Health Service Executive -v- AC & anor (Care Order - Neglect and Chaotic Lifestyle)

CourtDistrict Court (Ireland)
JudgeHorgan P.
Case OutcomeApproved
[2010] IEDC 6
7 November 2010
1. This is an applicat ion for a Care Order under section 18 of t he Child Care Act, 1991 in respect of two c hildren: Child 1 aged 12, and
Child 2, who is almost 11 years old.
2. The Children’s mother is the first respondent. She is represent ed by a solicitor and is in rec eipt of Civil Legal Aid.
3. The Children’s father is in cust ody and is present in Court under a Product ion Order. He is not legally represented. The father has
not heretofore participated in the proceedings but he has participated in the lives of the c hildren.
4. A Guardian Ad Litem (“GAL”) was appointed to represent t he children’s separate interest in the proce edings. The GAL is
represented by her solicitor.
5. The Children have had many episodes of recept ion into voluntary c are during their young lives and have had many changes in
acc ommodation until they ultimately came into c are under a Care Order of Court on the a pplication of the HSE. The sequenc e of c are
episodes is set out at pages 17 and 18 of t he GAL Report.
6. The HSE brought this applicat ion on the basis t hat t he children’s health, development, and welfare is likely to be impaired or
neglected if they are ret urned at this t ime to t he care of their mother because t hey have suffered neglect in the c are of their mother
due to her c haotic lifestyle and periods of addict ion and homelessness. In the cas e of t he father, t hey assert that periods of
criminality resulting in prison sentences and issues o f domestic violence would result in the likelihood of harm if the children were
returned to his c are.
7. The f ather sought t o adjourn these proceedings and so applied to the Court in that c ontext. However, he indicated t hat he w as
released in October 2011 while serving a three year se ntence in prison and due to failure to his engage with t he Probation and
Welfare Service (due t o homelessness and diverse hostel ac commodations outside of his cont rol) he was again arrested on 19
October 2011. He failed to secure c ivil legal advice to enable him to be represented in t he proceedings, but he had acc ess to his
criminal law advisor. This c ase was liste d for hearing some significant t ime ago for two days. I was further informed that t he father
and mother met with the HSE Social Worker in September and was aware of t he procee dings. In the circumstances , the applicat ion to
adjourn was refused having regard to sec tion 24 of t he Child Care Act, 1991 which prioritises the w elfare of the children, while having
regard to the rights and dut ies of parents under the const itution or otherwise. I am satisfied t hat t he notificat ion by the HSE to the
father in prison allowed sufficient t ime for him to sec ure legal representation in the proceedings and it would prejudice the welfare of
the c hildren if this c ase was delayed further.
8. The mother’s solicitor indicated t o the Court that she had no instruct ions in relation to the 25 doc uments listed in the Book of
Pleadings supplied to the Court and so none of these documents were admitted into e vidence without formal proof of s ame facilitating
the full cross examination by the solic itor for the mother of t he witnesses t o be called. The applicat ion for Care Orders was fully
opposed on the bas is that t he HSE had not met t he threshold criteria of se ction 18 of the 1991 Act .
9. The f ather equally opposed the applicat ions for the Care Orders, though his position was slightly nuanced t hrough an indicat ion
that he opposed the duration of the Care Orders and felt that t he c hildren should not be in c are until 18 years, and that they w ere
best plac ed in the loving care of their mother in accordance with their wishes.
10. The Court heard evidenc e from the following witnesses:
The Allocat ed Social worker;
A Foc us Ireland worker;
The mother;
The fat her; and
The GAL.
11. The Allocat ed Social Worker gave evidenc e in support of her reports t o Court as set out in tabs 8- 22 of the Booklet of P leadings. I
do not propose t o rehearse her evidence in support of a Care Order, save t o say that her evidenc e of her personal knowledge of the
case was extensive in t hat she wa s appointed to this case since April 2010 and in her estimation had a good w orking relationship with
the mother, whom she found to be good to work collaboratively with in t he periods when she engaged with her. S he had a more
opaque relationship with the fat her who has been a largely absent figure in the period of her work. She also evidenc ed the instanc es
when the mother sought her assist ance due t o episodes of domestic upheavals and allegations of domestic violence. She spoke of the
mother’s periods of very good parenting, and her struggles to overc ome addictions which had shown great strength of charac ter. She
also evidenced ot her times, periods of homelessness, and lack of engagement which all resulted in c hronic neglect. In c hild protection
issues, she gave evidence of the difficulties for the c hildren leading to t he sundry periods of voluntary ca re, instances of unintentional
neglect, lack of regular school att endance, and the impact of same on the c hildren. She also evidenc ed the love that t he mother
bears for the c hildren and the warmth that t his is reciprocat ed by the c hildren who are very conc erned and disappointed when ac cess
is missed by t heir parents. However, her professional opinion was that the mother simply could not cope when her c hildren became
more demanding — she cares very we ll for infants as she demonstrated w ith the c are of her infant son, Child 3, who was in Court with

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