Mother of hospitalised boy who lived off cow’s milk says she feared husband

Woman objects to Tusla’s interim care order for youngest daughter, district court hears

The case was adjourned until Friday. Photograph: Alan Betson

The case was adjourned until Friday. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The mother of a three-year-old boy who was hospitalised with a tooth abscess and severely low levels of haemoglobin has said she feared for her life due to her husband’s alleged abusive behaviour.

The woman told a district court child care hearing that her husband, whom she now has a barring order against, had been in “control” of her life and the family’s finances.

Tusla, the child and family agency (CFA), is seeking interim care orders for the boy and his younger sibling, as well as supervision orders for the remaining children in the large family.

The court heard on Wednesday that the mother is objecting to the interim care order for her youngest daughter. No members of the family can be identified.

Previously the court heard that medical staff feared for the life of her three-year-old son when he was admitted to hospital. The boy had a distended stomach and required an emergency blood transfusion and six iron transfusions as his system was “struggling to keep him going”, a clinical nurse said. He has remained in hospital for more than eight weeks.

A public health nurse said the mother had informed her the boy consumed only full-fat bottled cow’s milk, while his younger sister ate “little bits now and again”.

Alleged

The mother told the court on Wednesday that she accepted her son consumed too much milk. She said she had never been told before that her other children were not receiving appropriate nutrition.

She claimed her husband, from whom she is now separated, would not allow her to see friends or go to the shops alone. He had also been physically abusive towards her on more than five occasions over the last two years, she alleged.

“He would be out drinking and come home and start on me,” she said.

She alleged he threw a deodorant can at her head and would not allow her to seek medical treatment. On another occasion her oldest son had to pull him off her while he choked her and punched her in the ribs. Her other children were present in the next room, she said.

The mother began to cry as she told the court she had been afraid to report the abuse to gardaí because her husband had threatened to take away her children and leave her in a gutter. “I was in fear of my life . . . I didn’t have any friends,” she said.

Her husband was in control of the family’s finances, she claimed, and often bills went unpaid and energy was shut off. She said he gave her €120 each week from social welfare payments but this reduced to “dribs and drabs” over time. He would often ask her for money on the date the children’s allowance was paid and she had “no choice” but to concede, she claimed.

‘Vulnerable’

Since her husband has left the family home she has taken control of social welfare and children’s allowance payments, the court heard. Her legal representative told the court previously that the woman was “vulnerable and very overwhelmed” but she is better able to serve her children now that she has been granted a barring order against her husband.

A social worker said the father had admitted to using heroin as recently as last month. The father is no longer objecting to any of the CFA’s orders, his solicitor said, and he recognises he will need to attend rehab for his addictions so he can be a “positive” parent. He acknowledges there has been some “regrettable anger” between him and his wife, but they have both been culprits in this, the solicitor added.

The case was adjourned until Friday.