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Family court

Child remains in care after parents refuse to answer phone or turn up to court hearing

The family court heard that the family had living arrangements “unsuitable for a young child”.

AT THE END of September last year, there were 6,329 children in care in Ireland. 

In each case before the court, a judge had to issue a care order, ruling that the State was taking the appropriate course of action.  

Later, the same judges are asked to rule on whether the children should return home to their parents, or remain in care.

Previously, all such court hearings were in camera (private) and the media could not attend. That rule was changed so a light could be shone on proceedings, and society could be made aware of the issues that the court deals with in relation to family breakdowns, children in care, and domestic violence.

Having done so on a number of occasions last spent another two days in the family courts recently to report on the nature of the cases that come before it. In the third of this four part series, parents have failed to turn up to a hearing that will decide if their children will remain in care.

WITH THE PARENTS absent from proceedings, a judge ruled last week that an infant would remain in foster care.

Over the course of the short hearing, counsel for the parents, Tusla and the guardian ad litem – representing the interests of the child – all acquiesced to the order being extended.

Missed access appointments, unsuitable living arrangements and the uncontactable parents were all cited as contributing to the decision that the child should remain in care for the time being.

“Long standing concerns”

The Tusla social worker told the court that both parents had missed at least half of the access appointments to see their child in recent months.

On one of the occasions where both attended, there appeared to be an issue between the mother and father co-parenting, the court heard, with the father shouting at the access worker and leaving after only 15 minutes.

Access was offered regularly to the parents at first, the court heard, but this was scaled down from three times a week to two due to the parents non-appearance at these appointments.

There was one appointment, however, that the parents turned up a half hour early for and, due to an error by staff at the front desk, the social worker wasn’t told they had arrived.

They grew frustrated and left before the social worker knew they were there.

There were also a range of concerns around the parents’ living conditions, which the court heard would be completely unsuitable for a young child.

The social worker offered to arrange alternative accommodation for the parents on several occasions, but this was repeatedly turned down.

The court-appointed guardian agreed that the parents were extremely hard to reach, saying that they never answered phone calls and would only ever respond to a message through texting.

Although there were concerns of domestic violence and alcohol abuse among the parents, it was difficult to substantiate because it was so hard to reach them, the guardian said.

The guardian added that the child was now thriving in an “excellent foster home”.

The judge extended the interim care order for the child, and said that the case would be heard again next month.

Comments have been closed for legal reasons.

Read: A day in the Family Court: Child not told when father might visit to ‘avoid disappointment’

Read: Child in foster care has “serious anxiety” and worries about his mother’s welfare

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