Emergency Care Order after child found with heroin-using parents – 2015vol3#31

An Emergency Care Order was granted in the District Court in respect of a young child who had been in the care of his parents while they used heroin on waste ground in Dublin. The father accepted certain aspects of the evidence which would meet the threshold for an ECO and he therefore consented to the order, the mother remained neutral.

During the previous evening, a member of An Garda Síochana had invoked Section 12 of the Child Care Act, thereby taking the young child into emergency care. He told the court that the Gardaí had received a call from a member of the public who had seen two adults and a child gaining access to a waste ground area.

Garda: “I attended the scene, at first I went to the car park, there was a broken wall I could climb up. I peered down into the waste ground area and I could see a male and female and a young child inside. The male was injecting himself and the female was smoking from tinfoil, the child was approximately three to four metres away.

“At that point I tried to gain access. I got back down from the wall and walked back along, two to three minutes later I walked around the hoarding but I couldn’t see anywhere to get inside, so I went back inside the broken wall.

“I climbed up again and looked back down again, the couple were embracing themselves intimately, kissing, the male placed his hand down the trousers of the female, the child was three to four meters away at the time.

“At this point I went around for access again. I saw a wooden hoarding that I went to pull apart, as I walking by the corner of [X] street the female appeared at the intersection and she had the child in her hands trying to drop the child over the hoarding. She wasn’t aware I was there. I approached and took the child from her over the hoarding and I placed the child down on the ground and the female jumped over the hoarding and approximately three minutes later the male did the same.”

The Garda told the judge that he had exercised a Section 12, taking into account what he had seen and the waste area itself which was becoming known for drug activity. There had been used syringes on the ground and “the child was very dirty and filthy, including his skin on his face, his arms were dirty as well”, said the Garda.

Taking everything into consideration, he had exercised a Section 12 and brought the child back to the Garda Station and a place of safety, where he had contacted the HSE, Out of Hours Service.

“My client disputes the precise account, and the sexual activity in the manner alleged,” said the father’s solicitor.

“There were most definitely syringes on the ground and I could see packets of citric acid which is used in the prep of heroin. I was quite shocked and appalled at what I’d seen the second time, [the sexual activity] I’m quite certain of what I saw,” replied the Garda.

The social worker told the court that the child had been placed in the care of his paternal grandmother (an emergency placement) the previous evening but would be now going to approved foster carers.

She said that while the father indicated that he wished his son to remain with the paternal grandmother, there were concerns flagged on the social work system in relation to her. The social worker had spoken to the grandmother and she had knowledge of these concerns, however her son, the child’s father, was disputing them.

The social worker told the court that the grandmother would be emergency assessed under Section 36 of the Child Care Act, the duration of the assessment was usually up to three or four days. Access would be facilitated once a week, but it would be cancelled if the parents turned up under the influence of substances.

The parents had told the social worker that they would both attend addiction centres. If they followed through with this then they would have to be assessed and a reunification plan would be looked at and supports put in place. She said expectations would be explained to the parents.

“What’s the immediate and serious risk?” asked the judge.

“The immediate risk is based on safety and health and development, with their addiction issues, I would be very concerned about his safety within their care,” replied the social worker.

The judge granted the ECO, he said he was satisfied that the Garda had exercised powers under Section 12 of the Child Care Act and that an application had been brought to the next sitting of the District Court for an Emergency Care Order under Section 13.

The Garda “observed both parents using apparently heroin, at the location there was some amount of drug paraphernalia, on the basis of both the effect on the parents and their parenting ability and on the location I am satisfied it establishes sufficient grounds [for an] immediate and serious risk to the health and development and welfare of the child which necessitates his removal by the CFA,” said the judge.

“There is an obligation on the CFA to consider placement within the family, I am satisfied that has been considered, the CFA do not feel it is appropriate that he is placed with the grandmother, and emergency assessment has been indicated for possibility of placement with her.”