An interim care order was extended in a provincial city in respect of five children aged between three and ten years. There were allegations of neglect and evidence of intellectual disability on the part of the mother. Both parents were legally represented.
Seeking the extension of the interim care order, the social worker said that “access had been difficult for the children” and described it as a “causal effect of trauma.” She said that access caused the children to soil themselves. Some of the children were smearing faeces on their clothes and the walls. One child said that he wanted to take a break from access although the social worker had encouraged him that it was nice to see his parents.
The social worker explained that she knew the “communication style of the family.” The mother had been making things difficult in that she had tried to undermine the placements and disrupt the children. The social worker said that the children were made to feel uncomfortable and one child remarked “my parents know where I live.”
The social worker explained there had been an element of improvement in that the parents had taken water with them for the children at access and also colouring pencils but the children were happy since the access had been reduced. They were sleeping better and neither defecating nor banging their heads. The social worker explained that it would not benefit the children if they were to see their parents separately. She said that the children needed to be allowed to settle into their placements.
The children were receiving certain supports. One of the children was receiving speech and language therapy and had improved since he was in care. Two of the children exhibited highly sexualised behaviour and the social worker said that the CFA contacted a professional who worked in the area of child sexual abuse. The social worker explained that some of the children also had attachment issues and the professional support would be beneficial to them.
She said that there was a discussion on moving two of the boys into the same placement and the prospective move had upset the foster carer of one of the children as she had cared for him for about six months. The social worker said that if the children were placed in care, they would need time to have “consistent love, care and time to adjust.” She agreed with the recommendation of the GAL that access should be withdrawn for a period of three months.
A consultant psychologist said that he had met with both parents and the purpose of the referral was to evaluate the cognitive capacity of the parents and their ability to parent. He described both parents as co-operative and pleasant. The parents informed him that the mother became pregnant soon after they met. They had five unplanned pregnancies but were happily married.
He said that the mother had signs of an intellectual disability. He described her as “less likely to learn” and in need of a structured environment. He explained that the mother was not aware that the children were not clean and she maintained that there were no problems in her family. He described the father as having poor personal hygiene and he too did not realise that his children were unclean. The psychologist said that the father was not in a position to have full responsibility to care for his children. The psychologist said that the parents had been attending classes which were “potentially beneficial” but the father did not know what he was doing with his children. He concluded that “neither parent had the capacity to care for the children.”
The GAL said the children were creeping on the floor and were very fearful on the day they came into care. She explained that they had now relaxed. All of the children had rotten teeth and the girl had to have all of her teeth removed. The girl sustained extensive burns and required skin grafts. The boys had streaks of faeces on their legs. The GAL explained that one of the boys still struggled and frequently smeared faeces. She explained that the children had difficulty eating, swallowing and gagging. The GAL said that a clinical psychologist had been engaged to carry out assessments with regards to trauma, attachment issues and the impact of the neglect on the children. A neuropsychologist had also given guidance with regards to speech and language.
The GAL stated the cost of such assessments was quite high and would amount to €20,000. She said that the clinical psychologist was anxious to begin the assessment but there was a need for confirmation that funding was in place. A screening assessment was to take place and such work required an expert. She explained that the “appropriate services needed to be in place now.” The GAL said that the children were in need of intensive play therapy, the funding for which had not yet been approved. She said that there was a need to ensure that there were no gaps in funding.
The court extended the care order but addressed the issue of funding. The judge remarked that the courts were constantly dealing with children in after-care with psychological problems. The judge said that “these effects arose as there was no in-depth investigation into their care at the time.” She said the last thing she wanted to see was children come into difficulty and that “money well spent would give children the opportunity to live normal lives.”
The matter was adjourned.