Father alleges access reduced after complaints of malpractice at care home

Boy has been in care for almost two years

A father  told Judge Brendan Toale at the Dublin District Family Court his son “never had problems” with access visits, but when he started reporting on events at the care home, the agency sought to reduce visits

A father told Judge Brendan Toale at the Dublin District Family Court his son “never had problems” with access visits, but when he started reporting on events at the care home, the agency sought to reduce visits

 

A father has alleged that since his son who is in care made allegations of malpractice against the residential unit in which he lives, the Child and Family Agency has sought to reduce access visits with him.

The father said his son told him that when he was being restrained by staff his hand was bent backwards, that he was scraped on the face, that someone called him “a nigger” and he was slapped.

He told Judge Brendan Toale at the Dublin District Family Court his son “never had problems” with access visits, but when he started reporting on events at the care home, the agency sought to reduce visits.

The boy has been in care for almost two years and had no access with either of his parents for a period. Access was resumed earlier this year, initially every two weeks with both mother and father, but it was recently reduced. The father said his son wanted more access with him.

“I thought what a child wants is paramount,” he said.

Access visits

Details of why the boy and his sibling were taken into care were not open to the court, though

a social worker did say the boy told her he had witnessed domestic violence and the psychologist referred to “physical discipline”.

The mother had applied to the court to have access increased to once a week. The Child and Family Agency wanted her to have access once every two weeks, with access for the father once every eight weeks. They also wanted the interim care order for both children extended for four weeks, to which the parents consented.

Giving evidence, a psychologist recommended access in line with the agency plan. Sustained periods between access visits would help the boy to “internalise positive responses” experienced at the care home. She contrasted these with the “physical discipline” and “hostile responses” at home.

She acknowledged the child had told his court-appointed guardian he wanted more access with his parents, and said it wouldn’t be unusual.

“Often what a child says conflicts with how they behave,” the psychologist said. The boy had disclosed concern for his mother’s safety and access was a way of checking on her.

Behaviour

A solicitor for the mother asked about the boy wanting more access with his sibling.

“I’m here to comment on the application regarding the significant attachment figure,” she said. She explained how she prepared graphs mapping the boy’s behavioural difficulties, which included aggression and absconding, and said she believed there was an “association” between his behaviours and access visits.

“Association is a weak word,” Judge Toale said. Examining the graphs provided, he asked if it would be possible to have graphs made of when the boy had no access to his parents but there were still behavioural difficulties.

“I don’t see how you can come to any reasonable conclusion without a control period,” he said.

Also giving evidence, the social worker said she believed the boy had more stable periods when contact was reduced. She had concerns about the parents’ inappropriate behaviour at access. The parents, she said, raised subjects that hadn’t been “cleared with social workers”, such as going home and did not “reach out” at access, though she acknowledged that may have a “cultural aspect”.

The judge granted the interim care order and adjourned the issue of access for further hearing next week.