A judge in Dublin District refused to allow the withdrawal of a Garda Emergency Care Order application. The judge said he was concerned that Section 12 applications [for Emergency Care Orders] were being invoked by an Garda Síochána and people were then signing their children into voluntary care; he did not know whether the parents had had legal advice or not.
He felt the check and balance of Section 12 was that the Child and Family Agency (CFA) should move the application in court. “If you don’t return the child [to the family] you should make the application, the more appropriate way to deal with it is to bring the parent in to say they are happy to consent to voluntary care.”
When the case was brought back in two days’ later the mother attended court.
The CFA solicitor told the court that a Section 12 had been invoked by X Garda Station and after a referral to the out of hours’ social work service the mother had agreed to signing a voluntary care admission form. It did not look like it would be a long situation, the mother had a number of problems and assistance would be given, then the children would be going home.
The mother, who was not from this jurisdiction, said she was happy to speak English in court.
Judge: “Your children were brought into care by the Gardaí on Sunday and you subsequently signed a voluntary admission form.”
Mother: “I’m really sorry.”
Judge: “It’s not a matter for apologies. There is a legal process here, the Gardaí having done what they did must refer the matter to the Child and Family Agency who must come here to court. Before the matter came into court I understand you agreed the children remain in the care of the CFA. Have you taken any legal advice?”
Judge: “You have, who did you speak to?”
Mother: “The social workers. I want to work with the social workers.”
Judge: “Nevertheless you have legal rights and your children have legal rights which you ought to be aware of for the entire process that your children are in the care of the CFA. I would recommend that you take legal advice about your position and the position of the children.”
The judge told her she was entitled to apply for legal aid as she was not working.
Judge: “You are under no obligation to place your children in the care of the Child and Family Agency, if you do so then that should be your choice to do it, you don’t have to do it. However if you don’t reach an agreement with the Child and Family Agency they may well seek an order asking the court to place the children in their care.
“If you have any concerns about the matter I’m prepared to allow you to get legal advice and deal with the matter in court. On the other hand if you are satisfied I can bring the matter to a conclusion from the court’s point of view. Do you have any questions; is there anything you want to ask?”
Mother: “I agree the social workers take care of my kids.”
The judge told the CFA solicitor that he did not require them to proceed with the ECO application as a voluntary agreement has been entered into.
“I urge you to get legal advice anyway so you are aware of your children’s rights and your rights in this matter,” he told the mother.