A separated couple was directed to engage with mediators in order to agree on access to their children and parenting in general as one of the conditions of a Supervision Order granted by a District Court in a provincial city.
The HSE sought the Supervision Orders for three children ranging in age from 12 to late teens. The HSE social worker told the court that there was on-going conflict between the parents which was witnessed by the children. There were reports to the Gardai, including allegations that the mother had struck the children.
The father reported that the mother regularly abused the children when under the influence of alcohol. The abuse included telling the family dogs to attack the children. The mother admitted she may have done so. She also arrived in the HSE office with the middle child and said she could not cope with him and wanted him taken into care. The child went to his father.
The father also alleged the mother was selling prescription drugs. The youngest child had telephoned the father to say that the mother’s boyfriend and another man had threatened to kill the father.
The mother had been asked to attend for alcohol and drug assessment, but had refused. “With all the referrals we felt the issue was alcohol abuse. We felt we needed the Supervision Order to progress that issue,” the social worker said.
She also said that there was on-going verbal abuse by the father against the mother, which the children were picking up on and were using “really atrocious” language towards the mother. The oldest child was attending the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) but the father did not want him to go and he stopped.
“There is no structure. Whenever there is a problem the boys walk out of the house and neither parent knows where they are. They are wandering the streets,” the social worker said.
She said the school noticed the middle child was very anti-woman and abusive to women. They felt he was picking this up from his father. The youngest child was saying she was going to kill herself and there was a history of suicide in the mother’s family.
She said the HSE was seeking Supervision Orders with a number of directions, including that both parents meet with and engage with HSE professionals; that the mother not drink in the house or arrive home intoxicated; that the children attend CAMHS and other services; that the father no longer use abusive language towards the mother; and that the parents seek mediation in relation to access to the children and parenting in general.
The mother told the court that she felt she was being treated unfairly by the social work department and “held to ransom” by the children. “I am not allowed to discipline the children,” she said. “I am human and I do lose my temper. The social services are over-reacting to things. The children are in no danger from me. I feel there is a gun against my head. The children threaten me with their father, the guards and social workers so I can’t discipline them.”
“How did they get that way?” asked the judge.
“I played a role as well,” she said.
“It sounds a very disturbed house to me,” the judge said. He granted the Supervision Orders for a year and the directions sought by the HSE, pointing out that this meant social workers could attend the house at any time. “If things don’t improve I don’t see how the HSE can leave the children with you,” he said, and added he would review the order in six months.