A regional court granted a six-month supervision order in respect of three very young children whose parents had migrated to Ireland. The parents consented to the supervision order after discussions with the social work team.
The social worker gave evidence that the children, all under three, became known to the social work department when the second child was born prematurely. The social worker said that they had been monitoring the situation since that time, but there had been a resistance by the parents to the supports which were being offered. The mother’s general practitioner became concerned about the mother’s mental health, due to the fact that she had three very young children and was isolated. The public health nurse was also concerned with the state of the family’s accommodation.
The social worker said that the family were living in a large old house in the city. However, they only had access to one room in the house, due to sub-letting and clutter in the other rooms. Evidence was provided that the house had a severe mice infestation and the cleanliness of the accommodation was also mentioned as being an issue. The ethnicity of the family was also considered to be a major factor and it became apparent that the standards and customs of their country of origin, such as family bed-sharing and bed-times, were an issue for the social work department. The social worker was cognisant of their cultural integrity, but was not satisfied that the children were in a safe environment or that their mother was receiving enough support.
The solicitor for the mother said that she accepted that the accommodation was not ideal and the solicitor for the father said that the identification of a crèche might deal with a number of matters such as routine and getting the children to talk and would assist in the mother getting out of the house more often.
The judge granted the supervision order for a period of six months and noted the consent of the parents. The judge remarked that life must be difficult for the family on account of their economic situation and the fact that there were in a foreign country. The judge said that they should get the highest number of supports available to them and the situation should be reviewed in a month’s time.
Case returns for review
The matter was back before the court a month later and the solicitor for the CFA reported that good progress had been made. The solicitor informed the judge that the eldest child attended Montessori on two mornings each week and she is very sociable and was enjoying her time in the crèche. It was agreed that from the new term onwards, the younger two children would attend the crèche.
The solicitor for the CFA also reported that a room in the house had been cleared and was now being used as a play room and while the children were still bed sharing with their parents, consideration was being given to additional beds.
The CFA continued to be concerned about the isolation of the mother and suggested that she attend a community meeting of people with shared backgrounds. The CFA said that they had arranged for the mother to meet the facilitator of the group.
Finally, the solicitor for the CFA said that while the mice problem continued, the father was actively trying to deal with the infestation and the family were looking for alternative accommodation. The social worker was pleased to note that the parents were no longer resisting the involvement of the social work department and while she was happy with the progress, the social worker was of the opinion that further improvements were required. The solicitor for the CFA said: “We don’t want momentum to be lost and then be back in six months looking for a care order.”
The father’s solicitor was keen to emphasise that the difficulties encountered by the family were not deliberate and were “more of a misunderstanding of standards”.
The mother’s solicitor said that the mother did not feel particularly isolated, but would engage with the supports provided and he highlighted that good work had been done in a very short period of time.
The judge said that she was pleased to see the progress which had been made, but was still worried about the isolation of the mother and in those circumstances ordered that there be an additional review in three months’ time.
The matter was back before the court three months later for a review and a different judge was presiding at that point. The judge was concerned that there was no translator in court, however, the parents were happy to proceed without a translator.
The social worker gave evidence that mice were still a problem, to the extent that they had been in the babies travel cot and the mother was unable to use the cot that day as a result. The solicitor for the father said that he keeps the house as clean as possible, but saw mice from time to time. He was of the opinion that they needed a new house.
The social worker acknowledged that the father was looking for a new house, but like a lot of other people, she said that he was having severe difficulties. The social worker told the judge that they had maintained the level of cleanliness since the supervision order was granted, but said that there were still two people subletting and the social worker was concerned that they may have been cooking in their rooms.
The solicitor for the father interjected and said that the issue was not if there are rodents, but rather the issue is whether or not the parents are taking steps to deal with the matter and he said that they were.
In relation to the children’s health, development and welfare, the social worker said that the eldest child had been seen by a speech and language therapist and had significant delays in receptive and expressive language. The mother’s solicitor pointed out that the report of the speech and language therapist did not address the fact that the child was bi-lingual and argued that bi-lingual children often have speech delays. The social worker said that eldest child now attends Montessori five days a week and the Montessori gave a very positive report. The second child is now attending crèche each day and the father rearranged his work schedule to facilitate the children being transported to crèche.
The social worker was still concerned about the mother’s mental health and isolation and told the judge that she had arranged meetings with persons from a similar cultural background, but the mother would always cancel. The social worker thought it would “be lovely for her to have someone to call other than a social worker”.
The mother’s solicitor replied: “She has three children under the age of three and she doesn’t feel that this interference is warranted.” He told the judge that “she is flat out and doesn’t have time for this… she doesn’t have time to go off with some group”, adding “the mother feels that she is not socially isolated”.
The father’s solicitor said that unless it was established that the mice are affecting the safety, health and welfare of the children, then there was no requirement for the supervision order. He said that “if we start interfering in families to that extent, then we would be very busy in court.”
The judge told the parents to keep doing what they were doing and encouraged the mother to have a social life outside of the house. The judge said that she was optimistic that the parties would not have to return to court a month later as long as a few small matters were addressed.