A Supervision Order was granted for a child who was living with her father in conditions described as cold and dirty. He was not in the court in a rural town and was not represented.
The CFA social worker told the court of various attempts to contact him, and said he was aware of the application and the court date. He had told the social worker: “I know the judge. She knows me. She should do what she wants.”
The principal teacher in the child’s school said she had started secondary school the previous September, when there were already concerns about her, and there had been a deterioration since January.
“She is very, very dirty. There are ingrained lines on her hands. Her clothes are very stained, they are not being washed and smell very bad. They are too tight. There was mould in her lunch-box and it smells terrible. Lunch one day was two slices of white bread with nothing on them thrown on top of the mould. We bought her a new lunch box.
“Her social interaction is very poor because she smells and her clothes don’t fit. Other children are reluctant to sit next to her in class. She’s called a ‘knacker’. She plays with children much younger than her.
“Academically she’s about three years behind, though she’s quite good at maths. Her reading and writing are poor, she’s been diagnosed as dyslexic. She has missed a lot of days since January.
“She walks to school along a main road. She would be there very early, waiting for the school to open. She has told us she gets herself up and her father is still in bed. Our initial contact with the father was quite open but there has been little contact since January. I visited the house because I couldn’t contact him on the phone. He did know about today. He always gave the impression any problem was someone else’s fault.”
The social worker told the court there had been concerns about the child since 2008. The father had been living with his own parents and the child, but in 2014 obtained his own property. The child said she wanted to live with her father. The grand-mother contacted the social work department expressing concern that her son could not look after his daughter.
The Child and Family Agency completed an initial assessment, he said, and visited the house. Family support was put in to help with cleaning and other things. The father’s sister became involved and things improved. In November she took a back seat and things deteriorated. The father did not want to engage.
The social worker said he called in January and the house was very, very cold. The child’s bed was stained with mould. There was no cover on the duvet and no pillow-case. There was inadequate food in the house and no toys or books for the child.
He then spoke to the child in school and she said she had been physically hit by her father twice. He would have had to have her father’s consent for a formal interview with her, so this did not take place. The social work department held a case conference.
“We wanted to work with him. There was a time when he demonstrated love and affection for her and we wanted to build on that. We put the child on the child protection register. She visits her grandparents at weekends but they don’t see a problem with her presentation. They are very kind to her.
“He was working, this stopped, but we gave him assistance in getting all his benefits, including back money.”
Judge: “Do you think a Supervision Order is sufficient?”
Social worker: “We feel anything more would be premature at this point. We want to offer support and maintain a relationship. There is a very kind caring bond with the child. It is very important to her. He did enrol her in school, got her books for school. There is no contact with her mother.
“Access to the child and speaking to her is a big issue. If we get that access we will be in a better position to make a decision. We want to give him support in understanding the child’s needs, getting appropriate clothes for her, etc.”
The CFA solicitor said the agency was asking for recommendations with the Supervision Order, that the social work department have access to the child inside and outside her home and that the father attend social work meetings.
The judge granted the Supervision Order.