An interim care order was granted in a provincial town in respect of two children where there were allegations of drug misuse and sexual abuse involving the mother and the eldest child. The mother was not represented and did not consent. The father did not engage in the application. There were also concerns regarding the mother’s current partner who had been removed from the home by the Garda Armed Response Unit.
The mother had been afforded time to secure legal representation before the application but she failed to return the completed form to the Legal Aid Board. The solicitor from the board said she would give the mother’s case priority when she received the completed forms. The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) said the CFA wanted to proceed as the mother had been given a week to return the application.
The judge read the grounding affidavit and, noting the concerning circumstances, proceeded with the application.
There had been extensive social work involvement with the family since 2016. The social worker said she had been allocated to the case since February. The first referral was received in February following a call from a relative. The mother made allegations that a male relative touched her and the eldest child inappropriately. The investigation into the allegations was ongoing. The social worker said the male relative did not reside in the home with the children and a safety plan had been put into place.
The social worker received a further referral five days later as the mother and eldest child came to the attention of Gardaí at a bus stop in the early hours of the morning in another provincial town. The Gardaí had concerns about the mother and child and took them back to the station to establish if there were any concerns about the child being with the mother. The mother told the Gardaí she planned to take the child to the United Kingdom.
The mother was a heavy heroin user and was stopped in a car with heroin and cannabis. The grandparents also found a large quantity of drugs in the mother’s belongings at their home.
The mother was in a relationship with a man known for criminal activity. She had previously agreed that she would not allow her partner remain in her home. Her partner was removed from the home by the Garda Armed Support Unit. The eldest child was in the home at the time. The Gardaí removed the two children from the home following the incident and they were taken to the home of their maternal grandparents. The mother gave an undertaking that she would not remove the children from the grandparents’ house.
The social worker made numerous attempts to contact the mother. The mother told the social worker she was tired and could not speak. The social worker said she believed the mother to be under the influence. The social worker and her colleague attempted a home visit to the mother’s address and got no answer. The social worker phoned the mother and was advised that the mother could not talk as she was going out shopping in the early afternoon. The mother sounded groggy and did not know what time of day it was.
The social worker attempted to conduct another home visit. She contacted the mother to tell her the social workers were keen to meet her. The mother initially agreed to the home visit but the following morning the social worker received a call from the mother to ask if the appointment was arranged for that day or the following day. The mother assured the social worker she would be at home for the visit. The social workers called to the house and got no answer. The social worker contacted the maternal grandmother and called at the family home, meeting with the grandmother, the aunt and the eldest child.
The mother said: “You did not meet me and proceeded to look for an interim care order before meeting me.”
The social worker said: “The mother was quite evasive and difficult to contact.”
The social worker said she met the father a week ago and gave him the opportunity to work with the CFA. The father did not give an indication he wanted to be involved in the proceedings. He told the social worker that he was happy for the children to live with their grandparents.
The judge granted the interim care order on the basis there was an immediate danger to the welfare and safety of the children, with access to be at the discretion of the CFA.
The mother asked if the children would remain at the grandparents’ home. The judge told the mother she had the opportunity to get a solicitor and there was nothing to stop her objecting to the extension of the interim care order on the next occasion.