An Interim Care Order was extended in the District Court for a young teenager who blamed himself for getting his mother into trouble and going into care.
A few months previously, an ex parte Emergency Care Order had been refused in respect of the child as it did not meet the statutory criteria of immediate and serious risk.
The ECO application had been made after disclosures to a senior clinical psychologist from the boy regarding high levels of neglect, his mother drinking at home and physical abuse. The psychologist had felt there were concerns of a risk at home as well as a risk of self-harm.
Subsequently an Interim Care Order was granted which had been brought on notice to the mother. The father was deceased.
During the next ICO extension hearing, the social worker told the court that the psychiatrist from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) had advised that the boy did not have a mental or psychiatric illness and did not need treatment. In his assessment report, the doctor had noted that he was a child who had a tendency to worry and that there had been a parent-child role reversal at home. Therapy would start when he was settled in a placement and his issues would naturally resolve.
The social worker told the court that the current child protection concerns were based on the disclosures to the senior clinical psychologist, before the ECO was brought. These included his mother’s excessive drinking, being left alone for long periods, not knowing where his mother was, afraid of being hurt when his mother was drunk, not enough food in the house and being hungry at school, adult worries such as bills at home that were not being paid, knowledge of his mum’s financial difficulties and his mother’s mental health.
There were also medical concerns as the boy had never been registered with a GP before coming into care and had had no medical attention. He now needed surgery for an infection that had not been attended to for the last two years.
The social worker was also concerned that if the boy returned home that he would be very reluctant to disclose further incidents, as he had already said he “shouldn’t have said all he said to the doctor”.
The guardian ad litem (GAL) told the court that the child had “said he will put up with what was going on at home, he just wants to go home, he really worries about his mum and how she was managing”.
Judge: “Assuming for the moment your child protection concerns are established, [the boy] says he wants to go home, he’s worried about his mother, while it’s less than ideal he’s prepared to put up with it in order to go home, how is the making of an order going to serve his best interests?”
GAL: “He shouldn’t have to worry about his mother. If he did go home he won’t make any more disclosures, now he mistrusts professionals. It shouldn’t be his responsibility to worry about his mother’s mental health or her bills.”
Judge: “But he wants to be at home, how is it benefitting his best interests if he is not where he wants to be?”
GAL: “He is now receiving medical care…he hadn’t before.”
Judge: “I accept that’s a serious issue.”
GAL: “If he was to have further medical problems in the future, she wouldn’t bring him to the doctor. Historically he fell and bumped his head, it swelled up really badly, the school rang his mother and she refused to bring him to the hospital. The Gardaí had to come out to the house with a social worker to ask her to bring him. He has to have surgery to attend to an infection which he’s had for two years that wasn’t seen to [not related to the historic incident].”
The GAL said that the boy demonstrated a high level of emotional anxiety during interviews, he also cried and got angry at himself, his mother and others. He found it difficult to regulate his emotions.
His mother would not take advice or direction. The GAL told the court that the boy felt she would not take the steps she now needed to take. He was angry with her because of that and did not understand why she would not go to a GP or medical professional to be assessed [for a parenting capacity assessment].
“He stated he wished his mother was dead and the problem would be resolved for once and for all,” said the GAL.
The boy had described to the GAL an adult role in the household where he had some responsibility for the financial outlay, there had also been large amounts of rents outstanding that were not being paid and he had been aware they might become homeless.
“He began to describe his mum as a 50 year old woman who was very limited in her capacity,” said the GAL. “He blames himself for getting her into trouble by talking to the school and the clinical psychologist. He said nothing is resolved – the beatings at home were not so bad, he said lots of children have beatings behind closed doors, they get on with it and nothing happens. He would prefer to go home.”
He had spoken at length about the difficulty his mum had in getting on with people. During the last interview there was a sense of hopelessness.
“He didn’t go out much at home, and wasn’t allowed to play sporting activities, he is over-weight due to inactivity. He wasn’t allowed socialise as a young person,” said the GAL.
There was now an impasse between his mum not doing anything and the CFA needing to do an assessment to see if he could go home. His stress around the impasse was very real.
The GAL had called to the mother’s house in relation to medical consent for the boy. “She has an unusual presentation, what she reflected was that she wasn’t well, that she was living day by day, ‘No matter about [the boy], I have my own needs to look after,’ she had said, and that she wasn’t in the mood for further discussion, it was a very brief interview.”
The GAL told the court that the CAMHS psychiatrist had found that the boy had an insecure disorganised attachment pattern as a result of the impact of his mother’s parenting style. The doctor felt that he needed a long term arrangement where an emotional base would provide him with stability and socialisation for the optimum development associated with his age.
A long term plan needed to be developed and they needed to be mindful of the impasse they were at, said the GAL.
The Interim Care Order was extended under Section 17.2 of the 1991 Child Care Act.
See also Report 13, Volume 2, 2015