Many parents in child care court cases raising children alone — report 

The majority of parents involved in childcare cases in the courts are single or separated and parenting alone, while almost one in three children involved has special needs.

The second Interim Report from the Child Care Law Reporting Project, which will be published today, also reveals that 25% of child care cases in the courts involves at least one parent from an ethnic minority, including Travellers, and that a sixth of cases involves a parent suffering from cognitive impairment or mental illness.

The report by Dr Carol Coulter will be launched by the president of the District Court, Judge Rosemary Horgan and shows that there are variations around country in the seeking and obtaining of care orders.

However, the report also highlights the need for the early identification of vulnerable families and the need for targeted intervention and supports.

The report looks at 486 cases between September 2013 and July this year, involving 864 children, or just over 20% of all children in court-ordered care.

Common themes include parents with a mental or cognitive disability, parents who abuse drugs or alcohol, and those socially isolated, with little support from their extended family.

The report is expected to highlight a variation in the reasons why the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) seeks care orders and in the basis for the court granting them.

In one case, Tusla sought a care order for a baby where the mother, who was hospitalised with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, tested positive for cannabis, though the mother denied using the drug and there was no evidence of neglect.

In another case the judge refused long-term care orders for a number of children, granting short orders instead and saying he would give the younger children back to the mother, despite the fact that a doctor gave evidence of severe physical abuse.

Dr Coulter said the “disproportionate representation of non-Irish parents in the child care courts makes an urgent case for a renewed focus on integration policies” and also said the way some courts hear cases had an adverse effect, with many outside Dublin dealing with up to 70 or 80 cases on one day.

“It is just not possible then for child care cases, if the orders are not consented to, to receive the attention they need and deserve,” she said.


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