Interim Care Order for Roma children – 2013vol1#10

An Interim Care Order was granted for two Roma girls, despite the opposition of their mother. The District Court heard there was domestic violence in the home.

The social work department was also concerned about the children not having adequate food and heat. They had a good attendance record at school, but it was very concerned about their emotional state and what they witnessed at home.

There had been two instances where the older child had been admitted to hospital after taking her father’s medication. She said she wanted to kill herself. She was very concerned her father was going to take her to his country to be sold. She was also verbally abusive to her mother, and said her mother was weak. She said she didn’t have to follow her mother’s rules because she was weak

The older girl also said she loved her father because he gave her money. She wanted her parents to live together again.

The social worker said she had an over-sexualised presentation for someone her age, and spoke casually about sex. Her GP was concerned about her sexualised presentation and her fixation on her weight. Recently the mother had revealed that up to the age of eight this girl had slept with her father and insisted on doing so, while the younger girl slept with the mother.

The outcome of the case conference was that the mother could not ensure the safety of the children. Despite extensive contact with all the services the mother continued to allow the father to return to the family home.

The mother had told them the father’s older son was in prison in his home country for involvement in child prostitution with children from orphanages. She said she was worried he was going to take her daughter to his country for prostitution.

The social work department was worried about both girls. The mother lacked awareness of the impact of witnessing domestic violence on the children. There was a lack of heating and food in the house. There was possible child sexual abuse of the older girl by her father, in the light of her sexualised presentation and the possibility of him taking her to his country. There was concern about her smoking and drinking and the fact she had been hospitalised twice for taking medication. There was no order other than an Interim Care Order that could ensure their safety. Eight to 12 weeks were needed to assess the children’s needs and the parents’ capacity to meet them.

The solicitor for the mother said her client did not deny there had been domestic violence but she was resisting the Interim Care Order because she thought the children should be with her.

The social worker said there had been extensive contact over six months with the mother, but she had failed to avail of the court’s domestic violence orders and she allowed the father back into the family home.

The mother’s solicitor said her client was concerned about the relationship between the older daughter and the father. She had brought her to the doctor with a vaginal discharge. While she was abroad with the younger daughter the father had brought the older girl to the doctor, who was concerned about the nature of the interaction between them and how he touched her. She said the mother would do all that was necessary, with support, and that there were not sufficient grounds for an Interim Care Order against the mother.

Giving evidence through an interpreter the mother said she and the children’s father, both of whom had been married before they entered this relationship, had been in Ireland for 13 years.

She said she had lost control of her older daughter since she took the medication. She had been involved in a car accident when she was a year old, in which her sister had died. She said she could still hear the screams of her sister. “I think she has a trauma for that,” she said.

Asked about the domestic violence, she said there had been some problems about money. “We don’t have child benefit.”

Asked about her time in a refuge, she said: “They called me to a meeting and they kidnapped me, because the children said in school he hit me over the head with a radiator.”

Asked where her partner was living now, she said he was waiting to go into hospital and was living at home until then. Asked would he be there if the children returned home, she said: “Yes. If he is guilty of more violence I can get an order. The guards will be there in two minutes.”

Asked about her concerns about her daughter’s relationship with her father, she said she took her to hospital because of a vaginal discharge, and they said it was just an infection. Asked about the father’s remark that he was going to sell her for €10,000, she said: “Sometimes he says things. I think he made a mistake with the words. He was just annoyed.”

She denied she had told the social worker she had any concern about a sexual element in the relationship between the daughter and father. “Maybe I thought stupid things. He told me when she went to [our country] she was naked and a splinter of wood went in there and he had to pull it out. Maybe the infection came from that.”

She said the clan from which she came did not believe in paying for marriage. They did not marry until 18 or 19, in a civil ceremony. “In my tradition it [marriage] should not be paid, it should be voluntary,” she said.

Asked about whether she could protect her daughters, she said: “When you see children dress like that, smoking and drinking, it is hard to control yourself.” However, she said she never hit them

The judge said she was satisfied there were ongoing issues of domestic violence and also issues relating to finances, food and heating. “I am also satisfied the HSE have taken steps to avoid this application, but those were not effective.”

She granted an Interim Care Order on the basis of the exposure of the children to domestic violence and the neglect of the children, and ordered that each child should have a guardian ad litem with experience of Roma families so that their wishes and feelings could be known. There should also be access and support so that the children knew their parents were well.

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