Interim care order extended where teenage girl refuses contact with mother; sexual abuse alleged – 2023vol2#13

The judge in a rural town granted an extension of an interim care order for a teenage girl, but urged the Child and Family Agency (CFA) to forward the application for a section 18 (full care order) hearing date as that was the wish of the girl. The judge also asked if persistently asking a teenager to have contact with her mother, when the teenager persistently refused, was beneficial.

The girl had been the subject of repeated interim care orders for the previous 15 months. The mother was in court and represented by a solicitor, she had consented to the application to extent the interim care order. The father was not a party to the proceedings.

The social worker team leader said that the girl had initially come into the care of the CFA because of general concerns of neglect, the condition of the home and parental substance abuse. Since her reception into care the girl had disclosed significant abuse, including sexual abuse by various men with whom her mother associated. The girl remained in the same foster placement and was doing very well. The placement was stable, met all the girl’s needs and the girl was very settled there. She had recently started a new school and had settled very well. The girl reported liking the school and the school operated a buddy system for all new pupils which had been of great help.

The girl was currently undergoing an assessment at a specialised unit in order to ascertain what type of therapy would be best suited for her. Following this assessment, the therapies recommended would be done either by the specialist unit or sourced from another provider. The social work team leader said they were committed to ensuring the girl received the therapy she required but this would be informed by the assessment of the specialist unit.

She said that the girl still adamantly refused to have access with her mother. She said a social worker had been specifically allocated to work with the girl to address this, but the girl’s position had not changed. The judge asked: “Is it of any benefit to this girl to keep asking her if she wants to see her mother?”

The social worker replied: “No, we have been asking her [the girl] for a year now if she wants access with her mother and she refused, a decision has been made that the issue will be left for now and will be reviewed periodically. I know the mother is not happy with this, but she has accepted the girl’s position.”

Judge: “I [the judge] note this girl has been in the care of the CFA, why has there not been a section 18 application.”

Social worker: “Section 18 dates have been applied for and are due to be heard within the next three months.”

The social worker told the court the girl was aware of the proceedings and wanted the section 18 care order application heard as soon as possible as she wanted the security the order would bring. The judge said it was important that this application was heard.

The guardian ad litem (GAL) said the girl had done well in her foster placement and it had been confirmed as a long-term placement if a section 18 order was granted. She said the girl wanted no contact with her mother because of her experiences. There had been some outstanding issues such as dental and optical assessments that needed to be completed. The GAL was reassured that the assessment to ascertain the best type of therapy for the girl had started and stressed that the recommended therapy be commenced as soon as possible.