The Child and Family Agency, Tusla, has brought a High Court challenge against a District Court judge's decision allowing two children allegedly neglected by their mother to be formally looked after by an older sister. 

Tusla has brought the action in respect of two young sisters, who were made the subject of temporary care orders following a three-day hearing before the District Court in December.

It wants the order allowing their older sister to care for them for part of the time quashed, because it claims the District Court judge was not entitled to make such an order where their sister has not been formally assessed as to her suitability to look after her younger siblings.

Tusla sought care orders because it believes the two sisters have been subjected to physical and emotional abuse and had been neglected by their mother, who suffers from mental health and addiction issues.

Prior to the application the family involved, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had been living in accommodation for the homeless.

The two girls had been absent from school for long periods and had been hoarding food, and there were concerns they may be exposed to danger, Tusla claimed.

The agency also said that it had made several efforts to provide assistance and support to the family. 

At the High Court lawyers for Tusla told Mr Justice Charles Meenan that after making interim care orders in respect of the children the District Court judge ruled that the two girls are to spend schooldays in the care of their sister.

The children are to spend the weekends and holidays in foster care, the judge also ruled. 

Tusla, in proceedings aimed at quashing that decision, claim the judge was not entitled to make the order placing them in the sister's care.

The court heard that while Tusla accepts that the children's sister, who is in her early 20s, is trying to do her best for her siblings the agency has concerns about her parenting ability.

Tusla said that under relevant sections of the 1991 Childcare Act it must assess who can look after children who are the subject of care orders.

In this instance, the girl's sister has not been formally assessed by Tusla as to her suitability to look after the two girls.

Mr Justice Meenan adjourned Tusla's application for permission to bring judicial review proceedings to a date later this month.

The judge said the action, which includes an application for an order staying the District Court judge's decision until the matter is fully resolved, should be heard in the presence of all the relevant parties.