Tuesday 23 April 2019

Court protection sought for vulnerable disabled young man amid concerns of sexual abuse and violence in family home

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Tim Healy

The Child and Family Agency (CFA) is seeking court protection for a vulnerable intellectually disabled young man taken into care with his siblings some years ago amid concerns of sexual abuse, violence and neglect in the family home.

The youth has just turned 18 and the CFA wants him made an adult ward of court in order to put his placement with a foster family, with whom he has been placed for some years and is said to be doing very well, on a legal footing. 

It also fears he is at risk from his birth parents, who deny the claims against them, and his vulnerability compounds that risk.

On Thursday, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, was told two consultant psychiatrists had expressed the view the youth, who has a moderate intellectual disability and another disorder, is vulnerable and lacks capacity to make decisions about his welfare and finances. Both supported the application for wardship.

Counsel for the CFA said its aim, in seeking adult wardship, was to authorise the boy's continued positive placement with the foster family who regard him as part of their family.

In his ruling, the judge noted a District Court judge had made care orders for the youth when he was aged seven and that care orders were also made for his siblings.

The District Court was satisfied the boy had been assaulted, sexually abused, neglected and ill-treated and, if he remained with his birth parents, his welfare was likely to be impaired or neglected into the future, the judge said.

The entire family had been known to social workers for some 16 years following referrals to agencies, the judge noted.

There had been multiple concerns about neglect, poor school attendance and hygiene. There were also concerns about violence in the home and the children allegedly being hit by their father with his belt and a piece of wood.

It was also alleged the father had sexually abused his daughters and all the children were exposed to DVDs of a sexual nature and to their father dressing in women's lingerie. Other claims included the boy and his brothers had been abducted by a man known to the parents.

The parents deny the claims of abuse and minimise the other disclosures, the judge also noted.

The reports to the court showed there had been a "dramatic" change in the boy's life after he was placed with the foster family. It was reported he is doing well there but needs a lot of support and encouragement and it is in best interests to remain with the foster family as his life there was "in marked contrast" to what was occurring at home with his birth parents.

The judge said he would direct the holding of an inquiry into whether the youth should be made a ward of court and also directed an independent assessment by a court-appointed medical visitor.

Pending that inquiry, and because the care order concerning the youth expired on his turning 18, the judge made orders for him to remain with his foster family, retaining the services of his court appointed guardian and authorising the CFA to control any contact with his birth family.

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