Care Order for child with non-accidental injury – 2013vol2#9

A care order for six months was granted for a six year-old-child in the light of concerns he had non-accidental injuries. The father, who was in court, was consenting to a three months order. The mother, who was Asian, had returned to her own country with two younger children, but was expected to return for a hospital appointment later in the year.

The solicitor for the HSE told the court the child, A, had been born in 2006 with a significant health issue. He needed a tracheotomy and was fed with a tube. He was unable to eat himself until he was three. There were concerns in 2008 when he came to hospital for his medical condition and bruising was noticed to his face. Another child, B, was born in 2009. She had no health problems.

A had a home care package, but there was lot of strain on the family, as A had to be fed during the night. The parents were very vague about the possible causes of the bruising, and non-accidental injury was suspected. The tube was removed when the child was three and he was referred to a therapeutic service. This service also noticed bruising to his face.

The father made admissions to the family support worker that he had caused the bruising out of frustration during feeding, which was very difficult and could take about an hour, when he was holding the child’s face to force him to open his mouth. The mother had returned to work after the birth of B. The social work department told her the father could not be alone with A.

The HSE solicitor said the father had fully cooperated with the social work department from day one. The mother had her own medical needs, but she was not causing the injuries to her son. The conclusion was that the father did not have the capacity to deal with his son’s needs, and there were issues around his capacity to process information.

The HSE applied for a Supervision Order, on the basis that the mother would supervise A at home. That expired in 2010. The social work department closed the file in 2010. It was reopened in 2013 when the father rang to say his wife had left for her home country with B and their new baby, C. He was very distressed living alone with a child with special needs. The school was concerned and had notices bruises around the child’s eyes.

The department proposed voluntary care, and the child came into voluntary care, where he was thriving and eating normally. He had been diagnosed with a learning disability, but he was in a normal school with an SNA.

A Care Order was needed to plan his long-term care. The social work department did not know the situation of the mother. She had a medical appointment later in the year and had spoken of returning for it and then taking A back with her to her own country. He had disclosed to his carer that both his mother and father had physically abused him.

The father was looking for access to include bringing the child to his church on Sundays, where he would be supervised by other church members. His solicitor asked the social worker why access had been suspended for seven weeks after the father had expressed dissatisfaction with the circumstances in which it took place. The social worker said she was on leave and there was no-one else in the office to deal with it.

She acknowledged the access was a very unusual and artificial situation and said they would work with the father on it.

The judge said the threshold had been met for a Care Order and granted it for six months. She directed a paediatric assessment of the child and appropriate assistance to the father. “It’s up to the HSE to work out a way for you to be with your son and your son to be with you” she said. “If it does not go well say you are not happy.”

Granting the order, she also gave liberty to apply to court if the mother returned.