Parents ‘actively prevent’ children from accessing medical help, court told

Suggestions of sexual abuse denied after claim that daughter said she was raped

A social worker confirmed that two of the young girls were brought to eye appointments more than a month after their mother was informed that her younger daughter was in danger of going blind.

A social worker confirmed that two of the young girls were brought to eye appointments more than a month after their mother was informed that her younger daughter was in danger of going blind.

 

An opthamologist reported to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, that a young girl would end up blind if she continued to miss her eye appointments, a district court child care hearing has heard.

The girl is part of a large family that has been known to the service for 11 years, and the court was told the parents “actively prevent” their children from accessing medical help.

The Child and Family Agency (CFA) is seeking interim care orders for the two youngest children: a three-year-old boy and his younger sister, as well as supervision orders for the other children.

The separated parents are objecting to the interim care order for their youngest daughter. None of the family members can be identified.

Previously the court heard there were fears for the life of the three-year-old boy upon admission to hospital with a tooth abscess and extremely low levels of haemoglobin.

A clinical nurse manager at the hospital where he has remained for more than seven weeks told the court the boy had been “extremely ill” and required an emergency blood transfusion and six iron transfusions.

A different public health nurse said the boy’s mother had admitted in April that he consumed only bottled cow’s milk, while his younger sister ate “little bits now and again” in addition to dairy milk.

The mother described to the nurse an episode a few weeks previously where the boy had collapsed to the floor and turned blue. He was not brought to a doctor after this incident, the nurse said.

‘Consistently missed’

A social worker for the family said on Friday she was concerned that medical appointments for the children were “consistently missed”. She confirmed that two of the young girls were brought to eye appointments more than a month after their mother was informed that an opthamologist’s report flagged in March 2021 concerns the younger girl’s eyes would deteriorate to such an extent she would go blind.

A solicitor on behalf of the independent guardian assigned by the court to all of the children, put it to the social worker that the parents “actively prevent” their children from accessing medical help. The social worker agreed with this statement.

The solicitor also raised previous referrals to Tusla where there had been concerns about the children, including that two of the girls had been reportedly self-harming.

In 2014, a GP reported one of the boys had anal laxity, which could be an indication of child sexual assault. The social worker, who was only assigned to the family last December, said the boy was assessed by a general paediatrician who did not believe there was a sinister cause.

In 2017, Tusla received reports from a teacher in relation to this boy and two of his younger sisters for allegedly engaging in “inappropriate behaviour” two years previously.

The social worker said the teacher reported observing the boy lying in between the legs of one of his sisters, which prompted the teacher to pull him away. It was then reported the boy said: “I will do whatever I want to my sister”, the social worker said.

The Judge asked if the CFA investigated this particular matter then or recently, to which the social worker replied that she could not access the entire file but believed it would have been assessed.

In May 2021 Tusla received a referral from the school principal for one of the girls, after it had been alleged by a classmate that she disclosed she had been raped when she was five years old. On Thursday a detective garda told the court that this report was being investigated.

‘Shocked’

The social worker said she met with the parents to inform them of the alleged disclosure and to gain consent to speak to the girl. The parents were “shocked” at first, she said, before the mother denied this could be true as she believed bullies were making up these stories about her daughter. The girl later denied twice to the social worker that she had disclosed an allegation of rape.

The solicitor claimed there has been a “pattern of denial and of serious harm of children going back 11 years”.

The social worker told the court that both parents have alleged the other has been domestically abusive. The father disclosed to her he had taken heroin as recently as June and he also alleged the mother used cocaine, she told the court.

She believed supervision orders for the older children in the family were “proportionate” because she was optimistic the family would cooperate with Tusla. The parents have begun to engage with her in the last week and the agency has a “duty of care” to keep the family together if this engagement continues, she said.

It is the mother’s case, her solicitor said, that she is “vulnerable and very overwhelmed” but that she now has a support network of friends and family. The mother believes she is better able to serve her children now that she has been granted a barring order against her husband, who she claims had been domestically abusive and withheld social welfare payments and child benefits from her, the solicitor said.

The family home has been cleaned, children’s clothes and bed linen bought, and the children have better food and bedroom routines, she added.

For the father, a solicitor said his client recognises he will need to attend rehab for his addictions to ensure he will be “positive as a parent”. The father 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 Monday.