High Court judge Mr Justice Max Barrett has admonished Tusla the Child and Family Agency (CFA) for having “completely failed” in their effort to support the relationship between a girl and her natural mother while refusing to approve the adoption of the 17-year-old, known as ‘Miss B’, by her foster mother.
Manifold and Serious Failings
In his denial, Judge Barrett recited a list of “manifold and serious failings” by the CFA, including that the agency had failed to adequately support appropriate access visits and to help nurture the relationship between Miss B and her natural mother, who had objected to the adoption application.
Miss B, who has development delay issues associated with foetal alcohol syndrome and a moderate learning disability, had previously indicated her desire to be adopted by her foster parent. It was noted by Judge Barrett that there existed an enormous amount of mutual love between the pair.
However, after meeting Miss B, Judge Barrett said he believed that she did not fully understand the significance of adoption.
In providing background to the case, Judge Barrett included submissions from Miss B’s natural mother that she had been repeatedly beaten and raped by her husband, who she is no longer with. In order to cope with the abuse that she was suffering, the mother began to gradually increase her alcohol consumption, not realising until four months in to her pregnancy that she was with child, and when the alcohol damage to the foetus had already occurred.
As she was told by social workers that she was not fit to care for her child, who was very sick at the time, a voluntary care order was implemented and signed by the mother. However, she attested that she had not drunk since completing a short rehab stint when Miss B was still a toddler, as well as participating in two parenting courses, a psychological assessment, two years of therapy, and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Despite her progress, it became increasingly difficult for the mother to access Miss B, and was told by social workers that the State would no longer cover train tickets to visit her daughter due to the financial crash. She further claimed that in the three years when no social worker was appointed to her case, it became increasingly difficult for her to see Miss B, and access was arranged directly with the foster carer.
“Excluded” from Miss B’s Life
Due to her growing concerns, the natural mother wrote a letter to her presumed social worker, describing how she felt “excluded” from Miss B’s life and “literally begging” for more access to her daughter. She had not been informed that her assigned social worker was no longer allocated to her case, as well as receiving no meaningful response to her letter, Judge Barrett added.
Had the CFA “just done its job” and acted upon the request of the mother to access further information about Miss B, Judge Barrett said, “who knows” how much progress towards family reunification could have been made over the last six years.
Consequently, Judge Barrett did not believe that adoption would be in Miss B’s best interests. He said he did not see any advantage to cutting the natural mother and child legal link when Miss B was almost a legal adult.
Once she turns 18, she will be eligible change her surname by deed poll and can continue to live with her foster mother if she wishes, he added.
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.*