblings were also unsafe, the judge said.

After the children were taken into care, their father, who had successfully appealed the barring order, contacted social workers to have the children returned to him. He was assessed as not having the capacity to parent them. He has had regular access to the children, who are living in foster care, but the mother has not seen them for a year. She had been out of hospital, but has since been readmitted.

The judge noted the children’s guardian ad litem, appointed by the court to represent their best interests, had raised concerns about the decision to return the eldest child to his parents in 2008. She also said the child only wanted to return to the mother if she took her medication and wanted the social work department to work with the father so the children “never had to be removed by gardaí again”.

The judge said the care orders until the age of 18 were “a proportionate and necessary means of assuring the welfare of the children”.

He also said the father’s “lack of action to protect the children” while he was barred from the family home, raised “serious questions” about his ability to parent them.