Interim care order extended while child assessed for sex abuse – 2023vol1#15

A judge in a provincial town extended an interim care order for one child for three months on the consent of both parents.

This matter concerned a child approaching her teenage years who had made significant allegations of sexual abuse. The mother and father were not in court, but both had independent legal representation. They had both consented to the application. Evidence was heard from the child’s social worker and the guardian ad litem (GAL).

The social worker said the child was settled in her current placement. The interviews by the specialist Gardaí team were on-going but they were causing her great distress. The child had been unable to be physically examined because of the stress it caused. She said a referral had been made to a specialist unit and this unit was about to commence an assessment.

A parenting capacity assessment had started but had not been completed. The mother had collaborated positively with the assessor, engaged well with the process, and had worked well with the social worker. The social worker said that the mother had her own challenges. There had been no access as the child had refused to have any access with her mother, but access would be kept under review.

The GAL said the placement was meeting all of the child’s needs. She said when she tried to approach the subject of access, the child would become distressed and confused. The child alternated between saying she hated her mother and then being angry with the GAL for talking about her. The GAL said the child was not ready for access yet.

One of the main difficulties was that the mother had called the child a liar. The child was afraid of access and meeting her mother as the child had no faith the mother would believe her. The delay in the Garda interviews had delayed the start of any therapy but it was agreed that even though the Garda interview had not been completed because of the child’s upset, it was necessary and in the child’s best interests for some therapy to start. The GAL said that the assessment at the specialist unit would be the start of that, but the child needed psychotherapy as matter of urgency.

The GAL said the mother was a vulnerable person and said: “The mother has [caused] unintelligent neglect, by that I mean she did not perceive the harm others would do to her or her child.” She said she was pleased that the mother had engaged in the parenting capacity assessment. The mother had engaged in counselling and a family support worker had been appointed.

The judge said this was a very sad case but was grateful all parties were working together for the benefit of the child. She extended the interim care order for three months.