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Trial latest Family support worker tells child abuse trial parents 'didn't display affection to children'

She later made a referral in relation to her concerns about the children and prepared a report for a case conference

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A family support worker has told a jury of her observations during visits to the home of children who were allegedly abused by their parents and other family members.

The witness described her visits with the family both scheduled and unscheduled in which she said she observed that the parents didn’t display much affection, praise or encouragement to the children.

She later made a referral in relation to her concerns about the children and prepared a report for a case conference.

The trial has heard the children were taken into care in 2016.

The six family members, who can't be named for legal reasons, are accused of abusing three children between 2014 and 2016. The accused are the parents, aunts and uncles of the children. They range in ages from 27 to 56 and live in various locations in Munster.

The parents are also accused of neglecting five of their children. All of the accused have denied the charges against them.

The family support worker with a children's charity told Bernard Condon SC, prosecuting, that she was allocated the family’s case in October 2015.

She outlined that after initial visits, it had been decided to support the family with an afternoon routine in relation to homework and dinner.

In outlining her observations she said at one point their daughter sat close to her (witness) and snuggled into her but when she suggested to the mother that the little girl may want a cuddle from her, she said the woman didn’t respond.

The witness described how on another occasion when two of the children placed their hands on their mother’s tummy, she pushed them away.

She described during one unscheduled visit that the home was chaotic. The children had biscuits and lollipops before, during and after dinner and homework was done on a dirty table. She said the toddler was climbing on couches and tables and she had to prompt the mother to ask the child to get down.

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She said she found the mother “was quite passive in her interactions with the children” and said she did not respond to the toddler’s tantrums.

“In managing the children’s behaviour they didn’t listen to her and moved on to do whatever they were doing,” the witness continued

She outlined how on an outing at a local park and play centre the parents had to be prompted to supervise the children using the toilet and were unresponsive when one of the boys continually told her that he needed to go to the toilet while playing in a park.

At another visit she arranged to do a baking activity with the family. The father didn’t take part as he said he was tired, while the oldest child sat down playing a game on a phone.

The young girl loved the activity and the witness said she loved the attention from her and asked her if she could come and live with her. She reacted well to the praise given to her.

She said the child sat close to her (the witness) and was looking for hugs and snuggles, but when the witness redirected her to her mother for a hug, the mother did not respond.

At the end of the visit, she asked the older brother if he was OK as he had stayed playing on the phone. He said he was fine, but made no eye contact.

At a further meeting in November 2015, she said she observed one of the younger children's nappies was full and hanging right down between his two legs, heavy and soiled. She said she was at least an hour into her observations at the house before it was changed.

She said on occasions while she was in another room a door would be locked with a parent alone with a child and she would hear whispering going on, but when she came into the room the conversation and tone would change.

She said at a visit in December 2015, when an art activity was arranged she observed the mother be passive in her communication with the children and say "I need to supervise you" repeatedly.

She said the mother "deflected" a lot and seemed distracted by her presence and asked how long she would be calling.

She said at a further visit in December the mother pretended to give the children milk and water, but had filled coke in their cups. She said when asked why she was giving them coke she said it's not coke, it's water and told her the coke was someone else's.

She said on another occasion she spoke to the mother about the children's interactions and the noise levels in the house and the mother told her it was only like that when she was there.

She said she observed the father's interactions with the children to be rough on a visit said the mother used bribery on the day, telling the children they would get something at the end of the week if they did what they were told.

She said there was no encouragement, support or comfort given to the children on the day.

She told Mr Condon that a service meeting was held and she shared her assessments. She said it was observed how chaotic the afternoons were in the home and it was decided to focus on an afternoon routine with the family in relation to homework and dinner.

She said the parents seemed to be open to working with the plan, but the mother tried to redirect the conversation and she had to ask her to listen to see if she understood.

She said at a visit in February 2016, the parents appeared to be struggling to manage the children and the routine and were highly critical of the children and aggressive in their interactions.

She said it was in and around this time she made a social work referral due to concerns about the children's physical and emotional well-being.

She outlined her concerns to include the rough interactions, threatening behaviours, a lack of warmth, the living environment and cursing and foul language.

She said there was a case conference in March 2016 for which she prepared a report on the summary of service for the family and the focus on the afternoon program.

She agreed with Mr Condon that had been the end of her interaction with the family and the children were taken into care the following month.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury on Friday.

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