A full Care Order was granted a year ago in the Dublin District Court for one year for a teenage girl who had been raped by her father over the course of many years. The judge granted the care order for one year only as it accorded to the wishes of the child and those wishes were supported by her guardian ad litem (GAL) and the social work department.
The order was renewed when it came before the court a year later.
The case was to be re-entered before the court after one year to consider whether the duration of the Care Order would be further extended. At this point in the proceedings the father, who did not attend or participate in the proceedings, had been charged in respect of numerous counts of rape and sexual assault and a charge of threatening to kill or cause serious harm to A. The charges were set down for trial in the Central Criminal Court.
At the time of the Care Order hearing the father was on strict bail conditions. He had a number of serious convictions; two for assault causing harm, two for grievous bodily harm with intent, and had already spent time in prison.
A Garda told the court that mid 2012 A had come to the Garda station and reported that she had been sexually assaulted by her father in the kitchen that day. She also reported that she had been sexually abused on other occasions the week before, and had been routinely beaten by her father. She was afraid of him and did not want to return home. Section 12 of the Child Care Act was invoked, and she was taken into the care of the HSE and brought to the Sexual Assault and Trauma Unit in a hospital.
Child A reported a long history of physical abuse by her father and sexual assault. The social worker met with the parents in autumn 2012. She told the court that the father had denied all the allegations and the mother said she did not believe they were true. The father said he had a strong parenting style and admitted to hitting his children but did not indicate any willingness to change. Initially he said he would attend court, but he had not. The parents had consented to the children being assessed.
The social worker told the court that A’s placement, made under an earlier Interim Care Order, had broken down as it was not meeting her needs. She had moved to a short-term respite placement and then to her current placement in residential care, where she had commenced therapy.
She was self-harming, so an emergency referral was made to a psychiatrist and she was attending St. Louisa’s, a child sexual abuse therapy unit. She had a difficult presentation so the staff at the unit needed support, a new clinical psychologist would be appointed to assist the staff in this way, according to the social worker.
Since she was placed in the unit in late 2012 there were nine incidents of self-harming, some of which involved her swallowing a disk, swallowing broken glass, cutting her arm, trying to abscond, and drinking hand wash liquid in an attempt to end her life.
Supervised access was with her mother every two weeks and it was going well, she also had daily phone contact with her mum. She wished for the Care Order to be granted for one year as it might be possible for her to go home depending on the outcome of her father’s criminal case. She had also requested respite from her current unit.
A clinical psychologist who was working in St. Louisa’s told the court they had confirmed the finding of sexual abuse by the social worker. Child A had started child sexual abuse specific therapy – a psychodynamic therapy. She was also linking in with the Lucena Clinic and services in her own residential placement.
The GAL told the court that A’s needs were identified very clearly in the psychological assessment, she was described as very vulnerable, she “has almost every day of her life lived in fear and intimidation.” The methods of surviving and coping with the fear and intimidation that the family were using were unhealthy and it was those methods that she now used.
A psychotherapeutic psychodynamic approach had been identified for A but the clinical care she was getting was “a bit vague,” the GAL said. It seemed to her there was no clinical team available to offer care. If there was to be longevity in this placement, the staff needed support.
The GAL told the court that A wished to return home if her Dad was imprisoned. The GAL added that if he was imprisoned it would open up therapies to A.
“I think the story speaks for itself, [A had] been horrifically abused, emotionally, physically and sexually, the level of intimidation and fear, I don’t think any of us can imagine it. Even from prison intimidation was placed on [the family]. She is not going to heal for a long time. There needs to be a multi-disciplinary approach.”
The judge granted a Full Care Order for one year. In giving her decision she said: “Having heard the evidence set out above and having considered the findings of fact submitted by the HSE, I am satisfied that Child [A] has been emotionally, physically and sexually abused.”
The following year
The following year the case came back in for review one month before the Care Order was due to expire. The parties consented to an adjournment of the review. In the previous year, during the Care Order, A had been detained in secure care due to grave concerns for her emotional and behavioural presentation, following an application granted by the High Court.
Meanwhile, during the year the criminal trial of the father took place on the charges of raping, sexually assaulting and threatening to kill or cause serious harm to the girl, A. In this trial the jury returned a not guilty verdict.
However the father was now serving a lengthy sentence on other criminal charges. He is also awaiting a further trial for other serious offences. As the main risk factor to the girl (her father) was now removed her family had wished her to return home. A had then left her secure care unit, where she had been living for over six months, and had gone home to live with her mother.
The social work department had found a significant reduction in her aggression and self-harming while in residential care and no significant incidents had been reported since she had returned home.
However when the Care Order review returned again a few weeks later the court was told that A’s behaviour had deteriorated again and she had not been in school since leaving secure care.
The Child and Family Agency had served the parents with a further application for a Full Care Order. The GAL told the court she did not consider the allegations against the father not to be credible and A herself wished for the Care Order to be extended. When the Care Order application came back to court the order was extended until the girl’s 18th birthday. The girl was placed in a secure care unit, where she could receive therapy.