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Family court

Children found with lice and ringworm in a house with no food

The details of this case were released in the latest Child Care Law Reporting Project.

CARE ORDERS WERE given for four children who lived in neglect, a new report into Ireland’s children’s courts shows.

The four children were from a Roma family which had a history of transience. The court heard that there were allegations of domestic violence, neglect, poor school attendance and criminality.

After the children came to the attention of social workers, a visit to the house discovered that the home was “uninhabitable” with no food or baby formula.

The children had dental problems, ringworm and lice when they were assessed by social workers.

An emergency care order was first granted for seven children in the family. The report details the difficulties the children experienced while dealing with being in care and negotiating their relationship with their mother.

There were also allegations of the mother encouraging the children to steal. Evidence was given in court of a lack of school attendance.

The mother said that her partner had a tendency towards violence and she returned to him on occasions as he had promised he would change.

Her counsel stressed that the family were Roma and so moving around was part of their culture. The mother said she had no life without her children, and that her “heart was broken”.

In delivering judgment, the judge stated that there “can be no doubt that the mother loves her children and that they love her.”

The judge was satisfied that the mother always had the children with her and endeavoured to protect them.

Care orders for four children were granted, and parental access was left at the discretion of the Child and Family Agency. The full report can be read here.

Care orders for five children after allegations of neglect

Another case detailed how care orders were granted for the five youngest children in a very large family.

The family, who were Travellers, lived on a halting site. There were serious allegations of neglect and lack of cooperation on behalf of the parents.

One of the children made an allegation of sexual abuse, which was investigated.

Both parents were found by a psychologist from a specialist family therapy and support centre to have limited understanding of the children’s needs.

The father’s cognitive assessment placed him at the 0.3 percentile, meaning 99.7% of the population scored better in cognitive ability.

Both parents had limited intellectual functioning and limited ability to understand language

The children were not going to school, and all of them had learning disabilities. Most of them had speech and language difficulties.

The judge asked the psychologist:

If the children were from a different background, would you recommend they be taken into care?

The psychologist responded: “Yes, we recommend children from all backgrounds be taken into care. In relation to these children, there is no guarantee their needs will be met in care. Hopefully [they will].”

The withdrawal of cooperation of the parents led to the application for care orders. The orders were granted, though the Child and Family Agency’s barrister said it was always the policy of the CFA to keep the children in their family, and that the agency had been involved with them since 2011.

The full report into this case can be read here.

These two cases are included in the latest volume of the Child Care Law Reporting Project, which contains 19 cases. It is the first to be published in the second phase of the project’s work.

The first three-year phase concluded in November 2015 with a final report collating data on over 1,200 cases attended by the project. Phase Two is expected to take two years.

The project’s director, Dr Carol Coulter, said:

This second phase combines continued reporting on child care cases with in-depth research into a number of very lengthy and complex cases, which have sometimes taken up dozens of court days spread over several months. We hope we can learn from these cases how to improve child care proceedings for children and their families.

Read: ‘I want my children to have the family I never had’>

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