An interim care order was extended in a provincial town in respect of five children where there were concerns regarding the children absconding. The guardian ad litem (GAL) supported the application.
Child A had been removed from her placement at Christmas and moved to another placement. Difficulties arose as the female children were absconding from school and the school raised huge concerns. There were two incidents of the female children absconding and returning to their parents. The social worker said: “We discussed this with parents and they denied their influence in that behaviour … the girls are getting the green light from their family to abscond.”
The first incident of the female children absconding happened in the New Year. There were 15 members of An Garda Síochána and three Garda vehicles involved in the search for the children. The girls alleged that someone chased them. The social worker said the girls rang the mother after they absconded from their placement and the parents should have called the Gardaí when the children first contacted them. There were four occasions where the children were found to be in the custody of their parents after absconding from their placements.
The social worker said the female children requested to stay with their aunt but the social work department had concerns about the aunt as she had a child protection case ongoing.
The social work department contacted other family members about the concerns surrounding the aunt but they did not want to get involved. The mother was alleging that the social worker gave the children permission to stay with the aunt.
Child A was suspended from school for making online threats against another student. The mother presented at the school to defend the child and it further isolated the child. A psychological assessment was due to take place on all children. Child A suffered from anxiety and child B was diagnosed with ADHD. Play therapy was taking place for child C and child D.
There were concerns at access. One child was due to go on holiday with his foster carers and at access the father refused to sit at the table and left access. The child had to go on holiday after having to endure that access. On another occasion at access the father took child D aside out of earshot and sight of the access worker to talk to the child and tell him about another student’s face being slashed. The access worker was beginning to query the benefit of the access.
The judge said: “He [the father] is not here… damage is being done to these children.”
Social worker: “We are struggling to manage the access regarding the behaviour of the father. The onus is on the parents to cooperate with the access.” The social work department asked the parents to meet but they refused to meet unless the GAL was present.
The judge noted that the GAL recommended that both parents engage with the CFA and the father was to leave the home.
The solicitor for the father said he had not yet left the home as he had nowhere to go.
The judge asked: “Is it not possible that if [it is] the belief of the CFA [that there] is domestic violence, they can apply to have him barred?”
The solicitor for the CFA said the CFA could bring an application to have the father barred from the home but it had to be proved that the mother had not the means or was not in a position to bring the application herself.
The judge asked: “If the father were removed, the concerns would be removed?”
The social worker said: “The mother actively engaged with the father to influence these children.”
Therapeutic work was to be carried out with the mother but no one had been identified yet to carry out the work.
The judge said: “the children are suffering here.”
The interim care order was extended for 28 days.