About the Project

Our aims and objectives are to:

  • Provide information to the public on child care proceedings in the courts;
  • Conduct research on these proceedings to promote debate and inform policy-makers;
  • Make recommendations to address any short-comings in the child care system identified by the research;
  • Assist in the implementation of these recommendations;
  • Through the above, to promote confidence in the child care system.

The Child Law Project was established in November 2012, under Section 3 of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2007 and in accordance with the 2012 Regulations (Regulation No 467 of 2012) made under the Act.

Relevant legislation:

The project was initially set up with the support of the One Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies and the Department of Children of Youth Affairs. Under the 2012 Regulations, the project must be nominated by an organisation specified in the regulations. From 2012 to 2018, the project was nominated by the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC). The project also received administrative and technical support from FLAC but it was entirely operationally independent. Since April 2018, the project has been fully funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and was nominated by the National University of Ireland, Galway. It continues to be entirely operationally independent.

The Child Law Project pursues its aims and objectives by attending the courts where child care cases are heard in order to report on those proceedings while protecting the anonymity of the children and their families, in accordance with a Protocol. It publishes reports of child care cases for the public and all relevant stake-holders twice a year.

The Child Law Project collects and analyses data from the proceedings, publishes reports on the nature and outcomes of the child care proceedings and promotes public debate on the issues raised through seminars and conferences.

The Child Law Project is a company limited by guarantee. Its board members are listed here.

The Project is based in 7 Red Cow Lane, Smithfield, Dublin 7, D07XN29. It can be contacted by email at info@childlawproject.ie

Our Remit

The remit of the Child Law Project is set and limited by law, the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2007, which allows organisations named in the legislation nominate people to attend and report on child care proceedings. This means we can only report on what happens and is said in court about such proceedings. We can also use the information given in court for broader analysis of trends emerging from the selection of cases we attend.

We have no remit in relation to private family law, that is, disputes between parents relating to children or other issues.

In addition, we cannot report on aspects of a case where we have not attended the hearing where it has been discussed, or report on a case based on information received outside the court context.

As our resources and personnel are very limited, we cannot attend all venues where child care cases may be heard in the 24 Districts of the District Court. Nor can we sometimes attend all the hearings of a case, particularly where it is adjourned and the adjourned dates may clash with another case we are attending. However, we seek to ensure that we attend and report on a representative selection of cases.

Because we are restricted to reporting and analysing child protection cases as heard by the courts, we have no way of knowing what occurs prior to the case coming to court (apart from what is reported to the court) and no way of knowing what happens after the case has concluded. We cannot comment, therefore, on voluntary care, foster care, or relations between the Child and Family Agency and families outside the court appearance.

Under the legislation permitting us to report, we have no role in monitoring or overseeing the practice of the CFA, the Gardai or anyone else who may be involved in child protection.

Dr Carol Coulter is the Executive Director of the Child Law Project. She established the Child Law Project in 2012 and led it, as its Director, over a nine-year period. She is former Legal Affairs Editor of the Irish Times and ran a Pilot Project on Family Law Reporting for the Courts Service in 2006/2007.
Dr Maria Corbett is the Chief Executive Officer of the Child Law Project. She was appointed to this role in February 2022. She joined the Child Law Project in 2016 as a Reporter and in 2020 was appointed its Deputy Director. Previously, she was Deputy Chief Executive and Legal and Policy Director with the Children’s Rights Alliance.

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