Written judgment outlines proportionate basis for orders – 2015vol1#17

A written judgment was given by a District Court judge in a case where Care Orders had been granted on consent in respect of four children.

The Care Orders were sought and granted on the basis of: the children’s exposure to domestic violence between the parents; the parents’ inadequate supervision of the children; the parents’ ongoing and pervasive drug addiction which has impacted on their care of the children; the parents’ failure to deal with personal issues underpinning their drug addiction; the parents’ lack of capacity to care for their children and the parents’ lack of progress in addressing their difficulties.

The CFA had argued that as a result of the above issues, the children’s health, development or welfare was likely to be avoidably impaired or neglected if they were returned to their parents’ care. Although the parents conceded that the threshold under section 18 of the Child Care Act, 1991 had been reached, they did not accept that Care Orders of the full duration were proportionate and argued that care orders of three years’ duration would be appropriate in the case.

The judge stated that he was satisfied the decision to grant Care Orders until 18 for the children was proportionate for the care of the children, having considered that the question of proportionality may be summarised as the making of an order that goes no further than is strictly necessary to assure the welfare of the children. The judge said that he had “considered the proportionate duration of the Care Order in light of the harm suffered by each of the children, the risk to them and the fact that the parents had made relatively little progress to address their own difficulties in the time the children have been in care.”

In affirming the Care Orders until 18 for the children, the judge directed that access between the children and their parents continue to be at the discretion of the Child and Family Agency (CFA) pursuant to section 37 of the Child Care Act, 1991, having considered the importance of regular access to each of the children. He also directed that regular sibling access be “facilitated to the children as a sibling group.”

The judge directed that the matter be re-entered before the court by the CFA and on notice to the parents and the guardian ad litem (GAL) in the event of: a social worker/fostering link worker becoming unallocated to any of the children/foster carers for a period of six weeks; any planned or unplanned change of current foster placement of any of the children; the statutory child in care review for each child not being carried out for any reason; and directed that reunification be considered at each child in care review as set out in the CFA guidelines/regulations.

The judge also directed re-entry of the matter if a long-term foster-care matching process for the children was not completed within a certain time. The judge also directed, pursuant to section 47 of the Child Care, Act 1991, that all of the children be allocated an after care worker within one month of their sixteenth birthday.