Guardian appointed for mother of child in State care

Mother did not have capacity to apply for legal aid, Dublin District Family Court told


A Dublin District Family Court judge has appointed a guardian for the mother of a child in State care after hearing that the woman did not have the capacity to apply for legal aid.

Judge Colin Daly made the appointment as part of an application to extend an interim care order for a young teenager.

The girl, taken into care months before her mother was admitted involuntarily to a psychiatric unit, had been “rejected and neglected” by her mother, who had not spoken to her for a year.

The mother had made some improvement since being admitted to hospital more than eight weeks ago, but her psychiatrist had said she did not have the capacity to appoint a solicitor.


Child and Family AgencyLegal Aid Board

But a Legal Aid Board solicitor, representing the girl’s father, said the board did not have “a paternalistic function” and couldn’t appoint a solicitor without an application.

Giving evidence, the child’s social worker told the court of therapeutic supports being created for the child. She also said the mother had told her recently she was open to an access visit from her daughter. She intended to organise access “at the child’s pace”, she said.

The teenager’s court-appointed guardian urged caution.

“This is a child who has been rejected and neglected by her mum over an extended period of time,” she said.

She said before the mother was admitted to hospital, she would not speak to her daughter on access visits. The child was now worried about what it would be like if her mother did begin talking to her again.

The girl’s father was also represented in court. His solicitor said he was consenting to an interim care order. His “understanding of his paternity” was very recent, she said, and he “has his own wife and family”. He was having access visits with his daughter that were going well, but did not envisage being able to give her a home.

Judge Daly said a court-appointed guardian could “step into the shoes of the mother” and one of her first actions should be to apply for legal aid for the mother.

Extending the interim care order for 28 days, he also asked the agency to “give due weight” to the guardian’s recommendations around access.

‘Chaotic lifestyle’

The young children’s social worker said the couple, who were not in court, “continued to present a chaotic lifestyle”. They “struggled to manage their own lives” and were not capable of looking after their children. The court was told an additional child had been born to the couple just before Christmas and taken into care. The children were introduced to the baby for the first time this week.

Judge Daly also reviewed the case of a teenager who had absconded from care at Christmas. He was told the boy was now back in his rural residential unit and was allowed to stay with a relative in his home area at weekends.

He had also been assigned a Garda case manager. The boy’s court-appointed guardian said the child was now at least “on the radar”. The judge asked that the agency consider a “pedagogical model” of care involving a residential placement with two full-time carers. He adjourned the review to February.