Once a child protection referral is received and screened by the HSE, a decision will be taken as to whether an Initial Assessment is required. Following Initial Assessment decisions will be made on the type of intervention required, including the drawing up of a child protection plan, family support interventions, as well as decisions regarding supervision orders or whether a child may need to be taken into care for a short term or longer period. The Child Protection Plan will have identified the key risk factors in the case such as: - the risk itself; how it will be reduced, including specific actions; and how the agencies working with the family will measure the reduced risk within a specific timescale. A supervision order is sought from the Court if the family do not cooperate with the Child Protection Plan.
The Child Care Act, 1991 provides that the HSE may apply to the Court for a supervision order. Section 19 (1) provides:
Where, on the application the Health Service Executive, with respect to a child, the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that—
(a) the child has been or is being assaulted, ill-treated, neglected or sexually abused, or
(b) the child's health, development or welfare has been or is being avoidably impaired or neglected, or
(c) the child's health, development or welfare is likely to be avoidably impaired or neglected, and it is desirable that the child be visited periodically by or on behalf of the Health Service Executive, the court may make an order (in this Act referred to as a “supervision order”) in respect of the child."
A supervision order gives the HSE the authority to visit and monitor the health and welfare of the child and to give the parents any necessary advice. It also allows the Judge to give directions as to the care of the child directly to the parent . The order is for up to a maximum of 12 months but may be renewed. A supervision order is often the first step in proceedings where the HSE believes that while further action is required, it is not necessary to apply to the Court to take the child into care. Supervision orders may also be used when a child who has been in care is returning to its family. The HSE has informed me that it is not common practice to apply for a supervision order without informing the parent(s) or guardian(s) as supervision orders are generally aimed at outlining, in specific terms the areas of action for a parent(s) in implementing a child protection plan.