Home > Child Care Law Reporting Project: second interim report.

Coulter, Carol (2014) Child Care Law Reporting Project: second interim report. Dublin: Child Care Law Reporting Project.

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This is the second Interim Report of the Child Care Law Reporting Project, updating the overview of the reports published on the website and publishing the results of the data collected since the first Interim Report, that is, between September 2013 and mid-July 2014. During that time we attended child care proceedings in 29 courts, presided over by different judges. We recorded data from 486 cases, involving 864 children. We published four further volumes of reports on child care proceedings, bringing to 160 the total number of reports on the website.

The first Interim Report, which can be found on www.childlawproject.ie, outlined the legislative framework and background to the project, so this is not necessary again. The third and final report of this phase of the project, based on our first three years’ work, will be published next year and will contain conclusions and recommendations drawn from all the reports published and the data collected in that time.

Our methodology is based on attendance at child care proceedings, reporting the main cases heard and collecting data on all cases dealt with in court, including those disposed of briefly. It does not include structured interviews with participants – judges, social workers, parents, etc. While we have had a number of informal discussions with members of the judiciary, the legal representatives of both the Child and Family Agency and parents, guardians ad litem and others, they do not form part of the reports and nothing discussed in any informal setting is published in any form. Rather they inform the context in which the reports are written and the data is analysed.

Therefore the essential work of the project is attending court, writing reports for the Publications section of the website and collecting data on data sheets which is then analysed and published in these reports. That can be found in Appendix II of this report, and we publish a commentary on these results in Chapter I. The main issues that emerge from the reported cases are examined in Chapter 2. We publish some interim observations and suggestions for improvements in child care proceedings in Chapter 3, but our final recommendations will not come until next year.

We used the Courts Service statistics for child care applications as a guide in the allocation of our reporting resources to courts, seeking to report from them according to the volume they dealt with. We are also grateful to the Child and Family Agency for providing us with the statistics of Arthur Cox Consultancy Services on the applications obtained by solicitors acting for the CFA around the country, which provided a second source for the volumes of cases dealt with according to geographical area. Both of these sources showed that approximately one third of all applications were sought and obtained in Dublin. However, the statistics from Arthur Cox, and other data from the Child and Family Agency, are based on former HSE regions, which do not accord with District Court areas. This makes direct comparisons difficult outside of Dublin.

Our statistics in our first year of operation, which covered the eight months from December 2012 until July 2013, were heavily weighted in favour of Dublin, the location of 80 per cent of the cases we attended. We sought to correct this in the current year, and we succeeded, with Dublin accounting for only 34.8 per cent of this year’s cases. The remaining 65.2 per cent of cases were spread over 29 District Courts and 35 judges, including a number of “moveable” judges, who are not tied to a specific District. We are therefore satisfied that this year’s statistics are more representative of national trends than last year’s....

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