Care order for abandoned African girl – 2013vol2#14

A teenage girl, abandoned in this country by her parents who returned to Africa, has been taken into care by the HSE. A district court judge granted the HSE’s application for a Care Order which means that the child will remain with her foster carers until she reaches the age of 18.

A social worker from the HSE told the court that the mother had been under investigation by the Depart of Social Protection for fraud and there were concerns that she had been living a double life here and in another jurisdiction. The school principal had received a letter from the mother requesting that he [the principal] find someone to look after her daughter. He contacted the HSE as the child appeared to have been abandoned.

After her mother left, the child had lived on her own in a rented room in a house which was occupied by two men whom she didn’t know. Her mother had made no provision for her care and had not told her that she was leaving her. The child was at home for 48 hours without anyone looking after her.

The social worker said they had tried to get an address for the mother but her embassy in London was unable to assist. However, the mother contacted the child on Christmas Day and the father telephoned on New Year’s Day. There had been no contact with either parent for approximately three months after that. The social worker said she had spoken to the mother on the phone and she said she had no plans to return to Ireland. She said she had been very sick and was distressed.

The teenager was very settled in foster placement and wanted to continue to live with them. She had told the social worker that she does not want to be reunited with her parents either in this country or in Africa. She has a good routine here and goes to school every day. She has taken up sporting activities and attends her own church. Her mother left no plan as to who would care for her and left it up to her daughter to contact social services.  The social worker said the child was aware of the court proceedings and was relieved that a Care Order would be made. Phone numbers and an email address had now been obtained for the parents and the child would be encouraged to maintain contact with them.

A second social worker gave evidence that he had spoken to the child’s father on the phone recently and he told him [the father] his daughter was now in foster care. He had confirmed his address and had given the social worker contact details for the hospital in which the mother was currently a patient. He blamed his daughter saying that it had been her decision to stay in Ireland. He said that he had family and friends in Europe who would help look after his daughter but the social worker had been unable to make contact with the father again.

The child’s guardian ad litem supported the HSE’s application for a Care Order. She had been abandoned by her parents with no other care figure and she urgently required the care and protection of the HSE. The child had a lot of anger with her mother for leaving her and if she returned and wanted her back the child had told her that she would want to remain with her foster carers. “She has been of that view steadfastly since I first met her,” the GAL said.

The child had written a letter to the judge which the GAL handed to him. She said there was a good routine in the house where she was staying. She had spoken to the fostering link worker who was satisfied that it was a warm welcoming house. Her education was a huge part of her life and education was very high up on the fostering parents’ list of priorities. She was attending her church fortnightly with the encouragement of her foster carers.
The GAL said that every possibility of reunification with the parents must be explored in the future. “I’m satisfied that the social workers left no stone unturned to get all possible information. It would appear that the parents have been given every opportunity to become involved and there appears to be a lack of will by the parents to become involved,” she said.

The judge made the Care Order stating that it was proportionate given the efforts of the HSE to contact the parents and involve them in the process and their lack of engagement with the social work department and care planning. He ruled that access with the parents in the future would be at the discretion of the HSE considering their abandonment of their daughter.