Baby born ‘an addict’
Judge refuses Cape Breton grandmother standing in custody battle
A new court ruling has revealed details of a heartbreaking custody battle over a Nova Scotia toddler born addicted to drugs.
The boy was “born an addict’’ early in January 2016 because his mother had used drugs while pregnant, a Cape Breton judge said in a ruling released Monday.
Justice Theresa Forgeron ruled that the 18-month-old boy wouldn’t be safe with his grandmother — his “primary attachment figure’’ — because she is unable to protect him from his drug-addicted mother.
The Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge refused to allow the grandmother standing, as the province seeks to have the boy permanently removed from his mother’s care.
“The grandmother dearly loves the child and desperately wants the chance to provide a home for him,’’ Forgeron wrote. “The grandmother and the child have a strong attachment. Attachment, however, is not the sole factor that must be considered.’’
The judge said the boy’s mother has struggled with IV drugs for 25 years, and still uses hydromorphone and opioids despite many attempts at recovery.
The boy was taken into interim provincial care soon after his birth.
The province placed him with his maternal grandparents, who agreed to allow his mother supervised contact as she participated in a treatment program.
But Forgeron said the mother continued to use drugs, and had unauthorized contact with the boy, and the grandmother didn’t alert authorities.
A plan was worked up in June 2017 to have the boy placed in the custody of other relatives, but the relatives withdrew their application, and the boy was placed with foster parents.
The province then sought the boy’s permanent removal from his mother, to which the grandmother responded by seeking permanent custody herself. The boy’s mother endorsed the bid, saying the grandmother “is a very good parent’’ who raised two other children without addiction problems.
The toddler was “a happy loving boy ... in large part due to the grandmother’s unconditional love and commitment,’’ his mother said.
The province, however, argued the boy needed to be freed from the “web of despair’’ his mother’s addictions have caused the family.
In her decision on whether to allow the grandmother standing in the custody battle, Forgeron said the evidence overwhelmingly suggests the grandmother’s lack of insight would place the child at risk in her care.
The decision outlined multiple incidents where she said the grandmother placed the mother’s interest ahead of the toddler’s, and ignored or minimized the mother’s behaviour.
“The grandmother was dragged into the mother’s world, and at times, acted as an enabler of the mother’s addiction,’’ the judge said.
“The child must be protected from this world, even if this means that the only reasonable alternative is a permanent care and custody order, a fact which will not be known until the permanent care hearing is concluded.’’