Supervision Orders for four children – 2013vol2#25

The Dublin District Court granted a supervision order in respect of four children for two months.
The father had admitted himself into a mental institution within the last week. A teenager, the second eldest child, would also have been a subject of the Supervision Order, but he had left for another jurisdiction within the last week to join the army there.

The solicitor for the HSE said that the father did not want to play any role in today’s proceedings. His consultant indicated via a phone conversation however that the father would have had capacity to attend court had he wished to.

The father was the father of the older two children. The mother said she did not know who the fathers of the three youngest children were and had not known she was pregnant until she went into labour. The judge asked if she needed an advocate to help her understand the proceedings. The mother’s solicitor said the respondent fully understood what was happening in relation to the supervision order.

The judge said that the teenager was a minor and had left the jurisdiction at a tender age to join an armed forces, and “one doesn’t know if that is appropriate” at all. The solicitor for the HSE said that the mother had said her son was psychologically well. The judge said the duty of care of the HSE extended to him also and asked were the HSE happy with this decision. The HSE solicitor said the teenager was not open to intervention from the social work department and he was very clear about joining the army.

The HSE’s application was for a six-month Supervision Order. The social worker told the court that the family had been known to the social work department for over seven years, there had been a concern regarding domestic violence. The case was closed after a few years, when there were improvements regarding the children’s hygiene.

It opened again the following year in relation to the eldest child. The duty social worker met with her, she made an allegation about the father regarding physical abuse that he grabbed her and threw her up the stairs.

She had been in a children’s hospital a few times but it was not ascertainable if her injuries were due to her father.

The eldest child said she had witnessed domestic violence between her parents and was in with her school counsellor almost daily. She had an educational and psychological assessment which placed her at the age of a nine-year-old, although she was a teenager. She was raped by a 35-year-old man she had met on the internet.

The social worker said there were concerns about her parents providing emotional warmth and being able to provide supervision for her. She was also seeing an 18-year-old boy for a while and the HSE had concerns about that relationship.

She said there was presently a service involved in assessing the family which had put in place certain structures like routine and communication with the children.

The father was admitted to hospital more than a dozen times for alcohol misuse. He would be drunk and verbally abusive to the children when they came home from school. He was going to attend an addiction clinic. He had initially engaged with them late last year, but had still been consuming alcohol and stopped attending the following month. The social worker said the father had admitted himself to the mental health institution after the case conference. He did not want the social worker to know why he was in there, but she understood it was in relation to his alcohol addiction.

She said the routine the family had begun had not been sustainable, so the family service had got involved. One child had ADHD. The parents gave different accounts of their relationship to the social work department. The wife had been granted a protection order two weeks ago.

The social worker said if the eldest girl had a boyfriend they would not know who he was or who his parents were. The mother was unaware of the whereabouts of her younger son at night. For example, one morning when a social worker had been visiting early, the mother had called up the stairs for him to get up but he was not there. When she got no reply she rang her sister to see if her son had stayed the night with her.

There were general concerns that the upkeep of the house was quite poor, there were mice in the house and mice droppings in the cupboard. A family support worker picked up a lice infection from being in the house. The washing machine was broken because the father had broken it last week. The children were often barefoot.

The social worker often heard raised voices between the parents while visiting them, as well as them shouting at their children. Two children had fought and used knives while she was there and the mother had shouted at them from another room rather than going into the room to stop the argument.

In school, homework levels and emotional behaviour were a concern. She said the psychiatrist found that the mother was particularly vulnerable to stress, triggered by her children’s behaviour. A lot of services link in with the family, all of which had attended the case conference. The father did not want to engage with the social worker since his hospital admittance.

The psychiatrist said the mother had a poor memory and vertigo and could not remember anything before the age of 16. She also had no memory of the months leading up to the birth of her children. The mother would not allow the social worker to investigate the pregnancies to see if the other family members knew about them. There had been tests done regarding her memory loss and she had no brain tumour.

The HSE solicitor said given the mother’s cognitive ability there was an agreement with all the professionals that a Supervision Order was required, the social worker agreed with this.
The concern was that although the mother did co-operate she failed to follow through on advice. The father lacked engagement.

The mother’s solicitor asked if her client had been put forward for psychotherapy as recommended mid last year by the psychiatrist. The social worker replied that she had only received that report very recently, but she did intend making a referral.

The judge had a concern that the mother was under such stress, therefore the Supervision Order was granted for two months rather than the six months sought by the HSE. Under Section 27 the judge directed a further doctor’s report to be procured by the HSE.

The judge directed that the mother was obliged to bring the children to school, have their homework completed, bring them to the relevant appointments in the sexual abuse therapy unit and the mental health services unit as requested by the HSE, and have them available to meet with the HSE for assessment. She appointed a GAL for the children.