Interim care order for teenager who refused to return home due to alleged abuse linked to culture at home – 2020vol1#16

The judge in a regional city extended an interim care order for four months on consent for a teenage girl from a minority cultural background, who refused to return home due to physical and emotional abuse.

The child had been in care for a number of months following allegations of emotional and physical abuse within the family home. When the child was initially taken into care, she showed signs of mental health difficulties and suicidal ideation. Following psychological assessment, it was concluded that these issues were as a result of environmental issues in the family home and therapeutic interventions were recommended. The social worker confirmed that the child is attending counselling.

The social worker gave evidence that there were two younger children in the family home and that an assessment had taken place and it was decided that there were no concerns which would warrant those children being taken into care. The social worker said that in the family’s culture, physical punishment did not commence until approximately nine years of age.

The guardian ad litem (GAL) gave evidence that the child was particularly artistic and expressive and she felt that she did not fit in within the family home and described  incidences of physical and emotional abuse. The GAL said that the child did not want to return home.

The social worker sought an extension of the care order for four months in circumstances where the psychologist who conducted the initial assessment wanted to review the child following therapeutic interventions. The solicitor for the CFA indicated that if the child’s wishes did not change, it was likely that an application for a full care order to 18 years would be sought. The social worker said that she would be concerned if the child were to return to the care of her parents, as they did not have any insight into why she was in care. The social worker confirmed that an after-care worker had been appointed and informed the court that the child hoped to attended third level education.

The solicitor for the father informed the court that the younger children missed their sister and the social worker said that she met with the girl and encouraged access and would continue to do so, especially with her siblings. The solicitor for the mother said that recently the girl had made phone contact with her mother and the social worker believed that was encouraging.

The judge asked if the parents were aware of the expectations of parenting in this country and the social worker said that she had those conversations with the parents and the father said: “[He] was aware of the law in Ireland and would not go against it”.

The judge also asked the GAL “if it was acceptable or the norm in the culture of [country of origin] that women go to third level” and the GAL said that the child’s older sister was attending at university.

The judge then said: “There isn’t a complete clash between their culture and how I perceive that we live in Ireland,” and the GAL responded: “In some areas, women are more restricted, but in other ways, it is very similar”.

The judge was satisfied that the threshold had been met and because the child was under 18 years and did not want to go home she told the parents that the child was under the care of the CFA.

The Judge went on: “I accept that the CFA, in accordance with the standards that we have here, are doing what is appropriate and I expect them to continue to do what is the right thing within this culture.”

The judge made the order extending the interim care order for four months.