Judge orders contraceptive injections for vulnerable mother of two
Foster parents continue to look after woman and her first child
The woman had indicated she wanted the second child put up for adoption but, following the DNA test, the father wants to rear the child with assistance of his mother and another sibling and those issues had yet to be decided. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Contraceptive injections are now being administered by High Court order to an intellectually and physically disabled vulnerable woman who had two children by two different fathers within a few years.
Issues concerning future care of the children have yet to be decided, High Court president Mr Justice Peter Kelly said when reviewing the “complicated” case on Wednesday.
The woman, a ward of court in her 30s, has for many years been in the foster care of the same couple whom she regards as her parents. They continue to look after her and her first child, a toddler. Orders were previously made restraining contact between the first child’s father and the woman. The foster parents are both working and, supported by the woman, have applied for guardianship of her first child with a view to all three rearing the child.
The Child and Family Agency (CFA) supports their application in proceedings due before the District Court later this month.
At an earlier hearing, Mr Justice Kelly made orders permitting vaccinations of the second child, in voluntary care of the Child and Family Agency, and for DNA testing to establish that child’s paternity.
On Wednesday, Natalie McDonnell, for Patricia Hickey, general solicitor for wards of court, said the DNA test had established another man – aged in his 30s and understood to have a disability – whom the woman apparently met on a dating site, is the father of the second child.
The woman had indicated she wanted the second child put up for adoption but, following the DNA test, the father wants to rear the child with assistance of his mother and another sibling and those issues had yet to be decided.
Ms McDonnell said the woman’s conditions include cerebral palsy, personality disorder and mild intellectual disability.
Safeguarding issues arose and measures were necessary to minimise her taking actions that put herself at risk. A capacity assessment found she was capable of caring for the first child only with the support of the foster parents. Their guardianship application had implications for the woman’s rights and she would have independent legal advice. Her consent to guardianship would also be considered by the High Court as she is a ward.
Ms McDonnell said the woman has restricted access to internet and mobile phones and the doors of the house are locked after 10pm but it appeared there was ongoing interaction between her and the father of the second child. She had said she went out of the house without anyone knowing and she and the man had decided to keep their relationship secret. Because the woman does not understand risks, the general solicitor wanted a full safeguarding and care plan from the HSE.
A HSE safeguarding team has referred the woman for counselling which will address sexual health and safety and she was agreeable to that. However, because of earlier non-compliance with contraception, orders were made last year for a contraceptive injection and those should be continued, she said.
Mr Justice Kelly continued orders for administration of a contraceptive injection and adjourned the matter to late March so further information could be provided. He required “very clear” safeguarding protocols so that, insofar as possible, the woman does not find herself pregnant again. He said he also wanted further information about the foster parents and father of the second child because issues arose concerning the woman’s welfare and interests which were his responsibility as she is in wardship.