The District Court extended interim care orders for five children, who had been subjected to extreme physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect, by the parents.
The court heard that all five children had been in the care of the Child and Family Agency (CFA) for over two years, following a significant traumatic event in which the middle child, Child C, had been subjected to a very serious assault, which had left her with life-changing brain injuries and a requirement for round-the-clock care.
The CFA solicitor advised the court that both parents had been convicted earlier in the year for child cruelty, neglect and assault causing serious harm, following a 12-day trial.
The father appeared remotely from prison and was legally represented. He said he was opposing the extension and wanted all five children to be placed in the care of a close relative. The mother was not in a position to appear remotely as the prison was in lockdown, but her barrister said her instruction was to consent to the application for the extension.
The social worker gave evidence that two of the children were in a foster placement together, as were another two, and C was in a placement by herself given her very specific needs. He said all five children were doing “reasonably well,” despite the trauma they had experienced while in their parent’s care. He said the children had “no other home to go to,” and it would be very detrimental to take them out of their current foster homes when their needs were being met there.
The father did not give evidence in relation to his position, but his barrister reiterated that he wanted the children cared for by relatives.
The guardian ad litem (GAL) said he was supporting the application and gave evidence that Child A and Child B were doing very well in their placement and that their foster parents “go the extra mile” for them. He said both children were attending school without issue and had made friends there. He said the children viewed their foster carers as their parents at this stage and had “no desire” to return to their parents at any stage in the future. He said B had given evidence at the criminal trial, which had taken “tremendous courage,” and his foster parents had got him a puppy afterwards.
The GAL said that counselling was envisaged in the future for A and B, but it was not deemed necessary at the moment.
The GAL said that regular planning meetings had been taking place in respect of C and that the care she was receiving was “first class.” He said she had a lot of needs, but that these were being met in her foster placement. He said she was a lovely girl and her siblings “care about her very much.” He said he was satisfied there was a robust access plan in place, and the children saw each other frequently.
He said Child D and Child E were equally doing really well in their placement and had come a long way since when they first came into care. He said that two years ago they were “very angry and couldn’t sleep,” but their foster carers managed them very well and both were “thriving” now. He said that as the two youngest children, they were very attached to their carers, so to “even imagine them leaving there would be very worrying.”
Having heard the evidence, the judge said it would clearly be highly detrimental to the welfare of the children if they were moved from their current placements. In the circumstances, the court said it had “no hesitation” to extend the interim care orders in respect of all five children.