Case Reports 2023 Volume 1 – Introduction

This volume comprises 67 reports – 62 from the District Court, 4 High Court cases related to wardship proceedings and one comprises a letter from a District Court judge expressing concerns.

The majority of District Court cases attended by Child Law Project reporters concern applications for care orders (42 cases). Other cases relate to children already in care, involving discussions on the appropriateness of the care placement and aftercare planning, as well as cases involving applications for costs and under the Mental Health Act 2001 and the Domestic Violence Act 2018.

In our role of bringing transparency to child care proceedings, as part of this volume we publish a letter sent by District Court Judge Dermot Simms to four Ministers, a number of relevant state bodies and an Oireachtas Committee. A copy of this letter was provided by Judge Simms to the Child Law Project and he has granted us permission to publish the letter. In it, he expresses his “utmost concern for the immediate predicament and welfare of children who are in care”, draws attention to the placement of children in unsuitable special emergency residential placements (due to a lack of care placements) and calls for “immediate and coordinated action” to remedy the current crisis. Judge Simms notes that: “There is also the risk, or indeed likelihood, that the State will face claims in the future arising out of its failure to comply adequately with its duty of care and statutory duty to many of these children”.

Many of the reports published today illustrate the excellent work undertaken by Tusla social workers, foster carers and residential care staff and the positive outcomes for children. However, the lack of available appropriate placements for children in care and judicial concern about some vulnerable children in care mark this latest volume of reports. This volume includes several examples of cases returning to court as the placement has broken down or where the judge is keeping the case under active review as a means of ensuring agreed actions are followed through. In three cases, the judge granted permission for or requested that a report be prepared and sent to an external body including the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and the Ombudsman for Children.