Children at risk from poverty and drug abuse

Latest childcare law report includes care orders due to homelessness and smoking

One of the issues raised around a care order was regarding the mother’s smoking habit

One of the issues raised around a care order was regarding the mother’s smoking habit

Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 01:00

The case of a baby girl who was taken into care following her birth, her mother having been taken to hospital with a drug overdose while pregnant, is one of the cases contained in the latest report of the Child Care Law Reporting Project.

Risks posed to children through drug and alcohol abuse, poverty and homelessness again feature prominently in the fifth volume of reports produced by the project which is published today.

A full care order was granted in the case of the baby girl, both of whose parents were drug addicts and had resorted to criminality to fund their drug habit.

The parents had moved to Ireland from another jurisdiction where their older child, a boy, had previously been taken into care and adopted after the parents fled with the child in contravention of a protection order.

Police involvement was required to track them down and, when found, they were under the influence of illicit substances with a “strong smell suggestive of heroin smoke” in an unventilated room. The baby was extremely pale and dirty and hungry. He was placed in emergency foster care and subsequently placed in a closed adoption.

When the mother became pregnant again, the couple moved to Ireland over fears that this baby was also likely to be taken into care in the other jurisdiction.

However, while still pregnant, the mother was admitted to hospital for a drug overdose. The homeless accommodation in which the couple were living was found to be “quite dirty”. A pre-birth conference found the likely risks to the baby were very high and an interim care order was made.

The baby girl, who was born in Ireland, was subject to a number of interim care orders over a period of 18 months. During this time the parents had access to their baby five days a week and attended a drug treatment centre.

However, social workers were unable to find evidence that the parents had ceased their drug misuse and a full care order was granted until the child reaches the age of 18.

Care orders were refused by the courts in three of the cases reported in the latest volume of reports.

In one case a care order for a baby born 10 weeks prematurely was refused by the District Court in favour of a supervision order, which allows for the child to remain at home with regular visits by social workers.

One of the issues raised was around the mother’s smoking habit: a neonatal specialist told the court that, because the baby had been born at just 29 weeks, weighing less than a kilo, his lungs were immature and it was important he avoided tobacco smoke and lived in a warm, hygienic environment.

The court heard that the mother smoked up to 80 cigarettes a day, failed to follow advice as regards her smoking and declined to attend a smoking cessation officer. In her evidence the mother denied that she had not engaged with doctors around her smoking and said she had since switched to electronic cigarettes.

The judge found the parents had been “exemplary” in tending to the child in the hospital, the child was doing well and the baby’s paternal grandparents had said both the child’s parents and the baby could live with them.