A one-year-old boy who was taken from his mother over an unpaid fine has finally been allowed to go home. Austrian social workers removed the baby from his teenage mother’s care because the toddler’s grandmother had not paid a speeding ticket.
The court in Lambach decided on Thursday that the young J. L. should go back to living with his mother Ann-Katrin. Judge Karl Sturmayer ordered the “immediate return of the child into the care of its mother”. The youth welfare office has still failed however to hand over the child.
The social workers swooped to seize one-year-old J. L. from his teenage mother Ann-Katrin over two months ago, claiming that it was because the grandmother of the boy had not paid a 1,200 Euro speeding ticket. That meant the gran risked going to jail for a short period and would be unable to help her daughter with baby sitting.
They told Ann-Katrin Leitner, aged 18, they did not believe that she would be able to cope without her mother Heidi, 50, and as a result took the boy into care.
But even though Gran Heidi quickly paid the fine the boy was not returned and has now been away from his mother for over two months.
Ann-Katrin said: “When they took him into care we rushed to borrow the money from family and friends and paid off the fine. But they didn’t bring him back. After seven weeks he had already changed foster families twice.
Social workers in Wels in the province of Upper Austria refused to discuss the case at the time. Spokesman Josef Gruber said the decision had not been taken lightly and that they were unable to comment on individual cases. The young mother’s lawyer, Ronald Gabl, made a request at court for the child to be handed back earlier this month.
He said: “Quite apart from the fact that the child was taken away because of the traffic offence, the question is how did social workers find out about the speeding ticket and was that a breach of data protection laws.”
Ann-Kathrin, who lives with the boy’s father, Andreas, said they would have been able to manage even if her mother had gone to jail over the unpaid ticket.
Gran Heidi said: “Of course a young mother needs support but they were managing fine. The youngster even has his own room.
“When I realised it was a problem the fine was paid within two hours but it didn’t seem to make any difference.
“It has had a devastating effect on my daughter – she missed her baby’s first Christmas and his first tooth. These memories can’t be replaced.”
The 18-year-old mother will now receive family support and must accept regular visits from social workers. If the grandmother should end up in prison for her unpaid fine then the mother and child can live, according to court orders, in a special establishment.
The mother’s attempts to get her child back immediately after the case on Thursday however were unsuccessful. The 18-year-old’s lawyer Roland Gabl plans to file another application to the court if they do not get the baby back today (Fri).