An interim care order was granted in a provincial town in respect of five children of school going age. The mother had two older children that were not the subject of the application. The parents consented to the application for a period of two weeks.
Allegations of physical and emotional abuse came to light following a referral from an assessor connected to a family law matter. There were also allegations of domestic violence against the father by the mother’s two older children.
The mother had been living in the home without the father until she began experiencing difficulties with her mental health. The mother left the home and the father agreed to move back to the home while the mother took steps to address her mental health. Concerns then arose relating to domestic abuse and the manner in which the parents communicated with the children.
The social worker said she started the assessment in 2020 and a number of concerns came to light relating to the domestic situation and the parents’ relationship. The social worker engaged with a therapist who conducted an assessment with four of the five children and she reported her concerns to TUSLA. She was originally working with two of the children and now was working with all five of the children. Child protection issues arose in the sessions.
An assessor completed an assessment with the children in relation to private family law proceedings and following the assessment raised issues of concern with TUSLA. The assessor was of the view that the children needed a break from the parents. The mother’s older children, the father’s step-children, raised concerns about the father.
The CFA was concerned and decided that the matter required immediate attention. Social workers called to the family home to ask the father to leave and he cooperated. There was a temporary arrangement and a safety plan in place. The solicitor for the CFA said the mother was returning to the home with supports to allow the CFA time to bring the application. The mother said she was not in a position to look after the children and agreed they needed time in care.
The judge asked: “Did she [the assessor] meet both of the parents and the children?”
The solicitor for the CFA said the assessor had met the parents and children and she wanted to liaise with the court as she had responsibilities to report the concerns.
The social worker said access was proposed once per week for each parent to be supervised. She said the children continued to see their play therapist on a regular basis.
The judge granted the interim care order and appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL) to engage with the family as early as possible.