The foster mother of one of the children at the centre of an alleged abuse case has described how the child did not appear to know how to wash himself, brush his teeth or use a knife and fork when he first arrived into her care.

The woman was giving evidence in the case of six adults who are charged with a range of offences against three children.

There are wide ranging reporting restrictions in place to protect the identities and the welfare of the children.

WARNING: Some people may find details of evidence contained in the remainder of this article distressing.

The woman said the boy seemed excited when he first arrived at her home and was shown around by another member of her family.

He arrived in his school uniform with only his school bag.

She said his clothes were "very dirty" and he appeared to be afraid of the shower.

She ran a bath instead but, when she checked if he was ok, he said he was not. She said he did not know what to do with a face cloth and she then had to help him to wash.

His condition was such that she had never seen anything like it before, she said.

She said the child did not appear to know how to use a knife and fork.

The next day, she made an appointment to have his haircut as he said he had never been to a barbers before. She also had him checked by her GP as she had seen old scratch marks on his back.

They also went shopping because the child had no clothes and he was excited.

She said while in the shopping centre he met some of his younger siblings and was excited to see them. She became emotional as she described how the boy said to her: "I hope they got new clothes as well."

She said he was fascinated by the fact the family's fridge and presses were full of food and that he could choose what to bring to school for lunch.

If people called to the house he would open the presses and fridge and show them how much food was there.

She said he was a very compliant, quiet and shy child who was eager to please almost too much. "If you told him to sit on a chair he would sit on a chair."

She said when he arrived to her home he had medication for a condition he had along with another bottle of medication called "kid naps".

He told her it was to help him to sleep. She said he became "wobbly" when he took the medication.

She consulted her GP about weaning him off it which was successfully done. She said he did not have any trouble sleeping after that.

Disclosures

In July 2017, he had made some disclosures about things that had happened to him in his previous home and contact was made with gardaí. In August that year she said the boy ran away, taking only his laptop and charger with him and was found at 8pm.

He was tired and hungry when found and was wearing a jumper that did not belong to him. She said after that he was afraid to leave the house alone and always asked if the house alarm was on at night.

She said the child was doing very well now and had made great progress.

Cross examined by defence counsel Dean Kelly for the boy's mother, the foster mother said the boy has sometimes told lies but only about minor things like a normal child.

Another foster parent who looked after a younger child in the family said he was "very scared and nervous" and cried silent tears but made no noise when he first arrived.

She said she could see tears from the child's eyes but no sound and had never seen this before. He did not speak for the first few days.

She said the child would not take food from them and would not sit at a table.

They had to leave food on low tables or on a chair in his room and he would sometimes eat but had a very poor appetite.

She said he was small for his age and very white.

He was very dirty when he arrived and had hardly any teeth. They could not wash him for about three days because he was so scared.

She said the child settled after about a week and started school where they were "mad about him". She said he never spoke about his parents and he left her care a few months later to be joined with another sibling.

Garda cross examination

Earlier the jury heard further cross examination of a garda who carried out interviews with some of the children at the centre of the case.

It was suggested by defence counsel that safeguards to ensure spontaneous and untainted disclosures from children during garda interviews were not in place when three complainants made their own notes before being interviewed.

The suggestion was made by defence counsel Conor Devally, who is representing a 27-year-old man who is among the six adults on trial charged with a range of offences including sexual abuse and neglect.

The specialist garda who recorded interviews with the three children was being cross examined for a third day.

The garda repeated that she was not present when the children wrote their own notes and could not say in what circumstances they were written.

Yesterday, she accepted that inviting children to write things down is not included in the guidelines for interviewing child complainants.

She said it was a practice she had found helpful in her 12 years experience of dealing with children. She would often speak to children in their home and tell them that if they remembered anything after she had left they could write it down.

However, Mr Devally pointed out that the extensive guidelines laid down for the interview process contained safeguards to ensure free flowing, untainted and spontaneous statements from child complainants.

If the garda was not present when the notes were made by the child, there could be no assurances that any such safeguards were in place, he said.

She said the guidelines referred to by defence counsel were not to be used in isolation but rather as a resource to be used along with a garda's knowledge and experience. It also stated in the guidelines that they were not comprehensive and each interview should be tailored to the particular child and the circumstances.

The garda said that all cases were different and that children would often make disclosures in the first few minutes of an interview while others would take longer.

She also agreed with Mr Devally that the children's foster parents had raised concerns about the children's access to the internet and Facebook messenger.

The six people on trial include the children's parents and their aunts and uncles. Between them, they face a total of 88 charges. The charges include sexual assault, assault and exploitation.

The parents are also charged with neglecting five of their children. All charges are denied. Yesterday, the case against the children's grandmother was withdrawn.