Girl eating baby formula from tin among cases of neglect in report

Child care law report details abuse as well as positive stories of reuniting with parents

A case of a young girl who ate baby formula from a tin because there was nothing else in the house, was among those detailed in a report of 37 cases by the Child Care Law Reporting Project.

The same case heard that the floor was covered in rotten food and dog faeces while rats had been seen in the house. After three days of evidence, the parents’ barrister conceded that Tusla’s , the Child and Family Support Agency’s case was “unassailable”.

Neglect and abuse surfaced in a number of cases. In one, a young girl was taken into care after she ran away from home to her grandfather’s house, complaining of repeated beatings by her mother, who also beat her younger brother and deprived the children of food. The girl told the court in a letter of her continuing concerns for her young brother, who remained with the mother.

In another case, parents abandoned their opposition to an application for a care order when the court heard the children had been living in a house where there was no heating or food.


In another case, Tusla sought a care order for a baby born to a drug abuser until the child reached 18 years of age. However, the court granted an order for just 14 months in order to give the mother an opportunity to become drug-free in a residential treatment centre.

In another case a girl asked for shoes for Christmas but when she got up “there were no presents under the tree”. Her little brother got very upset because he thought that Santa had not come.

Their mother got up and told them to go back to bed. Her mother had been out all of Christmas Eve night. The girl said there were drinks in the house all the time and loads of parties. At one party, an adult sat on the sofa beside, then “touched her in her private parts and asked if she was ok,” the social care leader told the court. The judge granted a full care order.

Positive Cases

The report has highlighted positive cases of children being reunited with parents who overcame problems such as drug and alcohol abuse.

The report also documents a number of cases of good outcomes for both young people in care and their parents where support was provided.

The reporting initiative was established in recent years to examine and report on childcare proceedings, which are typically held in private.

Fled to Ireland

One case concerns a 15-year-old girl who was in care in the UK and fled to Ireland when she was pregnant, fearing her child would be adopted.

Tusla, the Child and Family Support Agency, sought a care order when her baby was born and placed both the mother and baby in foster care.

In a review of the case before the District Court, a social worker told the court there had been many positive developments. The mother’s partner - and the baby’s father - was working full-time and had secured accommodation.

“She is a mother. She has worked hard at organising her life, towards the goal of independence. She will need ongoing support for herself and the child. Further assessments will be undertaken by Barnardos,” the social worker told the court.

‘There is a plan’

“The child is generally very healthy. There is a plan. They have got accommodation. They are ready to move in. Her partner wants to live as a family with them. We are fully supportive.”

The report also documents recurring themes, such as difficulties finding suitable placements for older children with behavioural problems.

In one case, a boy was arrested and charged with a criminal offence while awaiting a place in secure care.

Case Study

In one case, a judge made care orders for four children after the mother’s barrister conceded that the case made by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) was “unassailable”.

Giving evidence at the hearing, a family support worker involved with the case said that despite repeated advice to the mother on hygiene and buying food for the children, conditions in the house never improved.

During one visit, she described the house as hazardous, with dirty nappies, soiled clothes and food remnants on the floor. She also saw a baby’s nappy being changed by one of the woman’s very young daughters.

She reported a smell of urine from one of the children, who said he had wet his bed, which had not been cleaned; there was no mattress protector on the bed and the mother said she had accidentally burnt it. On another occasion, the children said they had seen a rat on the kitchen table and the worker reported noticing droppings in the house.

The worker said her visits normally took place once or twice a week, but she began visiting this family once or twice a day due to her concern.

There were a number of times when the children reported being hungry. At Christmas, the mother told the worker she spent €1,000 on presents and showed her laptops and other electronic devices; when asked why she didn’t buy food, she said Christmas was more important. After that Christmas, one of the children got head lice, but the treatment wasn’t applied.

During an incident in early January, the children’s father – a foreign national living in the house – destroyed the contents of the house and threatened the mother and her children with a baseball bat. This led the mother and her children to seek a barring order and move into a refuge.

The mother had another child and was eventually admitted to a psychiatric ward on a voluntary basis. By the time she was discharged, the baby was subject of an interim care order.

A second social worker said that there was never any evidence that the mother was deliberately harming or neglecting her children and the conclusion of the parenting assessment was that she clearly loved them.

The judge ruled that the care orders were made for the four children, excluding the fifth infant, until they turned 18.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent

Dean Ruxton

Dean Ruxton

Dean Ruxton is an Audience Editor at The Irish Times. He also writes the Lost Leads archive series