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Website to publish court reports on child care cases

For the first time, the Child Care Law Reporting Project will publish regular reports from the courts which make orders under the Child Care Act.

A WEBSITE GIVING an insight into why children are taken into State care in Ireland is to be launched tomorrow.

The Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP), which is led by Dr Carol Coulter, will make the court reports of these cases available to the public for the first time.

It will be launched by Judge Rosemary Horgan, President of the District Court at the National Library of Ireland in Dublin tomorrow morning.

Project

The CCLRP will publish regular reports from the courts which make orders under the Child Care Act, mainly relating to taking children into care. The anonymity of the children and their families will be protected.

“I am really pleased it is getting out there,” said Dr Coulter. “It will demonstrate it is possible to have this kind of information available without identifying families, and also that their identity should be protected.”

It is important we make great efforts to protect their anonymity. Even while doing so it is possible to show what the issues are – that is one of the things I hope this project does.

The project is supervised by an oversight committee of legal and child care experts. It is independent and established under Section 3 of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2007, in accordance with the Regulations made under that Act, with the support of the One Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies and the Department of Children of Youth Affairs.

Dr Coulter told TheJournal.ie that the project will see 30 reports on child care cases being published on the website tomorrow.

Reasons

“It will permit people to see what are the reasons why children end up in the care of the HSE,” said Dr Coulter. Not all children who come to attention of the HSE end up in care, and some children can end up in voluntary care, where they don’t have to go to court.

Children are most frequently taken into care because of neglect, and also because of domestic violence and mental health issues. One recent case saw three children under the age of three being found alone in a flat with no electricity, no heat or food. The gardaí found the children and were empowered under the Child Care Act to seek an emergency order.

The cases will show the prevalence of ‘non-accidental injuries’, where children are found with injuries consistent with an accident, but which the parents are not able to account for.

“One of the things that surprised me somewhat was I saw quite a high incidence of mental health issues, primarily among parents,” added Dr Coulter.

Among 30 cases – four or five or so – the reason why they are in care is the mother is mentally ill. I don’t know if the public know that is such a common problem.

She added that there is a disproportionately large number of the children in Dublin being from a migrant background. One or two of the children were abandoned by their parents, which led to challenges around finding out their identity.

“I think inevitably one of the things that will have to be looked at in the future is the challenge in terms of cultural issues,” said Dr Coulter. In some cultures, there can be different attitudes to child rearing and domestic violence, which can pose challenges to mothers in an abusive relationship, for example.

The project will collect and analyse data from the courts, report on the nature and outcomes of the child care proceedings and promote a public debate on the issues raised through seminars and conferences. The cases mainly cover Dublin at the moment, but the aim is to have national representation.

The site will be live at childlawproject.ie from 10.30am tomorrow.

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