Interim care orders made amid allegations of neglect and alcohol abuse – 2020vol2#28

The District Court in a rural town granted care orders for three children following allegations of serious neglect. The eldest child had been parenting the two younger children and was struggling emotionally. The family had been monitored by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) for a number of years.

The parents were both present in court, however only the father was represented. The mother informed the judge that she believed that one solicitor could represent both parents. The judge told the mother that she should get her own solicitor.

The CFA solicitor sought an interim care order for six months for the two older children and a two-month interim care order for the younger child. The parents consented to the order.

The social worker informed the court that the social work department had been monitoring the family for almost 10 years due to issues surrounding alcohol abuse and domestic violence. He said that the youngest child had a speech impediment and he had not been brought to speech and language therapy appointments. The social worker said that they received complaints from the school because the youngest child had behavioural problems and often arrived at school smelling of urine.

The social worker told the judge that the parents needed to address their alcohol addiction and enter residential treatment. However, they had refused to do so. The social worker also said that the eldest child was expected to parent the younger children and set boundaries and that child was struggling emotionally and mentally due to the situation. The eldest child had attended her general practitioner due to the stress of the situation. The witness did not elaborate on the contents of his social work report, as the parents had consented to the interim care orders.

The social worker outlined the care plan and said that a relative foster placement had been identified for the two older children. He said that due to the younger child’s needs an experienced foster carer had been identified. The social worker said that the younger child would remain in general foster care while a relative foster placement was being assessed.

The social worker said that they needed a number of months to complete a parenting capacity assessment and the judge asked the parents if they would comply with a parenting capacity assessment and the father’s solicitor said that they would.

The judge did not hear from the guardian ad litem (GAL), but noted that the GAL recommended a residential treatment programme for both parents and stressed that it would be very important that they deal with their alcohol addiction. The judge said that she would hear evidence from the GAL on the next occasion.

The judge granted an interim care order for six months in respect of the two older children and two months in respect of the youngest child. The judge said that the threshold had been met to make the order under Section 17 of the Child Care Act.