Judge critical of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) for delay in issuing report following assessment of child in care – 2024vol1#57

A judge in a rural town adjourned the case of a young teenager (A) for eight weeks to facilitate the production by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) of a report following an earlier assessment and diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The judge was critical of the delay in arranging a meeting between CAMHS and the social workers in circumstances where an assessment had been carried out by CAMHS but where there had been no report issued. The social worker described difficulties the foster mother had in meeting the needs of the child, who did not feel a part of the family. The judge said he wanted a meeting to take place with the foster parents to explore what improvements could be made.

The social worker told the court that the foster mother was doing her very best but that her style of parenting was different to what A required and consequently A felt vulnerable and unwanted. The judge asked what role the foster father had but the social worker replied that the foster father did not play an active role and did not see the parenting as his responsibility. The judge asked how the foster parents could have been approved for fostering and that the lack of engagement by the foster father should have been a “red flag” in their assessment.

The social worker said A had had a very difficult upbringing and was struggling to make progress at school, although she was in a very small class with a high level of support. The lawyer for the CFA said A was taking prescribed melatonin since her assessment by CAMHS but that no report had yet been received to confirm the diagnosis or make recommendations.

Judge: “Is it not the duty of care of CAMHS to meet with the social worker after an assessment of a child in care? How do you know if you are doing the right thing? I’m dissatisfied with CAMHS. An assessment was done but there’s no report. The nature of [A’s] ADHD and a forward plan is needed, not just sleep medication. Can you not just turn up at CAMHS and demand answers?”

The judge stated that if ADHD was the diagnosis, then A’s dopamine levels needed to be regulated to avoid leading to addiction issues. The medication could only be successful if it was the correct medication. The judge said that all drugs had side-effects. The lawyer for the guardian ad litem (GAL) explained that all the professionals needed to be together for a multi-disciplinary meeting and that this was proving to be difficult to arrange. The judge suggested an early morning meeting at 8am but the lawyer said CAMHS would not be available at that time.

Judge: “CAMHS do not do themselves any favours. I do not see why the report cannot be sent.”

The judge adjourned the matter to a date eight weeks later. He acknowledged that it was a very difficult case for the social worker to manage but that progress would have to be made. He directed that a report be obtained on the ADHD diagnosis and that a meeting be arranged between CAMHS and the social worker. He also directed that a meeting be arranged to discuss changes and improvements which could be made to the foster care situation.