Health Service Executive -v- JO & ors (Care Order - Sexual and Physical Abuse)

Case OutcomeApproved
CourtDistrict Court
Docket NumberN/A
JudgeKelly J.
Judgment Date07 Mar 2013
Neutral Citation[2013] IEDC 8
[2013] IEDC 8
7 March 2013
1. Neither the first nor sec ond named respondents were present for the hearing. The second named respondent is reported t o be
unlawfully at large, having absconded from a detent ion centre w hile serving a prison sentence. T he first named respondent had been
given temporary release from a women’s prison in January 2013, but has reportedly not complied with the c onditions of same, and has
come to Garda att ention since. T he first named respondent is t he mother to eac h of t he four children in these procee dings. Neither
the mother nor the sec ond named respondent has instructe d their solicitors for some time. Counsel for the mother had previously
advised the Court t hat he had not rece ived instructions from him for some time, and he was not present . Counsel for the second
named respondent had not received instruc tions either, and alt hough present for the hea ring, did not participate.
2. The t hird named respondent was present, with t he assistance of an interpreter, and he was legally represented.
3. The c hildren’s Guardian ad litem (“GAL”) who was also present a nd was legally represented, as w as the HSE.
4. Psyc hologist 1 gave evidence and adopted her report dated 28 February 2013 dealing with Child 2, which was before t he Court.
She was c oncerned about her lack of wariness with s trangers, inappropriate over-friendly behaviour, and on-going somatic
complaints, and clinginess and reassurance seeking from her carer. She also detailed disclosures by Child 2 of significant incidents of
witnessing domestic violence against her mother, and of a number of incidents indicating c hronic neglect, and conc luded she had
suffered stress and early childhood traumatic experiences. Alco hol and substance abuse was a lso referred to by Child 2 as having
occ urred while she was in the c are of her mother (the f irst named respondent) and the third named respondent. She has improved
considerably since c oming into c are, and has deve loped a strong att achment t o her carer, and has repeatedly expressed her desire to
stay t here. She also c learly stat ed that she did not want maternal or relative acc ess. Psy chologist 1 c oncluded that a long-t erm
foster plac ement is in Child 2’s best inte rests, and t hat maternal and relative ac cess should not take plac e at present. Ac cess was
suspended last year, following which Child 2’s somatic c ondition relating to ac cess improved. Due to t he mother’s sentence, and
subsequent absenc e, ac cess has not t aken place fo r a long time. If Child 2’s mother re-engages with t he HSE, and undertakes the
necessary w ork, then acc ess could be re-examined in the future. Child 2 would require on-going psyc hological intervention to a ddress
her difficulties. Finally, she says that sibling access is important and should be regular, and ca refully managed.
5. Psyc hologist 2 gave evidence and adopted his report dat ed 22 February 2013, dealing with Child 1, which was also bef ore the
Court. Child 1 initially presented as a child with t raumatic symptoms arising from her earlier childhood, including chronic neglec t,
domestic violence, abse nt parents, and alcohol and substanc e abuse on the part of her parents. She also a lleged that t he third
named respondent had been physically abusive to her on a number of oc casions. Child 1 tended to take on parental type roles, a nd
continues t o do so ev en now; Psyc hologist 2 gave e xamples of very rec ent role play by Child 1 where she t ook on the role of teac her,
and he cont rasted how s he did so now, c ompared to when she first c ame into care, in that she is now more sympathet ic in her role.
Child 1 now refuses to use her own surname, and has s topped c alling the first named respondent ‘mum’. Discussions regarding access
to her ‘mum’ or granny, or incidents where she ac cidentally c omes into contac t with relatives or former schoolmates still cause her
high levels of stress. She has set tled very well into her place ment (with Child 2) and says she want s to stay there. He c oncludes that
she requires a long-term foster placement t o promote her sense of sec urity and st ability. She is strongly opposed t o ac cess with
members of her birth family (apart from her father), and Psy chologist c oncludes t hat ac cess is not in her best interests at present.
Sibling acc ess however would be beneficial. She requires on-going support from Social Worker 1, and psychological support t o help her
work through her past traumatic experiences.
6. Psyc hologist 3 gave evidence and adopted his report dat ed 25 October 2012. This was a psychological asse ssment of the third
named respondent, carried out over four lengthy interviews in September and October last. His conclusions were t hat t he third named
respondent was ‘faking good’, presenting an idealised version of his own past, and of his life with t he family, and the treat ment of the
mother’s children while he lived with them. He also cont radicted himself on numerous occ asions, and overall, Psychologist 3 felt t hat
he was in denial about t he traumatic experiences of the c hildren, and that his c redibility was highly questionable. Given that he denied
allegations by the Child 1 and Child 2 that he had hit them, and that they had c onsistently maintained this t o several people over a
long time, his denials must be suspect at the very least . He has little insight into how such experiences might have af fec ted t he
children, and displayed no sense of empathy; he is c aught up with his feelings that he is t he victim in all this. Psyc hologist 3 has
grave reservations about t he third named respondent’s readiness to engage in treat ment or therapy required to deal with t he
foregoing, and to enable him to improve his capac ity to parent his son, Child 4. While he is ca tegorised in certain respec ts as ‘low risk’
to t he children, he could be c onsidered to be o f ‘medium risk’ to them, if, as suspect ed, he was aware of t he neglect and risk to
which the c hildren were exposed while he lived with them. Overall, he says that at best, t he third named respondent colluded with a
failure to identify and prevent abuse and neglect of t he mother’s children, Child 1, Child 2, and Child 3, and at worst he modelled
aggressive and violent behaviour to t heir mother, while inflicting harsh and inappropriate punishment on the c hildren themselves.
7. Social Worker 2 gave evidence and referred to his reports w hich were before t he Court, and also t o his parenting capac ity
assessment of t he third named respondent, dated 30 November 2012. The mother has not engaged with t he HSE since c oming out of
prison, nor has the sec ond named respondent. The older children (Child 1 and Child 2) are doing very well in their placement and have
formed secure atta chments. The younger children (Child 3 and Child 4) have had three c hanges of plac ement, but t heir present
placement is working well, and the carers have indicated their willingness to provide long term care. Child 1, Child 2, and Child 3 (the
mother’s children with t he sec ond named respondent) experienced s ignificant neglect before admission to care, a nd Child 1 and Child 2
missed significant amounts of time from school. T he mother has a serious addict ion problem, and in spite of at tending residential
treatment for a month, she has failed to maintain the aft ercare programme. She has also failed to engage adequately w ith the v arious

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