Parents demand daughter in care examined for sexual activity

Judge says ‘distressing’ and ‘inappropriate’ to subject young teenager to internal exam

The parents of a young teenager in care have refused to engage with the Child and Family Agency until their child undergoes an “invasive” test to see if she has been sexually active, the Dublin District Family Court has heard. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The parents of a young teenager in care have refused to engage with the Child and Family Agency until their child undergoes an “invasive” test to see if she has been sexually active, the Dublin District Family Court has heard. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The parents of a young teenager in care have refused to engage with the Child and Family Agency until their child undergoes an “invasive” test to see if she has been sexually active, the Dublin District Family Court has heard. The child was taken into care earlier this year after allegations she was beaten and psychologically abused at home.

As part of an interim care order application, the girls’ social worker told Judge Sinéad Ní Chúlacháin that the child had stayed out after curfew on a night two months ago, saying she was playing sport with friends. She had not repeated the behaviour, had acknowledged people were worried about her and agreed to a safety plan. Her father however was “fixated” on having her sent to hospital to be examined for signs of sexual activity and he said he would not co-operate until this was done.

The social worker said there were no signs the child had been sexually active and her foster carer and court-appointed guardian did not believe she was. She should not be subjected to an invasive internal examination, she said, and she did not believe the hospital would carry it out. Her parents were also refusing to approve an educational assessment for the girl, who had literacy issues.

Neither parent was in court yesterday. The father’s solicitor raised concerns including about whether the child had been attending church. The child’s guardian said the girl had gone to Mass and she believed she was Catholic. She also believed cultural issues were playing a major part in the parents’ difficulties engaging with social workers.

Judge Ní Chúlacháin dispensed with the need for the parents’ approval for an educational assessment. She extended the interim care order for 28 days and urged the agency to “explore” the religion of the child with her mother.

The judge also said it would be inappropriate and distressing to force the child to engage “in some sort of gynaecological exam”. She was concerned it was being used as a precondition to engagement and recommended cultural mediation.

Separately, before Judge Brendan Toale, the agency said it would seek to take three siblings who were arriving in Ireland last night into care. The children had been in care in Britain and, in co-operation with social services there, the agency obtained a High Court order stating the children were ordinarily resident in Ireland and should be returned here. The children’s parents were living in Ireland, but were homeless and had drug issues.

The agency sought permission from the court to inform the father about the proceedings, to be heard tomorrow, via text message. Judge Toale agreed, but said the parents could argue tomorrow that they had been given insufficient notice.