Volume Two of our 2018 reports contains 38 case-reports from all areas of the country, including Dublin, ranging in length from a few hundred words to over 11,000 words. One report contained the latest instalment of a long-running care order application in a rural town for four children. The case began in January 2016, and is still going on. It has seen numerous adjournments, and fresh issues have arisen in the case, including allegations of child sexual abuse, while the case has been being heard.
In six of the cases published here the mother was homeless at the time the case was being heard, though in none of them was this the immediate cause of the application to take the children into care. Drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence continue to play a major role in decisions by the Child and Family Agency to seek interim care orders, often followed by applications for full care orders. However, in a number of cases where the possibility of reunification arose, this was made much more difficult due to the mother’s homelessness.
In one case published below, the CFA sought an emergency change in a foster placement when the child’s mother and the CFA access worker noticed bruising on the child’s face at an access meeting.
Three of the reports concern situations where new-born infants were taken into care around the time of their birth. Two were challenged in the higher courts. In one, the High Court found that the forcible removal of a day-old baby from its breast-feeding mother was disproportionate, as alternatives had not been considered. However, in another, the Court of Appeal refused to overturn decisions of the High Court refusing to grant an Article 40 (habeas corpus) application challenging an interim care order for a young baby.
The particular vulnerability of some children from ethnic minorities is also revealed in this volume of reports. In one case, an interim care order was granted for an African child of primary school age who was suspected of having been trafficked. A man claiming to be the child’s adoptive father was removed from the proceedings. In another case, the father of children in care under interim care orders was from a non-EU country, and came to Ireland seeking to get his children back. He had been unaware they were in care. The mother, a naturalised Irish citizen, had been ill and was currently homeless.
In a third case, an interim care order was extended where the child’s mother, from an Asian background, had a guardianad litemappointed for her. The court heard that she was very vulnerable and it was suspected she was being forced into marriage. A psychological assessment was ordered.
The reports also include a number from the High Court Minors’ List, where the lack of availability both of placements in secure care for very troubled teenagers, and for step-down placements for young people leaving secure care, continues to feature in the weekly hearings. In addition, this volume includes a report on a case where a young person was removed from the Minors’ List and transferred to the Wards of Court list so that she could be made a Ward of Court. This was to facilitate her transfer to a therapeutic centre in the UK: she had not been diagnosed in Ireland as suffering from mental illness but would be eligible for therapy in the UK facility.