An application under section 47 of the Child Care Act 1991 was brought in a provincial town by the mother of child with extensive special needs who had been in voluntary care since 2020. The child had been moved to a residential unit and the mother had concerns about the placement and was seeking a direction that the Child and Family Agency (CFA) identify an alternative placement and prepare a transition plan for him.
The child had been diagnosed with autism and was non-verbal. He had been moved to a residential unit and two incidents occurred involving another resident gaining access to the child’s room. The mother said the staff had called her to inform her about the incidents.
The mother was concerned about the child’s progress in the unit and the lack of information she received. The mother was of the view that the child was not progressing in terms of his development and said he was still at the same stage he had been six years earlier. The child was also very physical and aggressive due to his frustration.
The manager of the residential unit said the child had made progress since summer 2020. He had improved with regards to his personal care, including dressing and cleaning. He had developed good relationships with others in the unit and his school reports showed he was doing well. His speech and language reports showed that he had made progress in initiating communication. The residential unit had access to a clinical team and a therapist. However, the child had not been to see the therapist as the mother had not provided her consent, though she had been given consent forms on a number of occasions.
The child was assessed by a psychologist three months earlier and the psychologist’s report had shown the child was responding well. Materials needed for life story work had been sought from the mother but she had not provided them to date.
Three incidents had taken place in relation to the child’s medication. Medical reports showed the child had been given six times the recommended dose of medication and he had had to go to hospital. The manager of the unit said an investigation had been carried out and the issue was down to a staff error. Plans had been put in place in relation to the administration of medication.
The previous social worker had been assigned from the end of 2020 to the end of April 2022 and she expressed the view that the unit was meeting the child’s needs. In October 2020 the child had started school and in December 2020 there had been difficulties with his behaviour at school. A meeting had taken place with the social workers and the guardian ad litem (GAL). Since then, the psychologist’s assessment had taken place and she had made a recommendation that the child be moved to a special school. The child was on a waiting list for a special school but in the meantime things had settled down for him in his current school. The child made his Communion and took the bus to school.
The judge asked the social worker her view, he said: “[in] the application his mother is concerned for the best interests of the child, she thinks the placement is not meeting his needs.”
The previous social worker said: “I have worked with her [the mother] and it took me a while to see where she was coming from. Once we got the psychologist’s assessment, I thought that would help the mother but when we got the recommendation from the psychologist, she [had] issues with it. She is very mistrusting of people.
“When something happens, the mother thinks the worst. She has a lot of fear round everything and it is delaying things for the child. I think the child has made progress. The mother wants us to get services to move the child forward to [go home]. I don’t know if that is realistic.”
Counsel for the mother asked why an application had been made for a special school. The previous social worker said the recommendation of the previous psychologist report did not recommend a special school for the child. Another psychologist then made a recommendation for a special school and that report was the first time a special school was recommended for the child.
The GAL was of the view that the child should be in a special school and the GAL had wanted him to go to a special school since he came into care. The GAL said the child would get an occupational therapist and a speech and language therapist in a special school.
The judge was of the opinion that the mother needed an advocate. The judge wanted to put in an infrastructure for someone with whom the mother could work. The judge did not order the CFA to provide another unit for the child. She appointed an advocate to the mother and adjourned the mother’s application.