Care order review for young child amid sex abuse concerns

A care order review was heard in a provincial town in respect of a young child where the care order had been granted in 2020. The court heard that there were concerns about the interactions of the child with males, the child had been in care since a toddler three years earlier. The parents were neither represented nor present in court. The mother had been represented during the care order hearing and both parents were aware of the review. The mother suffered from addition and homelessness.

The child had been in the same placement since coming into care. She was doing well and had started school, she had been discharged from her speech and language therapist and was very settled. She had no major health concerns and her emotional and welfare needs were met in her placement, according to the CFA. She engaged in play therapy weekly and this would continue.

The child had had no contact with her parents since 2019. The mother had not engaged for two years but then contacted the CFA in 2020 seeking assistance. The mother had sought the help of the CFA and received accommodation and transport to a refuge. She stayed there but left without giving any notice. The father engaged via telephone and was hard to contact.

The guardian ad litem (GAL) said the child had been anxious on her admission to care. She had bruising to her genital area and a paediatric review was inconclusive. The child showed signs of distress in her interaction with males. She had made disclosures that were never referred to the Gardaí.

The GAL continued that there had been an incident with the foster carer’s son, who was non-verbal and suffered from an intellectual disability, whereby the child touched his private parts and pulled his bottoms down. A screening interview had been carried out after the incident but nothing came from it. There were also concerns about the child’s method of self-soothing and touching the private parts of another child.

The child had made huge progress and the school was doing the Keep Safe programme with all the children to ensure the child knew how to keep herself safe. The GAL was of the opinion the Keep Safe programme should be on a one-to-one basis with the child.

The GAL recommended the review be placed on the child’s file as she might have questions about her own life experiences and why she was sent home from hospital when her sibling was admitted to care from hospital.