Following earlier proceedings, reported in Volume 3 of the Publications on this website, four children were returned to the care of their mother under a Supervision Order. However within three months the HSE brought Interim Care Order applications in respect of all four children, stating that the Supervision Order had not been complied with. Both parents (who were separated) opposed the applications. The mother chose to be unrepresented and did not give evidence.
Permission was granted to admit a handwritten statement prepared by Child A following a recent incident in the family home. The ICOs were being made on the basis of certain events that had taken place, the catalyst was when Child A had contacted her guardian ad litem (GAL), said the HSE solicitor.
The statement prepared by Child A gave her the opportunity to have her voice heard in the proceedings. “A lot of the concerns raised about non-compliance with the Supervision Order had really been raised by the children,” she continued.
The social worker told the court that regarding the evening in question, the father alleged the mother had had between three and five drinks while the children were present. (This was in contravention to the conditions set out in the Supervision Order.) The father later admitted in cross-examination that he had also been drinking in the house and had spent most of the weekend there.
The social worker told the court the father said he had left the house at 10pm on the evening in question, but received a call ten minutes later from Child A. Her mother had thrown her out and she was unable to gain re-entry. By the time he drove back to the house she had rung her GAL, who had then got a Garda to ring her. She then told the Garda she was OK, that her Dad was with her. He rang the doorbell and the mother answered the door.
He said there was a “a risk that [A] would be subject to physical abuse again, she was pushed with two hands placed on her back … given her age she may take on a parental role in the family in order to protect her siblings, the younger children are seeing their mother drunk and seeing rows, seeing [A] being pushed out the door, their mother speaks in a manner which could be deemed emotionally abusive, significant concerns remain with regards to their welfare.”
The social worker read excerpts from Child A’s letter: “If I don’t keep my mouth shut she’ll have me removed by the Guards … she doesn’t care, she’ll do what she likes … she’d rather I’d live somewhere else, she rather have three kids than me.”
The GAL told the court that the children told him with some degree of frustration and regret “they would rather be in foster care than living with mummy, the foster carer is nicer, [A] said it’s the constant shouting, for the younger kids it’s a little bit scary.
“I find it very difficult listening to the evidence on that day, knowing the history and views and [the mother] had taken four or five glasses of vodka and knowing she sees [A] as an informant, for [the father] to choose to leave the house with [the mother] lying on the couch, if [she] falls asleep because she has taken so much alcohol, there are three children in the house, there are concerns there about neglect.
“Mum’s shouting is emotionally abusive for the children, the impact on the other kids in the house in my view would be significant. Also with [the father] drinking, it raises concerns about him being a protective parent, that’s a key issue.”
There was an outstanding allegation from another evening of one of the younger children being lifted from a top bunk bed and dropped to the floor because she wanted a bedtime story, he added.
Regarding the father being able to care for the children, the GAL said: “Does he really feel he could take care of these children, he is employed, he is away on work commitments, he would have to give a lot of that up, there is a strained relationship between him and their mother, it is much more than not just having accommodation, it is actually ability and commitment and not just taking the children on,” he told father’s solicitor. “His actual desire to care for the children on his own and not have a relationship of any type with [the mother] is something he has not shown.”
Interim Care Orders were granted in respect of all four children, the judge found there had been a breach of the directions of the Supervision Order.
He said there was “a significant risk of physical abuse of the children in their parents’ care, a significant risk of emotional abuse of the children in their parents’ care, [A] was being forced to take on a parental role, [mother and father] are unable to provide effect protective factors for the children within the family home.”
Warrants were granted for the enforcement of the ICOs in respect of each child.
See also Volume 3, Case number 20