Care order for three children amid allegations of neglect where parents not engaging in proceedings- 2022vol2#21

The District Court made a care order in respect of three children until the age of 18 years following allegations of neglect, drug addiction and non-engagement. This case was among twenty-two heard that day.

The parent’s legal representatives made an application to come off record due to having no updated instructions. The court heard that the parents had not engaged for a long period of time and that the Child and Family Agency (CFA) had been unable to serve them with notice of the proceedings and that the notices had been returned. The lawyer said that the mother provided an address where she had lived with a family member previously; however, the mother was no longer at that address therefore the CFA currently had no forwarding address for her. He said that the CFA also had no forwarding address for the father, therefore in the circumstances the CFA were proceeding with the care order application without notice to either parent.

The social worker told the court that the parents had engaged for short periods of time then they would disengage. She said that the mother’s engagement in 2021 had been very poor. The mother had missed scheduled access visits, had not attended emergency meetings scheduled for one of the children and had been uncontactable for periods of time. The social worker told the court that she had also tried to contact the mother through family members but without success. The social worker said that after a period of non-engagement the mother had contacted her in January 2022 and indicated that she wanted to re-engage but had then been uncontactable when the social worker had tried to contact her.

Social worker: “I tried to call her on her mobile, sent a letter and had a brief phone call with her in January. She said that she would not speak to me further. The situation was serious and we needed to speak with her. I went to her house but there was no answer.”

The social worker described to the court how she had gone to the mother’s house several times, but she was not there. She said that at one point Dublin City Council contacted her to let her know that the mother had not been at her home. She said that in April 2022 the mother had re-engaged with the Council who had then contacted the social worker to update her. The social worker then tried to contact the mother, but she said that there had been low engagement.

The mother had told the social worker during that time that the situation was very embarrassing for her. She had said that she was very annoyed that her children had been removed from her care, and that she was stressed, homeless and struggling. The social worker had encouraged her to make contact with her but the mother subsequently disengaged again. During the summer the mother had contacted the social worker again and left a number of messages with another social worker. The social worker had then met with the mother in August 2022 whereupon the mother had advised the social worker that she was struggling with cocaine and alcohol. The social worker said that she had tried to contact the mother again through family members, but had not had contact with her since that meeting.

The solicitor for the CFA told the court that the father’s engagement followed a similar pattern to that of the mother. He said that during Covid a number of section 47 applications to court were required in relation to assessments for the children because there had been no contact with the parents.

Judge: “Was there any change when you were the allocated social worker until now?”

Social worker: “No judge, the father would engage periodically, but he has not engaged for a long period of time so we cannot assess his addiction.”

The social worker said that before being received into care the children had experienced neglect and a lifestyle that was not appropriate to their needs. She said that the children had suffered developmental trauma and that it was noticeable in their current presentation.

The CFA solicitor asked the social worker if the children had access with each other. She replied that the children had access with each other via video calls and access with their grandparents every four to six weeks. She said that it was necessary to maintain sibling and extended family contact.

The court heard that the guardian ad litem (GAL) supported the application for the care order until the age of majority. The GAL said that each of the children described fear of “a bad man” in the house. She said that the children were exhibiting trauma and that it was very rare for a child to describe fear and terror and make comments about home life and parental violence. The GAL said that the children felt abandoned by their parents and that one of the children asked if her mom was dead. She said that the children had benefited from an intensive therapy package over the past year, but they still needed full psychological assessments to measure their responses to access with their parents and their grandparents. The GAL said that stability and care planning was very important for the children going forward.

The court granted the care orders in respect of each of the three children until they reach the age of 18 years.