Foster parents says children in abuse case hid food around house

‘Hysterical’ behaviour was upsetting to watch, court told

The six accused, who cannot be named for legal reasons, include the parents, aunts and uncles of the three main child complainants. The accused range in ages from 27 to 57 and live in various locations in Munster.

The six accused, who cannot be named for legal reasons, include the parents, aunts and uncles of the three main child complainants. The accused range in ages from 27 to 57 and live in various locations in Munster.

 

A jury in the trial of children who were allegedly abused by their parents and other family members have been hearing from foster parents of the complainants.

The various witnesses told how the children in their care had issues with self care and food on arrival in their homes. One foster mother described how a child became “hysterical” when she tried to bathe him and another said a child came to her with very little hair.

The court also heard from gardaí who made referrals to Tusla after interactions with the family before the children were taken into care.

The foster parents were giving evidence in the trial of three men and three women. The charges against a fourth woman – the children’s grandmother – were withdrawn earlier in the week by direction of the trial judge.

The remaining six accused, who cannot be named for legal reasons, include the parents, aunts and uncles of the three main child complainants.

There are reporting restrictions in place in the case to protect the identities and welfare of the child complainants.

Upsetting to watch

On Thursday, one foster mother described how a boy was was “hysterical” when she first tried to put him into a bath and she had never seen a child so afraid of being washed or water, adding it was very upsetting to watch.

She said when the child first arrived he was very quiet and upset. She said his teeth were yellow and seemed half the size of normal children’s teeth.

She said he was very shy for the first couple of weeks. She said while she fed him he would be checking to see if there was more and it was not running out. She said he did not appear to know how to hug or kiss.

The woman said a second child was very unsettled at night, they would hear him moving around but he would pretend to be asleep when they went in. She described him as hypervigilant.

The foster mother agreed with Mark Nicholas SC, defending the children’s father, that the child would initially not ask for help but gradually opened up and became more warm.

She agreed that on one occasion where a social worker had told him he did not have to go an an access visit with his family he had gone anyway.

A foster parent of two of the other children said one of the children had very little hair when they arrived. She said the child was very thin, extremely dirty and neglected and described her as very nervous and hypervigilant.

Food hidden around the house

She said after encountering issues with food she had put the children on a chopped diet. She described how she would find food hidden around the house.

She said that she had seen that the boy had a wound where it appeared flesh had been gouged out of his leg. She told the court she had not been prepared for a little girl with no hair and she had certainly not been prepared for his leg.

She described how there would be a change in the children’s behaviour after access visits. She said they were upset, not sleeping, and getting into trouble at school. She said at one point there had been a break in access visits and things started to become more normal with not as much fighting and an improvement in school and sleeping.

She said the children’s family made requests for photographs and school reports of the children through social workers.

The foster mother described how the children were unsettled and upset after garda interviews.

She agreed with Mr Nicholas during cross examination that the wound she found on the boy’s leg was an old one that was healed.

She agreed with another another defence counsel that she had written in a diary that the girl had different personalities for all of us and a convincing way of making up a story.

Noticeably dirty

She confirmed she also wrote “yet the small terrified little girl is in there.”

A garda told Eilis Brennan SC, prosecuting, that he had encountered one of the “extremely young” children on the main street of a town. He said the child was noticeably dirty.

He said he was worried about the child and it took five minutes for his father to arrive. He referred the matter to Tusla.

He agreed with defence counsel for the child’s father that the father said the child had been in the park and run off and that he had been much obliged to him for stopping the child.

A second garda described how he responded to a call in relation to one of the children who had left school grounds without permission. The child was located at his home.

The garda said he spoke to the child’s mother and observed a number of baby bottles with what appeared to be Coke and stale milk in them. He said the house was filthy, there was no food to be seen and washing stacked up on the washing machine. He said he made a referral to Tusla.

Another garda said he responded to a call about a child being up at 5.30am. He said he attended at the father of the children’s house at 8.30am and the father told him the child had refused to go back to bed. He said there was also a child wearing just a t shirt and no nappy.

The trial continues on Friday before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury.