Care Order for Muslim teenager whose parents left Ireland– 2015vol2#7

A Care Order was made in a rural District Court for a teenage girl who was assaulted by her father because she had “brought shame on her family”. A solicitor acting for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) said the girl belonged to a Muslim family with strong religious beliefs and both her parents had now returned to their country of origin with the girl’s younger siblings.

The judge met the girl at her request with her guardian ad litem (GAL), before hearing evidence in the case and she remained in court during the hearing

A Garda sergeant gave evidence that the girl phoned the local Garda station in 2014 in a very distressed state. The sergeant said she was screaming that her father was going to kill her. When the gardai arrived at her home, she ran out the door “in a hysterical state” and alleged that she had been assaulted by her father. She said she had been punched and kicked and had suffered injuries to her head and hand.

She was taken to the local Garda station and a doctor who examined her recommended she be brought to hospital. She was found to have bruising on her back and right arm. The father was arrested and he received an adult caution after he had admitted slapping her in the face. The father left the family home and subsequently returned to his home country. The child initially went to stay with friends and the mother consented to her going into voluntary care.

The child’s social worker said the child ran away with a younger and an older man and had been engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviour and had been drinking. She was then taken into care under section 12 of the Child Care Act and a guardian ad litem was appointed.

The social worker said the child had suffered from physical and emotional abuse at home and was quite isolated. The CFA believed she could not be safeguarded at home and they were concerned that her family could take her out of the country. Her passport was still valid and had not been reported lost.

She said the CFA had considered the possibility of reunification. The father had been attending a centre dealing with domestic violence. They had tried to engage with the mother and she agreed that two younger children could see the community child care worker. The mother said she was worried the CFA were trying to take the younger children but they had assured her they were not going to do that. The mother had conceded she could not protect her daughter from the father.

The social worker said it was concluded that reunification was not a viable or safe option. Her father did not want any relationship with her. The mother was constantly in contact with him and his influence was still very strong. She said she was not frightened of her husband but respected him and on the day of the assault she had stated that she could not protect her daughter. The social worker said the teenager had flashbacks and nightmares about her father coming back to take her away.

The family had come to Ireland 7 years ago and the teenager’s younger siblings had been born here. The parents told the social worker they had been struggling with managing her behaviour and she had been missing school. The social worker said the girl could only see her friends at school and she was isolated and vulnerable and was open to someone taking advantage of her. “We fear the father may use the passport to bring her to (her home country) against her will. Both parents shunned her and made her feel ashamed and wouldn’t have any relationship with her,” she said.

The teenager had settled in well in her foster placement. She was attending a psychologist and wanted to focus on her future. The mother had started to work with the CFA before she left the country shortly before this hearing. The father did not want to work with the CFA and felt that what he had done was right. “The father thinks she brought shame on the family and said physical assault was what was needed,” she said. The biggest risk to the child was of physical assault with no adult to protect her.

The social worker said that the inappropriate sexual behaviour had been due to her need for love. There was a danger of an unwanted pregnancy. The mother knew she could not protect her and had collapsed at a meeting when contraception was discussed. There were other further psychological risks for her if she was returned to her family and her post traumatic symptoms would be likely to get worse. She would be living in fear physically and emotionally.

Judge: “In effect she has been abandoned.”

CFA solicitor: “That’s correct Judge, and we have no way of assisting her without a Care Order.”

The CFA solicitor said the parents had been represented by two solicitors but both had come off record as the parents did not engage with them. The CFA had told the parents that transport and interpreters would be made available for them to attend court. The mother had previously said she would never come back to court.

The GAL said the child wanted to remain in care and knew she would not be safe if she returned to her parents. She wanted security and certainty and had been particularly distressed when she discovered her mother had left the country the previous weekend despite having previously assured her that she was not leaving. She was a very brave, intelligent and resilient young woman who had a very good relationship with her foster parents.

The judge made a full Care Order for the child until age 18 and he directed the CFA to write to her embassy asking them to cancel her passport. The CFA solicitor said the Gardai had been alerted and a watch was being kept at all ports and airports.

In the same court, the judge adjourned the hearing of an application by the CFA for care orders for four children when he was told the mother was in a rehabilitation centre and had telephoned that morning seeking the adjournment. The CFA solicitor said the children had been in care since birth due to the mother’s serious alcohol addiction problems.

“We have tried everything,” she said. The mother had only had supervised access for several years. “We gave her one chance to look after one of the children and she was off her head in the street from drink. She was a danger to herself.” Her solicitors had come off record because they could not get instructions and she was seeking an adjournment by telephone this morning from a rehabilitation centre. This was her 16th time in rehabilitation and she usually did not stay beyond the assessment stage.

When the judge was told there was no GAL appointed he said he would err on the side of caution and grant the mother’s request for an adjournment. He appointed a GAL and directed that the guardian prepare a report in advance of the adjourned date for the hearing.