Saturday 25 November 2017

HSE put girl in care of uncle suspected of abuse

Dr Carol Coulter
Dr Carol Coulter

Cormac Murphy

Health officials placed a girl in the care of an uncle who was suspected of sexual abuse, according to details of a court case which have just emerged.

The proceedings took place in a district court in a rural town where a judge refused to grant the Health Service Executive (HSE) an interim care order (ICO) for a newborn baby.

"During the case the court heard that the mother's older child had been placed by the HSE with the mother's brother against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse had been made," a synopsis published by the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP) states.

"The mother had alleged this man had sexually abused her and had reported the matter to the gardai but nothing had happened," it adds.


It is understood the older child was eventually removed from her uncle's home and placed in the care of a non-relative.

The baby in the case before the court had been the subject of an emergency care order and was taken by gardai and the HSE when the mother left hospital.

When the emergency order expired, an ICO was sought but the judge refused to grant it, inviting the HSE to seek a supervision order instead.

It was felt the mother deserved a chance to bond with the newborn.

The details were included in the latest volume of cases published by the CCLRP, which is precluded from revealing any details which might identify the families involved.

Dr Carol Coulter, director of the CCLRP, told the Irish Independent: "I hope that the availability of these reports will remove a lot of the uncertainty and confusion that the public has about the nature of care proceedings and how decisions are reached."

The latest volume is the first of 2014 and the fifth overall, bringing to 130 the number of cases that have been published by the project.

It outlines how the Child and Family Agency (CFA) – which has taken over the HSE's child welfare functions – failed in applications for care orders in three "lengthy and hard-fought cases".

Two cases concerned new-born babies, while the other concerned two younger half-siblings of children who had earlier been taken into care.

In an overview, the CCLRP states: "The themes apparent in earlier volumes – the risks posed to children by poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, the social isolation of the parents, cognitive impairment or mental health issues on their part – continue to feature in these reports.

"However, they show that it is by no means inevitable that, once the Child and Family Agency seeks a care order, it will be granted by the courts."

This volume contains reports on four cases where the application was strongly contested by the parents and their lawyers.

In three of these cases, the CFA applications were refused by the court.

The cases highlight the chaos in the lives of some families which leads to them coming to the attention of social services, the CCLRP adds.

"One hearing was interrupted three times by the collapse and hospitalisation of the father during the proceedings, followed by the collapse and recovery of the mother, only for her to collapse again," the CCLRP says.


It says the cases show that the secure care system for children with acute problems remains severely stretched.

Children in need of secure care are being put in non-secure residential units where their out-of-control behaviour leads to criminal charges, the CCLRP adds.

This results in their "incarceration in juvenile detention centres, rather than secure care with therapeutic supports", it says.

In addition, 60 cases were on the list in one family law day in a rural town, highlighting the pressure on family law courts, especially outside of Dublin, the CCLRP adds.

The CCLRP was set up in November 2012 to report on child care proceedings taken by the HSE and to analyse data drawn from the proceedings.


Irish Independent

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