An emergency care order was granted for three children, all under the age of three, who had been left unattended in a flat.
A garda told the court that the landlord of a block of flats had contacted the gardai to say there were three unattended children in a flat. He went to the address.
“I saw three kids in a very dishevelled state,” he said. “No-one was present. There was no light or heat, no electricity, no food. The baby was crying with hunger. The other kids were completely silent. They were in ‘onesies’ that were wet through with faeces and urine. Their hands were stone cold and they were quite unresponsive. The youngest had a top on and a full nappy. I felt I had no option but to invoke my powers under Section 12 of the Act and take the children to a place of safety, because of the risks to the health and safety of each child.”
He said the flat was “Dickensian with squalor”. He brought the children to the nearest children’s hospital and informed the social worker there.
Later that evening a woman purporting to be the children’s mother presented herself to the Garda station. She said she was moving to secure accommodation the following week.
The social worker said she had been dealing with the family previously. She had made several attempts to contact the mother, who it appeared was now in another city. The father of at least two of the children had been identified. The mother possibly suffered from an intellectual disability.
The children were extremely cold and hungry when they arrived in the hospital, and they had been placed in emergency foster care.
The judge said he was satisfied there was sufficient evidence to make an emergency care order for eight days effectively ex parte. He told the HSE to make as much effort as possible to contact the mother and get her to engage.
The case came up again a week later when the HSE sought an Interim Care Order for the children. The social worker told the court she had been in contact with the mother, who was not in court. There had been a Supervision Order in place for the family.
The mother said she had left the children with two other people on the Saturday and that they were fed and clothed at the time. She agreed there was no electricity in the dwelling. When she got back to the house everything had been taken out of it.
She said she was supposed to move into special accommodation two weeks earlier and was waiting for this. The social worker said this did not add up in the context of what the guards had found. She thought the woman had cognitive difficulties, but she told the judge she did not yet have an advocate.
The judge said he was satisfied, in the light of the conditions in which the children had been found, that the threshold for an Interim Care Order had been met and that the children should be placed in the care of the HSE.