Judge directs CFA to fund private speech and language therapy if HSE Children’s Disability Network Team could not provide it within 12 weeks – 2024vol1#55

A judge in a provincial city praised the excellent work of the Child and Family Agency (CFA) for the very positive progress made by a child of primary school age, who was in foster care with a close relative. The child had an excellent placement, was making very good progress at his special school and the CFA was managing the parental access very well. The child had a diagnosis of mild general learning disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with a language delay.

However, the judge was critical of the Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT), who had seen the child for one initial appointment two years previously but had provided no service to date. The judge directed that if the CDNT had not provided a speech and language service within 12 weeks, the CFA was to privately fund eight sessions for the child as recommended by his specialist.

The lawyer for the CFA told the court that the child was in relative foster care and that this was progressing very well. He had good access with his parents. He attended a special school and was enjoying it. An assessment had been carried out to ascertain if he had autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the results showed that he did not but that he had ADHD, a mild general learning disability and a language delay.

He had been provided with some sessions of occupational therapy but the difficulty was in getting services in speech and language therapy. The speech and language therapy had been recommended by his specialist as it was believed that he was vulnerable in the community because of his poor language skills. He was at risk of not being able to read the labels for his own medication and was also at risk for his online safety as he did not have sufficient language skills to avoid danger. The judge said that the CFA had done fantastic work. The guardian ad litem (GAL) also suggested that access with his siblings should now be explored.

The lawyer for the CFA told the judge that the provision of speech and language therapy was the responsibility of the CDNT and therein lay the problem. The child had been seen for his first appointment by the CDNT two years previously but no service at all had been offered in the intervening two years. The judge was most dissatisfied that the child had been on the CDNT waiting list for almost two years since his first appointment despite this service being recommended as essential for him.

Judge: “If the CDNT don’t provide the service in the next 12 weeks, I am directing that the CFA privately fund eight sessions of speech and language therapy. I think that’s reasonable.”

The judge said the relative foster placement was working well; the child was fortunate in his school placement and the CFA was handling parental access well. She adjourned the matter for four months on the single issue of the speech and language therapy as she wanted to be sure it had commenced. She made the direction that if the speech and language therapy, as recommended by the child’s specialist, was not provided within 12 weeks, the CFA was to privately fund eight sessions. The matter was then listed for a date 12 weeks later.