Judge orders production of assessment and therapy reports – 2020vol1#12

Following a review of full care orders in a provincial city for two children of primary school age with special needs, the judge ordered that the assessment report from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) be forwarded to the court within a week. In addition, the judge ordered the Child and Family Agency (CFA) to ascertain when exactly the assessment reports for the two children from the occupational therapist and speech and language therapist would be available. Both children, A and B, who were born prematurely with foetal alcohol syndrome, have significant special medical and educational needs.

The judge said she had only received the reports on Child A and Child B at lunchtime and that this had created difficulties as both children required significant supports due to their complex special needs. She reminded the CFA that receiving reports five days in advance of court hearings was more beneficial in cases such as this one.

The judge noted that the foster parents “go above and beyond their duty” in providing all the supports needed by the children and asked that they be commended for their great work and that the credit should be passed on to them by the CFA. A has been with the foster parents since birth and B has been with them for a long number of years. The CFA lawyer told the court that the foster parents also foster the half-siblings of these children. The children are close to each other and to their half-siblings and have monthly contact with their parents, which is managed by the foster parents.

Child A

The CFA lawyer said that a privately funded educational needs’ assessment for Child A was sought by the CFA and was carried out eight months ago. It recommended that Child A transition to a special school. He had since moved to the special school and had settled very well there and was doing especially well at sports, the lawyer said.

The judge remarked that his report stated that he had a shared special needs assistant. The social worker explained that A was now in a special school for pupils with mild general learning difficulties. An assessment report had been completed for A by CAMHS but permission to pass this report to the court had been refused by CAMHS. The social worker told the judge that CAMHS would permit her to quote from the report but not to use the report in court.

The judge asked what was in the report and if there was anything extraordinary in the report. The social worker said it just outlined the child’s condition. The judge asked the CFA if they had ever come across this difficulty before and the CFA lawyer said there had been issues with CAMHS in the past but that those issues were not before the court. The judge directed that the CAMHS assessment report be forwarded to the court within one week.

The social worker said that the foster parents were very diligent in how they attended to the medical appointments for the children in order to ensure all their needs were met. The CFA lawyer asked the social worker if she had observed the children in the foster home and she replied that she had observed them and was satisfied there were no concerns as it was a bustling, busy home with plenty of space and that the foster parents “were in tune with the children’s needs.”

Child B

The judge noted that in Child B’s report there was concern about a speech and language difficulty. The social worker told the judge that B was on a waiting list and would be seen when he is in First Class as that was in line with the advice given by the speech and language therapist. The judge said B was on a waiting list for occupational therapy assessment as well as being on a list for a block of speech and language therapy and asked how long the list was. The social worker told the judge that the advice of the speech and language therapist was that the child’s speech would develop more in the following year and this intervention would then be appropriate at that later stage.

Judge: “It’s very important for his socialisation. Is he able to talk?”

Social worker: “Yes, he is close to his older brother and communicates well”.

Judge: “Children in care should be fast-tracked. Very early intervention for speech and language is so important. I am concerned”.

Judge’s directions

The judge said she had some reservations about the children’s care review reports, especially the outstanding issue with the assessment report from CAMHS. The judge directed the CFA to find out from CAMHS why they do not want the assessment report to be made available to the court.

The judge asked the CFA to ascertain when exactly the occupational therapy and speech and language therapy reports will be available for review by the court.

When the CFA lawyer pointed out that the court lists are very full at present, the judge said that A and B are children with special needs living with foster parents and that the refusal by CAMHS to provide the assessment report was “a huge worry for the court”. The judge added that the direction to seek an explanation from CAMHS regarding the report was very important.

The case was put in for a short review on the above issues for a date two months later.