A grandmother is seeking to be made the permanent carer of her three grandchildren over fears for their safety if they are returned to their mother.
The mother allegedly suffers from mental health and substance abuse problems, the High Court heard.
The grandmother has brought proceedings seeking orders compelling Tusla, the Child and Family Agency (CFA), to apply to have the children placed in the grandmotheer's permanent care.
She took over the care of the children, who are of pre-school and school-going age, in 2013, at the request of the CFA because of her daughter’s neglect of them.
That arrangement was meant to be on a temporary basis but the mother had made no progress since then and had further problems in her life, the grandmother says.
The mother has had a fourth child with a man who has addiction problems and who has physically beaten her, it is claimed.
The natural father of the first three children has served time in prison and until recently showed no interest in the children, it is claimed.
The grandmother wants the CFA to make a court application for a care order to legally reflect her position as sole carer which, she says, is in the best interests of the children.
She also wants it to provide for supervised access arrangements for the mother.
Under the present arrangement, there is nothing to stop the mother taking the children back without notice, she claims.
The CFA says the mother claims her situation is now stable and she wants to be reunited with her children but accepts that must be on a planned basis.
The grandmother says her daughter’s situation is not stable.
Foster parent allowance
She also wants the CFA to provide her with a foster parent/carer’s allowance because she gave up her job as a carer to move with the children to a country town where she has extended family support.
As a result of giving up her job, the grandmother receives €298 per week in one-parent family allowance, almost half the income she enjoyed when she was working.
The CFA’s alleged failure to respond to requests to make a care order application has resulted in the grandmother bringing High Court judicial review proceedings.
Michael Conlon SC, for the grandmother, said under the present arrangements, she is finding it difficult to make ends meet and sometimes relies on another daughter to buy food for them.
She was under additional pressure because the mother had applied to the District Court in 2016 for guardianship and access rights but this was overturned by the Circuit Court.
The mother had made threats to take the children from the grandmother, counsel said. She also turned up in the country town where the grandmother lives with her boyfriend enquiring about places for them to rent.
The mother’s brother, the grandmother’s son, who also has mental health and aggression problems, has also turned up in the town making similar threats.
The CFA had “washed its hands” and had “not given us the time of day” despite being written to “ad nauseum” by the grandmother’s solicitor, he said.
The CFA denied the claims and disputed that the mother would take the children back without notice.
Conor Dignam SC, for the CFA, said the court should be very slow to make orders compelling his client to exercise its functions in a certain way.
He asked the court to note previous rulings about the primacy of parents in decision making affecting their children and that protecting the rights of children must be proportionate in the circumstances of each case.
The case continues before Mr Justice Charles Meenan.