Interim care orders for two children following hospitalisation of one for headlice infestation – 2020vol2#3

The Child and Family Agency (CFA) sought a supervision order for a teenage boy (A) and interim care orders for two younger school-going children (B and C). The matter had been listed the previous week but was adjourned for the period of one week to give the parents a further opportunity to obtain legal representation.

The court was informed that the mother had been granted legal aid and was legally represented, however the father had been refused legal aid and had not managed to obtain legal representation. The father informed the court that since he had been refused legal aid the previous week his financial circumstances had changed and he had another application for and would likely qualify for legal aid. The mother’s barrister was given further time to have a consultation with her client and to go through the reports that were before the court.

The court was told that child A and child B were at home but that child C was in hospital due to her having scabies, ringworm and headlice and she was due to be discharged from the hospital imminently. The mother had instructed her lawyer to inform the court that she would consent to a supervision order in respect of all three children but would not consent to the interim care orders in respect of B and C. The mother’s barrister was asked whether she could represent both parents’ interest for the hearing, but she said that having read the reports that there appeared to be “a possible conflict” and that she could only represent the mother.

The CFA solicitor told the court that the parents had been served with the papers two weeks earlier and the matter had been adjourned to allow them to obtain legal representation. Due to C’s imminent discharge from hospital he was instructed by the CFA to proceed with the applications before the court. The court was told that the mother had a mild intellectual disability and the father had not been engaging with the social work department.

CFA solicitor: “The crux of this case is a failure to provide basic care to the children resulting in headlice infestation, the shaving of one child’s head and the hospitalisation of the other. It speaks to more fundamental concerns of hygiene and insight in the family home.”

When asked by the judge the father indicated that he did want to instruct a solicitor to represent him but that he had been refused legal aid prior to his change in circumstances.

Judge: “The father has had a week to sort out legal aid in this case. It does appear to the court to be a very urgent situation and I will proceed with the application and have in mind that if an order is made … it will be a short order to allow legal aid to be sorted out for the next day.”

The CFA solicitor proceeded with the application and told the court that the two girls had had lice infestations one after the other over the course of nine months and it had raised concerns of a failure of the parents to learn from their mistakes. The CFA had the school principal to call as a witness and a head lice expert, following an appointment he had with the family that had been funded by the CFA.

The primary school principal had prepared a report for the court. The witness had been the principal for B during her time in the primary school since junior infants and now for C. The principal said that the children’s school attendance had been very good. The CFA solicitor asked the witness if she had had any observations concerning the physical presentation of B.

School principal: “In terms of her physical presentation we had consistent concerns. She was regularly untidy, unclean and very tired. Her uniform was quite soiled. Her nails, hair and skin were regularly unclean. The teachers had regular concern and came to me about her appearance.”

The school principal said that B’s mood was a high cause of concern for a lot of the teachers as she regularly appeared very down and had low mood but she was never able to express why she was feeling that way.

School principal: “There was a neediness about her as she might walk around with the teacher on the yard rather than engaging with her own friends. She had a low mood different to other children and that was why we were so concerned.”

The principal said that B had engaged in many extra-curricular activities as it was a DEIS school and she was on a target list for children to be concerned about. The principal said that the girl had been “offered almost every support” such as after-school supports, a key worker and summer camps. The key worker helped B work through her friendships, self-esteem and managing her own feelings. The principal said that during the end of her time in primary school B had really enjoyed it and had thrived on drama and music but that her mood was a serious concern.

The principal said that when the school closed during the Covid-19 pandemic they did their best to engage with the students online. The class teacher had arranged Zoom meetings but unfortunately B did not participate in any of those meetings. The class teacher had also invited all children to come to school to meet her and give a present and card to all of the children but B did not come. The teacher had called the mother as she thought the child might like to see her and she went down to the house to say goodbye. The principal said that the child protection report went in as B’s head had been shaved and that was “why she was not engaging with anything as she did not want anyone to see her”. It was reported to the teacher by another parent that the child’s head had been shaved.

The school principal told the court that child C’s presentation “was the same as her older sister”.

School principal: “A child with quite poor hygiene. Her hair, nails and skin were regularly unclean. Her hair messy over her face. Her uniform did not appear to be washed regularly. She was very pale, a child that seemed unwell.”

The school principal said that the school was very worried about her mood and when C had started school her new teacher asked the teacher of the older sister if there was “anything she should know”.

The principal told the court that the teacher had reported headlice the previous year and also when C returned to school in September the teacher was concerned about headlice.

School principal: “I looked myself and it very severe. Under her hair line on the  back of her head was cut. Headlice were crawling in her hair, on her shirt and jumper and were very easily visible.”

The principal said that the teacher was to discuss the headlice with the parents and explain that the headlice needed to be treated.

Mother’s barrister: “At the last incident of headlice you say you asked the teacher to follow up with the parents. Did you have any follow up conversation in relation to that?

School principal: “On 25th September it was noticed. [C] did not then come back to school after that.”

The barrister for the mother asked if the low mood was something that was brought up with the parents. The principal said that it was brought up with the parents and the children were attending supports and the school was always in communication with the parents as to why they were referring the children to the support.

Mother’s barrister: “In respect of the headlice the mother would say that the children would not let them treat their hair. Can’t it be difficult to treat?”

School principal: “I haven’t had to treat headlice myself but from what parents have told me it can be quite frustrating. We have to remind the parents they have to comb out the eggs. Particularly [with B] and to comb her very long hair and I understand it is probably very difficult.”

The barrister asked the principal if, when the supports were recommended, the parents generally consented to the children engaging in the extra-curricular activities. The principal said that the parents had always consented to the children attending any extra supports.  The father did not ask the witness any questions.

The judge asked the principal, when headlice was detected and parents intervened by using solution and combing hair, how long did it usually take to get rid of the headlice. The principal said that it depended on how severe the infestation was and how much headlice.

The principal said that the parents would usually notify the school and the school would send out letters and would keep an eye out if it was treated or not.

School principal: “Some parents keep children off for two days to ensure it is treated and to make sure they got everything.”

Judge: “How long was it ongoing with these children?”

School principal: “…It has been going on the last year.”

Judge:  “A whole year, that is very unusual.”

The CFA called a headlice expert to give evidence. The expert operated a number of clinics for the removal of headlice in children and adults. The witness said that he had been approached by the CFA and had scheduled appointments for the whole family. When asked who had attended the appointments the witness said that the father had attended with his two daughters, B and C.

Judge: “Was it not the whole family to go?”

Witness: “It is usual to check the whole family but it is whoever presented themselves. The whole family were invited to attend.”

The witness told the court that C had “extensive established infestation with complications”. The child had open wounds from scratching and an infestation of lice. The witness was asked if it was a preventable situation and he said that the matter needed to be dealt with from “the get-go” or the problem “accelerates very badly and quickly”. When asked by the judge, the witness said that admissions to hospital due to head lice was not a common occurrence. The witness said that both parents and B had attended for a second appointment earlier in the month. The mother had been checked and headlice and eggs were found to be present and it was described as a moderate infestation. The witness said that C also had a moderate infestation. The witness said that there was agreement to take on treatments and advice and further appointments were made with the parents.

Witness: “To treat an infestation it requires buy-in from everyone in the family.”

CFA solicitor: “Was the advice followed?”

Witness: “The appointments were not kept a week later and nobody turned up.”

The witness was asked how long an infestation would take to reach open sores. The witness gave a detailed description of the life cycle of headlice and said that “months can give very established infestations”. The witness said that he had made recommendations in a detailed conversation with the father and at the first meeting he had suggested that medical intervention was required.

CFA solicitor: “Do you know if they went for medical intervention?”

Witness: “I believe the father was in contact with the GP. All I am aware of now is that the young lady is in hospital.”

The barrister for the mother sought clarification in respect of whether a similar conversation that was had with the father was had with the mother, explaining that medical intervention was required. The witness said that it was just the father present on the first day so there was no conversation with the mother on that date. The witness said that it was hard to say how long it took to treat an infestation as it depended on the aftercare protocol.

The allocated social worker told the court that she first became involved with the case during the summer in relation to B’s head having been shaved after a head lice infestation. She said that she had gone with her colleague to the home and met with both parents and explained the referral received. She said that she had a great concern that the infestation had got to that stage and the emotional effect this had on the child. The social worker said that she did complete an assessment but there was limited engagement with the parents.

The social worker was asked if she established when the headlice first began. She said that it was stated to be in January when the children returned to school, and they started treating it in lockdown. During the summer there was a decision to shave B’s head. The social worker told the court that the father had said to her that it was under control and that the shaving of the hair was effective and it was no longer an issue.

The social worker said that there was a referral from the school in September that the infestation was significant and there were live lice visible and cuts on the child’s head and neck. The father had informed the social worker that he had presented the child to the hospital the day before the referral to see if they could treat it. The social worker said that she believed medication had been prescribed but the father had said that he was struggling to get the child to take it. The social worker told the court that the child was presented to hospital on three occasions and at the last presentation the hospital had asked the child to come again as the risk of sepsis was higher.

The social worker told the court that she met with C after the referral and she described her as being “in good spirits” but the hair at the back of her head was quite matted. The social worker said that an immediate appointment was made to see the head lice expert and funding was granted by the CFA on an emergency basis.

The social worker said that she followed up with the family and she was “quite disturbed at the presentation”. She said that C’s hair was matted to the point that her entire face was covered and her skin had visible lesions down to her legs. The social worker described the child’s pyjamas as extremely dirty with food and dirt and said that she was in “visible discomfort” and the child had said to her that her “tummy was itchy and sore”.

Social worker: “I scraped back her hair and her exposed cheeks were completely covered by what I assume  were bites from head lice… Her finger nails were black with dried blood. She talked about how her head was bleeding when scratched.”

The social worker said that the she told the parents daily to keep the clothes and bedding clean.

Social worker: “I’m not sure if a comb could have got through her hair at that point  and it was evident that combing was not taking place daily. She was in visible discomfort and pain. It was quite difficult to watch.”

CFA solicitor: “Did you inspect the sleeping arrangements. Had it been decontaminated?”

The social worker told the court that she had explained to the parents that it was important to see the sleeping arrangement as part of any assessment but the father had initially refused and had said that they would require a Garda warrant. The father subsequently accepted and had shown the social workers upstairs.

Social worker: “We were shocked at what we saw. We first saw B’s bedroom and we didn’t believe a child could sleep in the room. The bed was broken in half down the middle. There was no bed linen. The mattress was very dirty. It looked like it had not been dressed in bed clothes for a long time.”

She said there was no pillow case and there was nowhere to store clothes. She said there was a pile of clothes in the corner of the room “some clean and some dirty”, wrappers and papers on the floor and the carpet was dirty. The social worker described the room as “not child-friendly”. The social worker told the court that she had asked the parents many times if B really slept in the room because of the condition of the room.

The social worker said that A’s room was similar and the bed was not dressed and an extra mattress in the room was not dressed.  The social worker told the court that the mother had said that C slept with her in the main bedroom and the room was untidy but the bed was dressed. The social work said that C had told her that she slept on a sofa downstairs and the father slept on another sofa in the same room.

Social worker: “I don’t think [C] has a bed to sleep on. I don’t know how the infestation can be managed in that environment as it was evident the conditions were dirty.”

The CFA solicitor asked the social worker if C was discharged from hospital that day and returned to her parents, what concerns the social worker had about the recommended treatment. The social worker said that she would be concerned that there would be no further treatment.

Social worker: “The hospital extended the discharge because of the lack of confidence it would be managed at home. She would have been discharged at the end of last week but because of the concerns that [the parents] won’t be able to manage they have extended the admission.”

The social worker said that B had headlice again and was reinfested but that she understood that a neighbour had taken it upon herself to offer treatment and she was doing that and coming the child’s hair.

Social worker: “The sleeping conditions in the home will not prolong the time she doesn’t have headlice and she will continue to be infested in the household.”

The social worker said that A had not attended any appointment with the headlice expert but they had wanted to be sure that he had no headlice “to give the girls the best possible chance”. The father had told the social worker that A did not have headlice and she told the court that “older boys are less likely to get an infestation due to the testosterone in their blood”.

The social worker explained that a few weeks previously the CFA was going to seek a supervision order in respect of the children “but matters developed” and the social worker explained why she thought an interim care order was appropriate instead. She said that the parents had refused to give consent to the social workers speaking with the children on their own, and when the CFA had first sought a supervision order they had not seen the whole house. The social worker told the court that she was of the opinion that a supervision order would not succeed in keeping B and C safe and the environment was not satisfactory.

Social worker: “There is a lot of evidence of headlice but looking at the environment there is an ongoing concern of neglect, looking at the condition of the home.”

The social worker said that she had offered support to the family and had offered a deep clean of the house on two occasions but this was refused by the father and he said he was able to clean the house himself. The social worker described the parents’ engagement as very superficial and difficult and there was a grave delay in assessing the full extent of the situation and being able to intervene properly. She told the court that she was of the opinion that the children’s health and welfare had been impaired already and was likely to be further impaired.

The barrister for the mother said that the mother accepted that there was a severe headlice infestation but that she had unsuccessfully managed to treat it. The barrister asked the social worker what advice was given to the mother and what supports had been offered. The social worker said that the CFA had made appointments for the head lice experts for everyone in the family and had given tips for dealing with the issue and they had advised on an ongoing basis to boil wash all linen frequently and to comb the girls’ hair every day.

Mother’s barrister: “Was the advice communicated to the mother independently or together?”

Social worker: “When we call out to the house the mother would often leave the room. We always hope to speak to both parents. The mother would often leave the room while explaining our concerns and spent a lot of time in the kitchen. The mother’s engagement is a lot less and the main point of contact is the father.”

Mother’s barrister: “Did you consider arranging a separate appointment?”

Social worker: “I have been to the house when [she was] on her own and spoken to her but her engagement was quite limited. “

Mother’s barrister: “The mother has indicated she is willing to consent to a supervision order for all three children. You have given evidence that this won’t satisfy your concerns. If an undertaking is given that the house cleaning recommendations or deep cleaning is done and a supervision order is in place to allow access and treatment of headlice, would it alleviate your concerns?”

The social worker said that the supervision order and supports were offered a month previously and the situation had deteriorated further since then. She said that extensive work would be required in the house to stand over the children sleeping there. The social worker told the court that in the in the last number of days the situation with the father was difficult around the financial situation and the social workers had been obliged to do a food shop for the family as he had no money or food in the house.

The social workers had purchased bed sheets in the previous few weeks to offer some relief for B who continued to be at home while C was in hospital. The social worker said that the supports had been offered and exhausted and she said that “at this point a supervision order will not keep the girls safe at home.” She said she believed that an assessment was required in respect of both parents’ capacity and they needed to sit down and talk to the family about what supports were needed to offer the care required for the girls and a deep clean of the home with family support.

The mother gave evidence to the court and she said that when she first realised the girls had headlice she got them from school and got everything and gave examples of medicine and cream. The mother said that the father rang the doctor and gave the prescription to the chemist. She confirmed that she had not spoken to the doctor herself.

Mother’s barrister: “The first day you realised they had headlice what did you do?”

Mother: “I can’t remember.”

Judge: “You can’t remember the first time they had head lice?”

Mother: “Yeh.”

Mother’s Barrister: “When you tried to treat her how did she react?”

Mother: “She didn’t want to take it but she had to, to clear it all.”

Mother’s barrister: “We have heard evidence the headlice was bad and you accept that. When did you first realise how bad it was?”

Mother: “Itching and constantly scratching.”

When asked the mother said that the school had not spoken to her about the headlice. The barrister asked if the mother had brought B to the doctor at any stage. The mother said that she could not bring her during lockdown and the doctor would not let her go because of the virus but they had rung the doctor and the doctor had prescribed medicine and cream. The mother gave evidence that the doctor did not see it in person but they had to use a camera phone to show the doctor.

Mother’s barrister: “Did you receive any advice from the social work department how to treat it?”

Mother: “No, it was lockdown so nothing at all.”

Mother’s barrister: “Did anyone advise you what to do to keep it under control?”

Mother: “No, nothing like that.”

The barrister asked the mother to explain to the court how she kept the house. The mother said that she always cleaned the house but that the “kids always wreck the house”.

Mother: “I try to keep it as clean as I can. I do my best.”

The mother gave evidence in respect of the sleeping arrangements in the home and as the house only had three bedrooms, A and B each had their own rooms and C slept in the bed beside the mother. The mother admitted that B’s bed was broken and said that “she was jumping on it and it totally broke”. The mother said that they had not looked in to changing any of the beds.

Mother’s barrister: “If an order is not made today and the girls stay with you can you explain what to do to treat the headlice now?”

Mother: “Get a prescription. All we can do now is the medicine and cream.”

Mother’s Barrister: “How often do you wash the bed clothes?”

Mother: “So often. I wash all the clothes on 60 degrees on the washing machine.”

Mother’s barrister: “Why wash on such a high temperature?”

Mother: “To kill all the eggs.”

The mother agreed that if a supervision order was to be made that she would accept the social workers coming in to inspect the house. The mother said that she would accept the offer to deep clean the house and she was willing to agree to any social work support offers.

Mother’s barrister: “Do you think the children are safe where they are?”

Mother: “Yes, I love my kids every day. Of course they are safe. I just want them here with me. I am a good mother and do my best as well.”

The father and the CFA solicitor did not ask the mother any questions.

The father was not legally represented but gave evidence to the court.

Father: “Myself and [the mother] are good parents, you know. Unfortunately I have been working on night shifts for the last five years and I suppose in that time the discipline would have slipped at home and the kids would have been acting up on their mother and me also. The way the social worker sees the house today is not the way it always was. I put a lot of money into the house with furniture and bedding and clothes and stuff and gadgets for the kids. Unfortunately my kids are a bit unruly and broke everything.

The father told the court that one of the bedrooms was originally for both of the girls to share but B had not wanted C to share the room and had made her sleep with the mother. The father gave evidence about how there had been a bunk bed in A’s room but that he had dismantled it and broke it and put it out in the back garden and “left the bunk bed useless”.

Father: “As regards the headlice with B we have done everything we possibly could even before the doctor. I spent quite a fair amount of money in the chemist for headlice stuff and a knit comb, lotions, sprays and shampoos. A ‘nitty gritty’ comb basically a fine comb but it costs twenty euro.”

The father said that whenever B was asked to have her hair fine combed by her mother “she would refuse to do it and have a tantrum and go running upstairs screaming to high hell”.

Judge: “It might have been sore to have it combed with a fine comb when matted?”

Father: “Not at that stage. In a short space of time it did become matted. That is when I had a video call with the doctor as the back of her neck had been raw from scratching. The doctor basically gave her antibiotics and stuff I had already bought over the counter. [B] still refused to have her hair fine combed. I sat down with her one day and I said the only thing for it if I can’t comb hair is have to shave it off.”

The father said that he left the suggestion of shaving her head with B for a few days and after a few days she had said to him to shave it all off. The father told the court that after shaving her head the rawness on her neck and headlice had cleared up in a short space of time. The father said that he had told the GP that he had shaved her head and the GP did not “seem too concerned about it”.

The father told the court that the hospital had agreed that shaving the hair was the best thing to do and the hospital had recommended that C’s hair also be shaved but that he had told the hospital that he did not want that.

Father: “When [C] became infected with lice she followed [B] in refusing to have her hair combed. I brought her to the GP several times .”

Judge: “If the hospital advised to shave [C’s] hair too, why didn’t that happen?”

The father said he had not wanted her head shaved as Child C’s hair was so long. He explained that B had some understanding as to why her hair was being shaved but that C would not have had the same understanding because of her age.

The father told the court that the GP had prescribed medication to treat the scabies in tablet form but that C was not able to swallow the tablets as she had never taken tablets before. The father said that the GP then prescribed a liquid medication but that the pharmacy said that the prescribed liquid oral medication was not available on the medical card and cost €300 a bottle and the child would require two or three bottles. The father told the court that he eventually obtained the generic liquid medication and C had taken 10ml of the liquid but “she refused to take any more as she didn’t like the taste of it”. The father said that he had attended the hospital with C for the second time and had explained the situation to the doctor.

Father: “The doctor spoke with [C] and told her she must take it whether she likes it or not or she would not get better.”

The father told the court he attended the hospital again and after speaking with the child they were sent home. The father said he then received a phone call from the nurse in the Accident and Emergency Department that the doctor wanted to review the case and admit C to the hospital.

Father: “Before all of this I said to the social worker my hope was that she would be taken into hospital as an inpatient in a more sterile environment to treat her and the lice situation.”

Judge: “How could the hospital treat the lice situation at home?”

Father: “No, having her in hospital meant that the main infector was out of the way. In my opinion I can safely say the lice situation in the house at home has cleared up. [C] having treatment in hospital that the GP had suggested and because in a totally different setting she accepted the treatment rather than accepting it at home…As I say we are not bad parents at all we have done our best to raise the kids as best we can.”

The judge said that he did not think anybody was saying that they were “bad parents or bad people”.

Father: “I think it might have been a combination of [B] getting head lice in school that coincided with this pandemic you know and then myself following government advice with an underlying health issue staying at home. Everything was up in the air. A lot of stressful things happened in such a short time myself and [the mother] and the kids in a way were unable to cope with everything that is going on.”

The barrister for the mother asked the father about the mother’s evidence in respect of the washing of the clothes and bed clothes at 60 degrees. The father told the court that the washing of clothes at 60 degrees was also advice from the GP that he had passed onto the mother and there were almost two washes going on every day with bed clothes and clothes.

Mother’s barrister: “Would you be willing to help [the mother] to ensure the house is kept clean?”

Father: “Yes.”

The father agreed with the CFA solicitor that he had been dealing with headlice since January. The father told the court that it could have been the end of January when he first went to the GP as B was refusing to have her hair fine combed. The father said that the treatment C was getting in the hospital was the same treatment recommended by the GP but that B’s hair did not get as bad as C’s hair.

CFA solicitor: “Did the GP recommend different treatments for [B] and [C]?”

Father: “Yes, but the added recommendation for [C] was that her hair be lathered with mayonnaise or hair conditioner for 24 hours in order to suffocate the head lice. [C] wouldn’t agree to mayonnaise but we did use the conditioner on her hair several times. We were told to put conditioner into dry hair and massage it in. A suggestion from the GP was if we had a swimming hat to put it on for 12 to 24 hours to smother the headlice and have a shower.”

CFA solicitor: “Did you do all of that?”

Father: “Yes, several times.”

CFA solicitor: “For both children did you do what was recommended?”

Father: “Yes I did.”

The CFA solicitor put to the father that it appeared from the evidence given that the father did not carry out the recommended treatments “consistently or properly or at all”. The solicitor asked why over ten months later the infestation had not been eradicated.

Father: “We did the best we could… because of me working five years on night shift there is an element of discipline.”

The father agreed with the CFA solicitor that the sleeping arrangements, the condition of the home and the treatment were all decisions to be made by the adults in the home. The father agreed that they were all difficult decisions but were to be made by the parents in charge.

CFA solicitor “Between [B’s] headlice at the beginning of the year that led to her head being shaved and [C] getting it what lessons have you learned since January and now over treatment?”

Father: “The lessons I have learned would be to reinforce some sort of discipline with the kids so they follow instruction. Whenever they are asked to do something particularly [C] would go running, screaming and shouting to her room. If it was in the time I was growing up I would give a smack but apparently I can’t do that now or [it’s] child abuse.”

Judge: “It is against the law simple as that.”

The judge rose from court for a period of time to consider his decisions in the case. In giving his decision the judge said that he had heard long evidence from the principal, the expert in headlice, the social worker, the mother and the father. In relation to the interim care order applications for B and C the judge said that “taking into account the totality of the evidence” before the court that he was more than satisfied that the threshold had been met and had reasonable cause to believe that circumstances exist or have existed that it was necessary for the health and welfare of the children that they be placed in the care of the CFA pending the determination of the care order.

The judge commented that the parents had had a week to organise legal aid but that the father’s financial circumstances had “changed utterly” since he had been first refused legal aid. The judge said that as the mother was represented and having regard to their same wishes to contest the application and the urgency of the situation for the two children he had decided to reduce the period of the initial interim care order from 28 days to eight days as a minimum time for the children to be safe and properly treated and to give the father a reasonable time to get legal representation if an extension is sought.

Judge: “Eight days does not reflect the gravity of the case which, but for the issue of legal representation, would have warranted a 28 day order.”

The judge said that the court had heard very little evidence of any neglect of A but had heard evidence that he had no headlice and about his bedroom. The judge said that as he had heard no evidence in respect of the health and welfare of A, he refused the application for a supervision order in respect of A.

The judge made a direction that a parenting capacity assessment be carried out in respect of both parents to be funded by the CFA. The CFA solicitor told the court that a direction would assist with the fast tracking of any funding issues and may assist in getting funding. The judge appointed a guardian ad litem to B and C and listed the matter for the following week.

Interim Care Order extended on consent.

When the application for an extension of the interim care order came before the court the following week the father was legally represented and the court was informed that the extension of the interim care order was on consent of both the mother and the father. The court was informed that the children had been placed together in a placement some distance from their home county.

The social worker gave a summary of the evidence that was before the court at the initial interim care order the previous week. The social worker said that C had been in hospital for a period longer than a week and when she was discharged from hospital she had joined her older sister in the placement.

The social worker told the court that she had received an update from the foster care that both of the girls’ hair was “currently clear” from headlice. The social worker said that she had concerns in respect of the parents’ home conditions and she had hoped to meet with the parents to explore what was expected of them as the condition of the home was “extremely poor, especially the sleeping conditions”.  The social worker said that a cleaning process needed to be completed and that she would need to see some improvement in the home condition before exploring professional support.

The social worker said that the parents had not had access since the initial interim care order was made as the placement was “quite a distance”. The social worker said that she hoped that the children would have a few days to settle in before she spoke to them about access and what the children wanted in respect of access visits. The social worker said that the CFA would assist with transport and carry out a risk assessment before any access occurred. She added that she did not want to risk the children becoming infested with headlice again and that the mother had indicated that she was willing to attend an appointment with the headlice expert.

The court was told that school work had been collected for the children but that the CFA may need to explore local schools if the interim care order was extended.

Social worker: “The girls are very happy in the placement and they have said they are happy to stay there as long as required. They have developed a relationship quite quickly. Although it is far away it may be the most appropriate.”

The barrister for the mother sought clarification as to whether the social worker would be arranging the appointment for the mother with the headlice expert. The social worker said that she needed clarification as to the level of service during the level 5 restrictions. The social worker said that the head lice expert had been willing to treat C during level 5 and she was hopeful that as the mother was part of the same family that she would be given an appointment.

The barrister for the mother asked the social worker if she was looking for a placement closer to the children’s home county. The social worker said that it was an emergency short term placement as sibling placements were very difficult to find and there was only one available. The social worker said that a closer placement was “not available as of yet” and that the CFA would have to assess if it was appropriate to subject the children “to a move this early on”.

The solicitor for the father said that he was consenting to the extension of the interim care order on a without prejudice basis. The solicitor asked what frequency of access was envisaged. The social worker said that she wanted to speak to the children first but said “maybe twice a week but there is no issue with funding and facilitating transport”.

The solicitor asked the social worker about assistance with cleaning the house and said that a skip would be helpful to throw out furniture but that the father was not in a position to fund the skip. The social worker said that she would make an application for the funding of a skip to the CFA.

The court was told that the guardian ad litem had been appointed but due to the very recent appointment there was no report before the court but she was supporting the extension of the interim care order and would have a report prepared for the next court date.

The judge noted the consent of the parents and having heard the evidence of the social worker he was satisfied that the circumstances giving rise to the initial interim care order continued to exist and he extended the interim care order.