Introduction 2020 Vol.1

The majority of the reports published here come from cases heard between January and June of this year. As everyone knows, since mid-March the courts have been operating in the context of restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has led to the courts hearing certain cases remotely and to a significant number of adjournments. The pandemic also raised a number of specific issues for vulnerable children, particularly those in care or requiring protection from the State.

As a result we in the CCLRP decided to break from our usual practice of publishing bi-annual volumes of reports, and to publish cases, or excerpts from cases, that directly related to the Covid-19 crisis, so that practitioners and policy-makers could be alert to these issues in a timely manner. One of the main issues to emerge during this time was that of access, where face-to-face access between children in care and their parents was often discontinued, leading to disputes between the parents and the CFA. This was particularly distressing for parents and children where the child was in a psychiatric unit with other children who suffered from diseases like anorexia nervosa, and were therefore especially vulnerable. Another issue to emerge was the impact of the lockdown on vulnerable parents, where those struggling with addiction or mental health problems were placed under further strain which impeded their recovery and hampered efforts at reunification.

As some of the cases published here demonstrate, the pandemic has also posed problems for services, for example, various physical and psychological therapies, which could not be delivered face-to-face. While some did take place via video link, not all therapies, or indeed clients, were suited to this and it inevitably impacted on the availability of services.

Some of these reports were published under a special Covid 19 heading on our website, along with two sets of Observations which we sent to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs as our contribution to the discussion of how to deal with these unprecedented problems. We are very aware that everyone in the DCYA and the Child and Family Agency has been working intensely and with great dedication in seeking to resolve the problems arising for vulnerable children due to the pandemic, and we hope that these observations and case reports have been of assistance.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic a number of full care order hearings we expected to be heard were adjourned, and most of the cases heard remotely were uncontested. Nonetheless, the work of the child protection courts has continued, and we hope these reports offer an insight into the work of the child protection courts at this challenging time.