An Interim Care Order extension was granted for a child who had chosen to leave her mother’s home to live with her grandfather. The child’s guardian ad litem (GAL) told the court that she had lived in a home of “utter chaos, criminality, neglect and poor parenting”.
The child [A] was from a very dysfunctional household, where the first sibling had been born over 20 years ago. A had been exposed to police raids on the home [due to criminality]. She had also seen her brother being hidden in the attic from the police when he had absconded from secure care. She was now asking for a counsellor, said the guardian, “to try and get things out of her system”.
Neither the mother nor the child wanted access. Her mother was saying “she will do this that and the other to her, she is completely inappropriate.” [A] was afraid to go to access with her mother. “Starting up access will take months, never mind reunification,” the GAL told the court.
This was the first child that had chosen to leave the household – usually there had been a fight with the social services when the other children were being taken away. The child’s mother was very angry with her and had told the GAL that she wanted her back only if all the disclosures were retracted.
The child had asked the GAL to write down her story for the judge and to read it out in court, she was “sounding beyond her years” said the GAL. [A]’s thoughts included the following:
“I want to let the judge know that I’m happy here and I don’t want to go home. I like life here, I just want to go to one person and I don’t want to be tossed from home to home.
“My wishes are not to go home, but I’m afraid my brother will get picked on, he didn’t get hit on as much as me when I lived at home.
“I was afraid to stand up, I ran and my friends helped me. I would go and tell the judge as long as my Mam’s not there. You would think my Mam would have upped and done things properly when [my brother] left, but no they got worser.
“Most of the time my Mum didn’t know where [my brother] was, he was [out on a road by himself].
“The place was a mess on Christmas Day, she went to sleep, most parents get up in the morning but she went to sleep.
“She wasn’t waking up in the day and I had to take [my younger brother] to school. She gets drunk, screaming, singing, having parties when me and [my younger brother] are in bed.
I’m worried you won’t believe me and send me home to my Mam. It was sore when she hit me.
“When I was at home I didn’t have anything, I had to get into the habit to get what I needed, she didn’t take any notice of what would make us happy.
“Here I’m settled but confused, I got taught everyone was a bad person, at the moment I just don’t like my Ma.
“I’m scared for [my younger brother], who is getting him dressed and bringing him to school?
“When she was drinking she would tell us we were packing her bags and that we were going to Spain [by ourselves]. She said she would give [my younger brother] up for adoption.”
The GAL told the court that [A]’s father was incarcerated. The mother did not appear in court and was not legally represented.
The judge discussed with the CFA solicitor the fact that there were a number of allegations of physical abuse and child sexual abuse in the social work report, and these would involve a Section 23 application [relating to evidence from the child]. He asked if there were going to be Garda interviews, if so when would they happen and how would the information be released?
The CFA solicitor told the judge that the case could not drift until the allegations were dealt with.
The judge said that it was a matter for the solicitor to introduce the evidence he was going to introduce but the question was what was he going to rely on, the extent to which he would rely on it, and was it sufficient to say it without further investigation? Would there be a forensic investigation?
The judge said he was not going to fix hearing dates where [legal] issues would arise and he would have to vacate the dates [so that the new issues could be dealt with].
The CFA solicitor told the court that the threshold criteria would be based on a number of matters lodged previously and therefore he could rely on all the other information to meet the threshold, and not the child sexual abuse (CSA) allegation.
However the judge said that if the Gardaí did investigate the CSA allegations and carry out interviews, the solicitor would then have to decide whether he was bringing them before the court. The judge said that the court had to be informed and he may have to direct them being brought before the court, he suggested joint interviews [between Gardai and CFA staff].
Regarding a psychological reassessment of the mother, the CFA solicitor told the court that the last assessment had been done between 2012 and 2013.
The judge told the CFA solicitor to write to the mother and inform her that another psychological assessment was available to her in relation to child A. He said if the mother did get representation for the full Care Order hearing an adjournment would be sought on the basis that she had not been reassessed.
Judge: “Set out very clearly what the CFA identify as the issues, and the time table on which the case is going to proceed. Take a proactive approach to dealing with mother and make sure she is on notice to everything required, emphasise that it is in her interest to have legal representation.”
Care Order hearing dates were set and the Interim Care Order was extended.