A three-month Supervision Order was granted to the HSE in relation to two children aged three and nine months.
The social worker told the court that the extended family had been known to the HSE for six years. The mother of the children lived in the family home with the two children, and was regularly visited by their father.
There were concerns about the children who had not been brought to the Health Centre for their development checks, and the public health nurse found it difficult to gain access to the house. The social worker also found it difficult, and when she called she was told the children were upstairs asleep. The older child had a place in a pre-school around the corner but was not attending.
Some weeks earlier the older child had been brought to hospital with a burn to his foot. The mother said he had put it in the fire. She missed her follow-up appointment, and was late for an appointment that was rearranged. She then missed another appointment for the child, who was discharged from the care of the hospital. The social worker said the burn was not very serious.
She said the social work department had concerns about the parenting capacity of both parents, including about the children’s diet, which contained very little nutritious food. This would be better if the older child went to the crèche. There were also concerns about the older child in relation to autism. He was being assessed shortly. The public health nurse wanted the baby, whose weight fluctuated, to have regular development checks.
The overall condition of the household was “up and down”. On the last visit the family had a new dog who went to the toilet in the house and whose mess was not cleaned up. “The whole family feels the department is interfering in their lives.”
Asked by the judge what would be the benefit of a Supervision Order, the social worker said: “It would mean access to the home and seeing the children and being able to assess what their needs are.” Asked what the social worker would do with the order, she said she would have more contact with the children, get them into the local crèche so they would have more interaction with other children and ensure they attended medical appointments.
The judge said she was satisfied the threshold was met for a Supervision Order, and that each child’s health, welfare and development could otherwise be adversely affected. This order was the least draconian, she said, but it was an intrusion into the lives of the parents. “It should go as far as necessary in the circumstances.
“It’s up to the parents whether they send the children to the crèche. It is not compulsory,” she said. “It is important the children are visited regularly.”
She told the social worker to write to the parents explaining in plain English what she wanted and why, and outlining a road map. She granted the order for three months. The parents could come to court if they thought the HSE intervention was more than it should be.