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Dublin: 6°C Friday 14 May 2021

Three children abused by their mother escaped from their home using a ladder

The mother beat one of the children and told the others she was ‘beating the white devil’ out of the child.

Image: Shutterstock/pzAxe

THREE CHILDREN WHO were abused by their mother and not allowed to leave their home managed to escape by using a ladder.

The siblings – two girls and a boy who have all now been taken into care –  experienced neglect and emotional and physical abuse from their mother, and there were also allegations of sexual abuse. They planned the escape for some time before executing the plan.

The children brought with them some of the only items that they had – an iPad, a book from the library on bullying, a phone number for fostering services and a phone number for the Samaritans.

The case was brought to light in the latest reports from the Child Care Law Reporting Project, which regularly publishes cases documenting how and why children are taken into care in Ireland.

The report does not give any details such as where in Ireland the family lived to ensure the children cannot be identified.

Instead, it describes how the children had been removed from school to be homeschooled by their mother. Their father rarely visited the house and did not protect them from their mother.

The children had no structure to their day. The mother spend most of her time in her bedroom, where she used a bucket as a toilet. Her son was made to empty it.

The mother beat one of the children frequently, telling the others that she [the mother] was the reincarnation of the Holy Spirit and that she was “beating the white devil” out of the child.

The children had no friends and taught themselves using books in the house. They often stayed up late at night in order to avoid their mother’s violent outbursts during the day.

A Garda sergeant who visited the house after the children escaped said that it was filthy, with floors covered in grime and dirt. The walls were inscribed with religious rhetoric and there was an altar in front of the window in the sitting room.

There was also a damaged electric heater which could have easily ignited. “I had grave concerns that the house was a hazard in itself and it wasn’t fit for children to live in those conditions,” the sergeant told the District Court.

The children, who were all in their early and mid teens, hatched the escape plan together.

A social worker told the court:

“They [the children] used a ladder that they had moved. The side gate was locked as their [older] sister had got out that way [the sister had managed to leave the home]“.

They spoke abut testing the plan when their mum had gone out. They had tested the lock on the front door and thought it was too noisy so they altered the plan. They told the brother only on the night they were leaving as they thought he was too young to be told before.
The children carefully removed each item [they were bringing with them] from the window so as not to wake their mother. The girl said that there were beer bottles and alcohol near her mother.

The children went to a neighbour’s house to get help, and the neighbour called the local garda station, who sent an officer to speak to the children.

The officer told the District Court:

“They said if they did try to escape, their mother would physically assault them. The second child explained that they never went to school, they were home schooled but she only learned to read at age 12, and her sister taught her”.

When the mother came to the garda station she was angry and abusive and did not seem to have any interest in the welfare of the children, the court heard.

An educational welfare officer told the court that the mother had been before court 16 times for the non-attendance of her daughters at school. The mother claimed she was home-schooling them. However by 2009, although she had officially registered as home-schooling, the mother did not comply with the assessment process and was told that her children were being taken off the home-schooling register. She was told to put them into school – but this never happened.

A duty social worker told the court that files from 1999 onwards show the second child had received a burn for which she was not adequately treated when she was very young. There was also a referral to the social work department in 2001 relating to the eldest child’s school attendance.

The District Court granted full care orders for the three children. Their father had not suggested that the children live with him.

Neither the mother nor the father engaged with social workers after the children were taken into care.

The case has also been referred to the Children’s Ombudsman over why the concerns about the family were known by authorities since 2009 but were not followed up.

The report and others can be seen on the Child Care Law Reporting Project website from this morning.

The project has reported on 101 cases in the past year on the intersection of children being taken into care, the Child and Family Agency, and the courts system.

The team is led by Dr Carol Coulter, who said that she hoped the accumulation of reports would help people working in the area to gain more clarity and consistency in working with families.

Read: Project gives fascinating – and shocking – look into Ireland’s child care system > 

Read: Most parents in child care court cases are not married and raising children alone > 

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