The High Court’s oversight of the treatment of teenagers who need specialised therapeutic intervention, and the disproportionate number of children from ethnic minority backgrounds coming before the child protection courts, are highlighted in this latest volume of reports from the Child Care Law Reporting Project.
Fifty-seven reports are published here. Fourteen of these were in the High Court or involved children under the jurisdiction of the High Court. Eighteen involved cases where one or both parents were immigrants, or where the child was an unaccompanied migrant child.
Five involved cases where parents and children were being reunited, or where a supervision order was granted rather than a care order, leaving the children at home. There were two applications for support for children leaving care for adoption. In the remaining cases interim care orders or full care orders were granted due to the children being neglected or abused. Nine cases involved parents with mental health problems, and in eight cases there were concerns about physical or sexual abuse. In many of the cases alcohol or drug abuse also featured, and these were often combined with mental health problems, all of which also sometimes affected parents from ethnic minorities. However, some families from ethnic minorities suffer additional issues of social isolation and cultural difference.
Among the most concerning cases attended by the CCLRP were those involving applications for special care, that is, detention in special units for therapeutic treatment and education of the child, whose behaviour has given rise to concerns that “pose a real and substantial risk of harm to his or her life, health, safety, development or welfare.” This is sometimes referred to as secure care.
The CCLRP has been attending High Court proceedings dealing with such cases since early 2013, and has published a number of reports on them. We have also recently been attending cases where children are made wards of court, usually so that they can be sent abroad for treatment, either because Irish mental health legislation does not capture their particular mental health problems, or because their behavioural problems require very highly specialised treatment which does not exist here. We publish 14 such cases in this volume. In addition, we publish an overview of these cases, and of the judicial reviews which have teased out some of the difficult legal issues they raise, based on our coverage of the area for seven years.