A judge adjourned a review of the case of boy in the care of his grandparents and directed the fostering committee to come to court if their report was not ready in two months. Both of the child’s parents had died and both the child and his grandparents needed support.
Evidence of the social worker
The social worker told the court that while the boy had been fostered by both his maternal grandparents, it had come to light that the maternal grandfather had a significant alcohol dependency issue. This issue had not been disclosed when the foster care assessment had been done. It had been fully investigated and the maternal grandmother had now been appointed as the sole foster carer.
The grandfather had been living in the home but was currently in hospital, it was unclear if he would be well enough to return to the home. The social worker assured the court that safety measures had been put in place. A family welfare conference had been held and plans had been made for weekends. The boy spent weekends with his half-sisters. She said this arrangement had been approved for one year but it was to be reviewed regularly by the social workers and the fostering committee.
The child had recently changed schools but had been suspended. He was now adhering to a reduced timetable, attending school for one hour per day. It was hoped that he would be re-registered in a special school. The social worker said the primary school had never raised or alerted the social worker to any difficulties, however, the secondary school had found the boy’s behaviour very difficult to cope with. It had reported he could not sit still and could not follow direction.
She said the boy needed an occupational therapy assessment, a psychological assessment and an educational assessment. The boy’s general practitioner (GP) had referred him to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). The secondary school could not provide the one-to-one attention the boy needed. She said she had investigated local special schools but at present they did not have a space for him.
Evidence of the guardian ad litem (GAL)
The GAL said she had three major concerns with regards to the boy. The first was his school placement, the second was his psychological well-being which was linked to the third, his foster placement. She said the school placement had to be fully investigated to ensure that a school placement that met his needs was secured. The boy may have a mild learning difficulty and it had to be ascertained if a special school would be the most appropriate environment for him.
She said a transition to a special school would not be without difficulties. The boy had been in mainstream education and he might find it difficult to cope with being in school with other children who have significant needs. She had spoken with the principal of the school but not his form teacher. The principal had said that currently the boy had many needs and the school was not able to meet them. The school did not have the resources to provide one to one attention and supervision for the whole school day which the boy needed.
The GAL said she hoped that she would be able to speak to his form teacher within the next week. She said it was unclear whether the boy needed a special school placement, it was urgent assessments were undertaken speedily so that a plan could be made for his educational needs.
She said the boy’s parents had addiction issues and she believed it was possible he may have had developmental issues since birth. He had suffered developmental trauma because of thwarted and disrupted infant attachments. His attachment style was avoidance. His parents had died in difficult circumstances, which she outlined. There was significant trauma and grief associated with this which had not been addressed.
She said when she had spoken to the school they knew nothing of this. The boy had a positive relationship with his grandfather despite the alcohol issues and the grandfather was a positive influence on him. However, his grandfather’s alcohol issues had created difficulties for the boy which had not been addressed.
The most important person to the boy was his grandmother but services had not been put in place to support her. She said she had no doubt the right place for the boy was with the grandmother, but the reports and assessments had not been completed and were outstanding. They had been due five months previously.
She said there was also some reluctance by the grandmother to engage with the fostering committee as she feared they may remove the boy from her care. The GAL said this was one of the reasons she disguised the grandfather’s alcohol issues. The GAL said she was certain the best place for the boy was in the care of his grandmother, but his grandmother might not have always done or made the right decisions. The grandmother needed support to parent the boy. It was critical that all professionals worked together.
The GAL said: “I am concerned, concerned that the social workers working with the family may be over-ruled by Child and Family Agency (CFA) corporate, where those removed from the family, not working with the family directly, may make a decision and remove this boy when what is needed are assessments. Assessments to ascertain what the boy’s needs are and therapies to address those needs. Assessments of the grandmother to ascertain what supports she needs to parent the boy.”
The delays were causing uncertainty for everyone. She said there had been three family sessions to address issues of grief, loss, the impact of the grandfather’s alcohol problem, school attendance, but that had been all and much more was needed.
The judge said he was concerned about the lack of progress and certainty. His said the fostering committee report had been due five months ago. He directed the CFA to ask the fostering committee for their report and if it was not forthcoming within two months, he would like a member of the fostering committee to attend at the next review. He also directed the CFA to expedite all assessments so that a plan for the boy’s education could be made.