This is the first volume of reports of District Court proceedings published by the Child Care Law Reporting Project in 2014, bringing to five the number of volumes published since the project began. The themes apparent in the earlier volumes – the risks posed to children by poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, social isolation of the parents, cognitive impairment or mental health issues – continue to feature in these reports.

However, they show that it is by no means inevitable that, once the Child and Family Agency seeks a Care Order it will be granted by the courts. This volume contains reports on several lengthy cases where the application was strongly contested by the parents and their lawyers, and in three of these cases the CFA applications were refused by the court.

This volume also contains four reports of cases where the children were reunited with their parents following a period in care, during which the issues which led to them being brought into care were addressed.

The reports also show that the secure care system for children with acute problems remains severely stretched, with children in need of secure care being put on waiting lists from which they can be displaced by a child with even greater needs.

The pressure on family law courts, especially outside of Dublin, is revealed by the fact that there were 60 cases on the list in one “family law day” in a rural town. Ten of these were CFA cases, which were dealt with quite quickly because they were uncontested reviews and renewals of existing orders.

The chaos in the lives of some families which leads to them coming to the attention of the social services is revealed in the fact that one hearing was interrupted three times by the collapse and hospitalisation of the father during the proceedings, following by the collapse and recovery of the mother, only for her to collapse again.

Some of these accounts are follow-up reports of earlier hearings of the same cases. Where this is the case readers are referred to the earlier accounts in the Archive on this website.