Interim care order extended for four children, concerns about drug use of fifth child – 2023vol1#23

A judge in the Dublin Metropolitan District Court extended an interim care order for four children, while expressing concern at a fifth child’s issues in relation to substance abuse and his potential to acquire a drug debt while in care.

The court was told that the mother was on notice of previous applications but was not specifically on notice of that day’s application. The mother had a legal representative, but her lawyer confirmed she had no instructions and also flagged to the court that they may she may need to come off record for the mother. The father was in court but had no legal representative. The guardian ad litem (GAL) was legally represented.

The court heard from the allocated social worker that there was to be a change of placement relation to two of the children, who had been placed in a new placement in the last couple of weeks. They were still attending their existing school. The other two children remained in their placement but there was a possibility that one of them would be referred to a child psychologist service as he was fixated on food.

Both of the first two children would engage with counselling service for emotional needs.

Though the placements were in different parts of the country, sibling access occurred every two weeks and sometimes the mother attended at the visit. Previously access had happened every week but was changed to help the mother to be better at attendance but it did not seem to have helped.

The court heard that a fifth child (not subject to this application) was in a residential placement in Dublin and was experiencing behavioural issues. The sibling access also included the fifth child. The court heard that this child was using substances and that he had gone missing and when he was missing the social worker thought that it might be that he was meeting up with his mother.

The court was told that this child was also missing out on education despite having had an interview with a college where he had been offered a place. The court heard that he had supports in place in that he had both a key worker and a counsellor. The social worker confirmed that they had spoken with him also.

The court heard that the mother had not been attending access regularly and access ultimately ceased and the social workers had only spoken to the mother once since Christmas. The mother was not at her previous address and she could not give a new address. Before the mother disengaged she was supported with support services which would be open to her if she re-engaged.

The court heard that the father was in court for the first time and the social worker was asked what contact the social work team had had with him. The court was told that he had been in contact and had access with his children before Christmas but did not attend the January access. He was to attend access on the day the case was before the court but could not because he was in court, but was due to attend the following week. The court heard that the dad was engaging, however he did not understand why the children were in care.

Asked about the threshold criteria for this case, the social worker said it was related to the conditions of the house, lack of engagement, substance abuse, domestic violence and referrals in relation to emotional abuse and neglect and poor parental supervision.

The court was informed that the mother had tried to address her substance misuse and did engage with support in relation to housing but had disengaged and there had been no long-term or sustained progress.

The social worker said that the children had suffered cumulative harm. The social worker was in agreement with the GAL’s recommendations and said that the extension of the ICO was both proportionate and necessary.

In relation to the two girls’ placement the court heard that they had settled well, were mixing with the other children in the placement and it would be for as long as was required. The full care order application was listed for March.

The judge asked who the fifth child was getting drugs from and was he aware of the potential consequences. It was of concern that he was a child in care and could acquire a drug debt while he was in care. The judge said that there were broader consequences to these issues. The judge asked if he was attending sibling access and heard that he had not attended all accesses. He had asked for the access to be moved to Dublin as in the past he had been travelling to the north of the country to see the other siblings.

The court heard that the father wanted a solicitor and he was being referred to the Legal Aid Board. The judge noted the threshold had been met, extended the interim care order and included it for case management.