Extension of Order for child whose allegations doubted – 2013vol4#12

An extension of an interim care order was granted in the District Court for an African child. Neither parent gave their consent to the order. A parental assessment was ordered, which would consider possible post-traumatic stress disorder on the part of the father, arising from his experiences in the Congo.

The child had made physical and emotional abuse allegations about her parents that the parents would not accept. She had also recently made an allegation of physical abuse against her foster parent. The GAL said it needed to be considered that it was difficult to tell when the child was telling the truth. The social worker said she was open to the possibility that the child said things that were not true and she wanted to look further into it.

The social worker told the court that play therapy had been recommended for the child and the parents would attend a psychological assessment. A clinical psychologist would provide an overview of the case and she would meet the social work team on a monthly basis to provide guidance.

An Oars assessment had been carried out, a meeting would be held with the parents to provide feedback on the assessment, chaired by an independent body. (Oars carry out assessments with families to identify family strengths, potential and opportunities for growth and development. Assessments identify areas of difficulty, limitations and concerns. Overall recommendations and proposed Oars interventions conclude the assessment document. (HSE Oars Family Services – Introduction And Description of Services Provided, pg.2)).

Access was cancelled following an incident in early October, but would recommence the next day.

The foster carers had spoken to the child about seeing her parents and she was displaying some reluctance. The child had asked if it was OK if she did not go. Telephone access was being offered as well, but she had said: “I don’t know, it’s too hard,” and curled up into a ball. Overall the child was doing well in foster care and had spent a week with her older sister who was with an African foster family.

“Emotionally she continues to be up and down. At times she engages in baby talk, the foster carer said she does appear a little happier and appears to be settling”, said the social worker.

The social worker said it was a concern for the department that the parents did not accept the allegations the child had made and that the child had not withdrawn the allegations.
“Do they believe there is a concern in relation to their parenting?” asked the HSE solicitor.
“It has not been acknowledged to this date”, replied the social worker.
The psychologist had suggested play therapy for the child rather than a psychological assessment with Oars.

A psychologist was willing to take on the referral to carry out the parental capacity assessment and would start work with the family before the end of the month once everything was in place, said the social worker. The child had said to her foster carer about three weeks ago that she wanted to go home and she had also said it before the last court date.

The social worker told the court of the child’s allegation that the foster carer had hurt her eye. The foster carer had reported to their department: “The child said at the other end of the kitchen to the foster carer ‘you hurt my eye’.” Some of her behaviours had been unusual so they were looking at a clinical psychologist for her.

The social worker told the father’s solicitor she was open to the possibility that [Child A] said things that were not true – she wanted to look further into it. She told the mother’s solicitor that it was too soon to look at family reunification, worked needed to be done with the parents because they had not accepted the allegations, they may overcome that barrier with a psychological assessment.

“Is there any particular reason why this work couldn’t be done with a supervision order?” asked the solicitor.

“The social work department do not think that would be appropriate at this time, if she is reluctant to speak with her parents on the phone and seeing them, we are a long way off from that,” replied the social worker.

The father told the court: “I want [the child] to return home today because we love our family…we are not happy, all the family is broken, we are the parents, we love our children, our children are our friends…we are not happy because we did nothing. The best for [the child] is to stay at home.”

The mother told the court that she had three children at home and two in care. There was a young child at home, a toddler and a very young baby. She was left alone with those three children in the family and there were no problems. She would do a psychological assessment and would co-operate in terms of play therapy if it was recommended and also allow the social work department to come and visit her in the home “to show them, me and my husband we love our children and we want to do everything for them to come home.”

The GAL said that the parenting assessment was incomplete so she was supporting the application. There was no dispute that both parents loved their children but a full parenting capacity assessment was needed.

A was a very difficult child to read. At times she presented as if she may be acting through her engagement with her, as a way of keeping her at bay. She shut down with direct questions and did not want to give a view in terms of home and access.

If the parents had the capacity to engage with a reunification plan then they could see if her therapy could take place at home, post the parental capacity assessment, said the GAL. The child was standing over many of the allegations, but there was something causing her behaviours, which was why the parenting capacity assessment was vital.

Did it concern her that the child had said the foster carer had hurt her eye, asked the father’s solicitor. A lot of things the child had said to the social work department concerned her, the child was quite perplexing, said the GAL.

“Is it difficult to tell when [the child] is telling the truth?”

“That is one thing that needs to be considered,” replied the GAL.

In the terms of reference for the parental capacity assessment it included a note of possible post-traumatic stress disorder with the father from experiences in the Congo and the impact of this on the family.

The judge was satisfied to continue the ICO pending completion of assessments.