An interim care order was extended for teenage girl child, who, according to the social worker and guardian ad litem (GAL), did not want contact with her mother. The mother was present in court but did not have representation, however she had applied for legal aid. She said she was not consenting to the application. The judge said the girl’s views and concerns had to be listened to and he extended the ICO for 28 days.
The social worker told the court that the girl was doing very well and was flourishing in her current foster placement. While another foster placement had been identified for her, she wished to stay in her current placement which was waiting to be approved as her long-term placement in the next few weeks.
She said the girl attended a private school, supported by a scholarship and by past pupils, and was doing well. The school was very committed to her.
The social worker said that the girl did have some mental health issues, she had worries, intrusive thoughts, and the witness said she did have concerns regarding her mental health. However, the girl had weekly meetings with the school counsellor, who was a qualified psychologist, this was overseen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and the girl had developed good coping strategies. The girl had made disclosures, and these had been referred for investigation by the Gardai.
The girl had not had any contact or access with her mother for over a year. The last access, which was supervised, had been in 2020, was short and did not go well. The mother had been fixated on certain issues which the girl had been upset about and she was shocked and traumatised after the access. The social worker said that after the access she had tried to contact the mother by phone, by text, by email, by postal letter and even through the Gardai but despite these continuous efforts all through 2020 the mother would not engage.
However, recently the mother had contacted her and said she wanted to see her daughter. The mother said she was physically ill and may die in two years, the social worker said she had no further information on this and had not seen any medical reports. The mother had told her she wanted to go back to her home country and wanted her daughter to go with her but if she did not want to go, she would go back anyway. The social worker added that the mother had said: “If [my daughter] said I abused her then I accept that, but I am not sure what I did.”
She and the GAL had met with the girl to inform her that her mother had contacted the department. The girl had been visibly upset and displayed signs of physical distress: “[The girl] started to hum to herself as a method of self-soothing,” and she had starting using self-soothing behaviours in order to cope. She had been shocked and seriously concerned that the girl was so distressed and was very hesitant to approach the subject of her mother again.
The girl had made it very clear she did not want to see or hear about her mother, or have contact with her and only be informed if her mother was extremely unwell.
The social worker said the threshold for the renewal of the interim care order remained and dates for the application for a full care order had been listed.
The GAL gave evidence and also commented on the girl’s reaction when she met with her and the social worker to discuss her mother being in contact and wanting access. She said that the girl’s reaction was physical she started twitching. She said: “[She] asked no questions about her mother and her mood dropped like a bomb on hearing about her mother.”
The GAL said she could not overstate how much the girl had changed over the last year, there was a striking improvement, she was settled and engaged. She said the girl was processing what had happened and really made use of the therapy she had received but she needed time.
The GAL said that the previous year she had real concerns for this girl, but the change in her was impressive. She said she would love to ask her to meet with her mother but such was her reaction she felt that she now would have to seek the advice of a psychiatrist or the psychologist prior to introducing the subject again.
The judge invited the girl’s mother to question the social worker and the GAL after they had given their evidence. The mother asked the social worker if her daughter had had a formal mental health diagnosis. The social worker replied that the girl did not have a formal diagnosis but was being treated under the umbrella of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) and that she was not taking any prescribed medication.
The mother asked the social worker about the foster carer, who she was, her age and her background. She asked: “What is her agenda? Why is she fostering [my daughter]?”
The social worker explained who the foster carer was, her background, her family circumstances, and said that the girl and the foster carer had developed a warm and complementary relationship.
The mother asked the GAL who the school counsellor was. The GAL explained that the school counsellor was a qualified psychologist who was helping the girl to develop coping strategies. She said the counsellor helped her to manage bad childhood memories and did what she could to help her cope with things like that.
The mother told the judge that she would like to see her daughter once per week for one hour only.
The judge said: “You have heard from the social worker and the guardian she does not want to see you; the last supervised access did not go well. We have to listen to [the girl] and her concerns and the views she has expressed.”
The judge extended the interim care order for 28 days, he complimented the mother for attending and re-engaging with social services.