A grandmother who agreed to take on full-time care of her daughter's three children amid concerns for their welfare has taken proceedings alleging the Child and Family Agency is in "grave neglect" of its duty towards them.
The grandmother says she was asked four years ago, during an emergency meeting with the Agency, to take over the care of the children because their mother's addiction, mental health and other difficulties meant she could not care for them.
She felt she had no other option but to care for the children, gave up her job and moved from Dublin to the country with them, the grandmother said. Arrangements were made for her daughter to have one hour supervised access to them weekly.
Her daughter's inability to care for the children continues and the difficulties have been exacerbated by her daughter's involvement in a "dysfucntional and abusive" relationship with a violent man, she says.
The children remain vulnerable and their needs are best met by staying with their grandmother but the Agency has failed to take proceedings to formalise her position and uncertainty about her legal status vis a vis the children continues, it is claimed.
The grandmother fears the children may be taken from her by their mother whose partner, during visits to the children, has behaved in an "unsettling and threatening" manner which is unsettling for her efforts to rear them, it is claimed.
Her daughter and her daughter's partner are capable of being violent, the CFA is aware of that and a Circuit Court judge had voiced alarm about the "precarious" situation in which the children were being placed by the informality of the current arrangement, she claims.
In High Court proceedings, the grandmother wants orders directing the Agency to take proceedings under the Child Care Act in relation to the children. She wants it to seeks care orders for them and to formalise her own position by applying to have her made their foster carer. She also wants any other orders necessary to safeguard their welfare.
Coleman Fitzgerald SC, for the grandmother, secured leave today from Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan to bring judicial review proceedings against the Agency. The leave application was made with only one side represented. The case will come back before the court in October.
In court documents, the grandmother said she got notice in early 2016 her daughter was applying to the District Court for various orders but a social worker advised the grandmother not to appear in the District Court for that case.
When the District Court made orders granting her daughter guardianship of the children and unsupervised overnight access, she and the Agency were both concerned and the Agency supported her appeal against those orders to the Circuit Court, the grandmother said.
The Circit Court overturned the District Court orders and the Circuit Court judge also directed that the Agency be written to outlining the Circuit Court judge's concern it was not providing appropriate supports to the grandmother or to the children's mother.
The Circuit Court judge expressed dissatisfaction the grandmother had had to bring her appeal in a private family law context when it was clear serious child care matters were at issue and directed the Agency be notified of the judge's alarm about the precarious situation in which the children were being placed by the informal arrangements for their care, the grandmother said.
Despite the concerns, the Agency has failed to act to formalise the grandmother's situation, it is claimed.