A District Court in a provincial town granted an interim care order for a teenage girl, amid concerns she had been subjected to assaults by her mother.
The CFA applied for a one-year care order, but the court heard that a guardian ad litem had just recently been appointed and so had nothing to contribute. The judge asked how he could make a one-year care order in circumstances where there was no GAL’s report.
The court heard that the girl’s foster carer could no longer look after her as he had to care for an unwell relative, so a new foster placement had been found for her.
The mother was a non-EU national, who was present in court and was represented by her solicitor. The mother’s solicitor stated that he had a concern about the teenage girl’s voice being heard. She was in full time education and the CFA intended to move her to a new family and to a new school. He stated he would like the matter to be resolved over the next few months before the next school year. The mother wanted her home to be considered as an option. The solicitor stated that she had another son who has a disability and is close to her daughter.
The judge said that, having read the reports, he was concerned the girl should be heard.
The judge noted that the mother had consented to a supervision order. She lived on her own with two children. She had part-time work and she was doing her best. He stated that she impressed him before in relation to the supervision order.
The solicitor for the CFA said that there had been two assaults by the mother on her daughter. She had said previously that her daughter was dead to her. There had been two protection orders made pursuant to section 12 of the Child Care Act, 1991. The child had expressed suicidal ideation at the thought of being returned to her mother. That was why the orders were made.
The judge stated that this was a very serious situation which was why he wanted the child to be represented.
The solicitor for the CFA told the court that the teenager had been skipping school. The judge stated that he did not want any school changes. The solicitor for the CFA told the court that, as with all children when they move placement, she would have to move school.
The judge observed that, if it was thought that the mother should be the custodian, nobody would be prejudiced by the girl changing school in the short-term so that she would have a clear road ahead from next year.
The solicitor for the CFA told the court that school was not the primary issue. The CFA had huge concerns in relation to the family home. If a one-year care order was not granted, the CFA wanted care to be continued for three months until all the necessary information was available.
The solicitor for the mother objected to a three-month care order.
A social worker gave evidence that there had been detailed involvement of social workers in the family. There had been a number of occasions where the children were left home alone. At primary school the child had been talking about being beaten at home and wanting to be dead. There had been two assaults and two protection orders.
In relation to the school issue, the social worker stated that her attendance record had worsened and her number of missed days tripled. He stated that she had special educational needs and needed occupational therapy. She was not getting this from her mother. She had issues in relation to personal hygiene and had mental health problems regarding organisation. “She is a vulnerable young woman.”
The social worker recommended that a care order be put in place on a longer-term basis, but that certainly a three-month order should be put in place for now.
The judge noted that the mother did not have insight into her daughter’s difficulties and coped with the situation by ignoring it.
The social worker said that the mother had told him she could bring her children up any way she wished. He had asked did that include hitting her. He stated that he wants consistency for the child. She had cut her arms and within the last few weeks the Gardaí had to be called as she threatened to kill herself.
The court heard that the mother had been advised to attend a parenting support group, but that this had not been followed through. The social worker said that when the child was supposed to be at school she was running home to her mother. He had to tell her mother that this was not appropriate.
The judge said: “Running home to her mother implies that she feels comfortable. You’re telling me she is self-harming and on the brink, yet you say she is running home to her mother.”
The social worker replied, “She says she isn’t hit all the time. She has normalised it.”
The judge stated that he badly needed the GAL’s report, but that a case had been made case for a three-month care order with directions for liberal access.
The judge noted that there was a question in the case of a culture divide. He addressed the mother and told her that, as she was in a different country with a different culture, a parenting course may be beneficial. There was an element of assimilation at play. The judge stated that she had always impressed him as hardworking and genuine. She was trying to put food on the table and look after her son. She may not be fully aware of the needs of her older child. There was no father figure; he had disappeared long ago and was of no assistance. He could see a mother trying to hold down a part-time job, trying to put food on the table, who was perhaps not aware of her daughter’s educational needs, through no fault of her own.
The judge stated that he would make the three-month order, but that it was crucial that there be liberal access. He noted that the girl was a teenager, not six years of age, and he was concerned that the bond between her and her brother be maintained.
The mother addressed the court. She stated that her daughter cried all night and could not sleep. She called her mother and said she had headaches. The mother said she called her daughter and advised her to go to her GP. The girl was not eating and was anxious. The mother denied beating her daughter and said she was brought to the GP afterwards who found no marks on her.
The judge advised the mother that the GAL was independent and would listen to the child
and report on all she says.
The CFA told the court that the child had an appointment with her GP the following day.
The judge reaffirmed that he would make the three-month order, but stated that he would put the matter in for review within a shorter timeframe. He stated that the mother’s big issue should be to do the parenting course in the meantime.