Mother ‘would not let social workers interview children’

Woman also suggested workers were racist during visit to investigate abuse claim, court hears

A mother refused to allow social workers to interview her younger children, the Dublin District Child Care Court heard on Friday.

A mother refused to allow social workers to interview her younger children, the Dublin District Child Care Court heard on Friday.

 

A mother refused to allow social workers to interview her young children and had suggested they were racist, the Dublin District Child Care Court heard on Friday.

The Child and Family Agency sought a six-month supervision order from the court, which would allow social workers enter the family home and access the children without parental permission.

The agency received an anonymous phone call recently saying the mother was physically disciplining one of her children, a teenager.

A social worker called to the family home with two gardaí to investigate the allegation, the court was told, and there was no visible evidence the girl had been physically abused.

The mother had consented to the girl being interviewed in the family home, and also to the agency speaking with the family’s GP and schools, but had refused to allow the social worker to interview the younger children.

There had been a previous allegation of physical violence against the children in 2015, the court was told, but the child who made it subsequently withdrew it. The agency closed the case in September 2016, but the family was not notified until June 2017.

The second allegation was made in July this year. The court heard the children’s father was out of the country.

Giving evidence, the social worker agreed there was a “cultural aspect” to the case. She said when the first allegation was made, it had been deemed credible and she had met with the parents. The meetings had been “quite difficult” and she was not allowed to interview the children alone.

“The parents felt we would be racist,” she said. They were also concerned the children had been upset after being spoken to by social workers at school.

The social worker agreed neither the GP nor the school had reported any child protection concerns in 2015 and she had not spoken to them about the recent allegation.

‘Close proximity’

She said when she spoke to the teenager, the mother was outside the closed door, but “in close proximity”. She said she needed to speak to the younger children to do a full assessment of the family, and guidelines required interviews to be carried out away from an alleged abuser.

She also suggested that because the children’s father was out of the country, the mother might need help with her large family.

Under cross-examination, the social worker agreed the home was in good condition, there was food for the children and they “presented well, appear to get on well with each other and were well-dressed”. She denied the agency had been “heavy-handed” and said it had a statutory obligation to investigate allegations of abuse.

In evidence, the mother said she co-operated fully with the agency the first time. She said the children had been “very distraught” and she did not want that to happen again. On this occasion, she said social workers “didn’t talk in a nice way or ask questions in a nice way”. She said the allegation of physical abuse was “not true”.

Stressed

She also denied she was stressed while her husband was away and said she had a lot of people in her church and friends who would come if she needed help.

Giving her judgment, Judge Bernadette Owens said there was no evidence the teenager had been assaulted and according to a written report, when the girl was questioned she had referred to wanting things to be “simple”. The judge said she interpreted that as meaning it would be easier if there was no fuss made and no investigation.

“I do not read those words as a denial,” she said. She granted a supervision order for three months.

In a separate case, an order was granted to the Health Service Executive to involuntarily detain a teenager in an adolescent mental health unit.

The court was told the girl had paranoid delusions and believed she was being spied on. There were fears she would take her own life if she did not go to hospital.