Cus­tody bat­tle be­gins for 18-month-old tod­dler

Baby born ad­dicted in Nova Scotia; mother used drugs while preg­nant

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC -

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.

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