Emergency care order for children left with intoxicated grandmother – 2013vol3#23

An Emergency Care Order was granted for two young children who had been left in the care of their grandmother when she was intoxicated. The mother was present in court and was resisting the application. The father was not in court.

A Garda told the court that she received a 999 phone call from the grandmother, in whose care the children were, and immediately went to her house. She described being met by a toddler who had such a dirty nappy that there was excrement spread up her back. The Garda said that she changed the child’s nappy herself. She said that the other child was hiding behind a bed. The grandmother told the Garda that the children’s mother had gone out and left the children in her care. The grandmother told the Garda that she suffered from bipolar disorder.

The Garda invoked her power under section 12 of the Child Care Act, 1991 and took the children away with her and immediately applied to court for an Emergency Care Order. The Garda said that as she was trying to gather the children’s belongings she could not find any clothes that fit the children and she said that she noticed that there was no cot in the house for the baby.

The garda emphasised to the court the seriousness with which she invoked her power under section 12. “I understand the seriousness of children going into care. I genuinely think she [the mother] is just a child, I think she needs help herself to look after children. I have no doubt she loves them but her priorities are not children-orientated.”

The Garda told the court that a second 999 call was received that evening from the house where the grandmother lived. She said that when she arrived at the house the children’s mother had arrived home with a group of friends and was, in the Garda’s opinion, heavily intoxicated with alcohol and drugs. The Garda said that on arrival she saw that the doors and glass cabinets in the house were smashed. She said there were pots and pans thrown around and the toaster was strewn in the hallway. The Garda found the mother screaming and described her as distraught.

The Garda said that she went to look for the grandmother and found her “beaten to a pulp” in another room in the house and was unable to rouse her. She said that she thought that the woman was unconscious and immediately called for an ambulance. The Garda’s evidence was that the grandmother had texted the mother to tell her that the children had been taken into care after the Garda had invoked section 12 of the Child Care Act on her earlier visit to the house.

When cross-examined by the mother’s solicitor the Garda said: “I’m here for the welfare of children. Ultimately the children matter. They are not going to be protected if this Care Order isn’t followed through.”

A social worker told the court that the children were likely to be at risk if they remained in the house and outlined to the court that a parenting capacity assessment would begin with the mother immediately. She said that the social work department would assist the mother in finding alternative accommodation and that she would be linked in with services to help her control her drinking.

The social worker said that she would have serious concerns if the children were returned to their mother. She told the court that she had been informed that one of the children had been found face down in a car seat. This statement was objected to on the grounds of hearsay.

The judge concluded that she was satisfied that there was an immediate and serious risk to the children which necessitated the invocation of section 12 of the Child Care Act. The judge said that within the eight-day duration of the Emergency Care Order “an awful lot of work needs to be done.”