Judge dissatisfied at long delays in vital assessments for pre-school child – 2020vol1#27

Written reports relating to a pre-school child, who has been in care since birth, were handed in to a judge in a provincial city immediately before the case was heard. The child had spent the first week of his life in hospital and had gone directly into care from the hospital. The child’s mother suffered addiction problems.

The Child and Family Agency’s (CFA) lawyer told the court that the child was currently in a very good placement where he was much loved and was in receipt of excellent care.

The social worker told the judge that the child had some challenges and got up very frequently at night to drink water. He also exhibited other unusual behaviours. The social worker gave as an example that the child only picked up cereal small piece at a time. The judge asked about the speech and language therapy which had previously been recommended in the assessment of needs report. The social worker replied that the child was participating in an early intervention service locally. The speech and language therapist also visited the child’s foster home to provide therapy, she said.

The social worker reported that the child was awaiting an assessment for autism spectrum disorder but that this might not commence for a further six months. The judge questioned the delay for this assessment. The social worker described the method of broad assessment which would be needed and that this was best carried out by a multidisciplinary team of professionals and she said that there was a six-month delay.

The judge reiterated her dissatisfaction that this assessment was so delayed. She pointed out to the CFA lawyer that this had been directed some eleven months previously for this child. The judge said she was extremely concerned at this delay and that this assessment would “have to be speeded up”.

The judge enquired if the audiology assessment which was ordered previously had been completed and was told by the social worker that this had not yet been done. The judge said that this assessment had also been ordered eleven months previously and that she had concerns about details of the child’s report where it said he sometimes walked into objects. The judge asked if there was a problem with his spatial awareness.

The judge was critical of the long delays with the necessary assessments which had been recommended for this child eleven months previously. In relation to the autism spectrum disorder assessment, she remarked that a further six months of a wait would be too long for this child, especially considering that he is a child in care. She said that the assessment “must be fast-tracked”. The judge adjourned the matter for eight weeks in order to review progress made on the assessments during that time.