Boy in care may not go to school without an SNA, court told

Social worker tells judge boy would need dedicated special needs assistant in class

A boy in the care of the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, may not be able to attend primary school if he is not supplied with a special needs assistant, Dublin District Family Court heard. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

A boy in the care of the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, may not be able to attend primary school if he is not supplied with a special needs assistant, Dublin District Family Court heard. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A boy in the care of the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, may not be able to attend primary school if he is not supplied with a special needs assistant (SNA), the Dublin District Family Court has been told.

As part of an application from the agency to extend an interim care order for the boy, his social worker told Judge Brendan Toale the boy would need a dedicated SNA to be able to go to school in September.

“If he doesn’t get one, he might not be able to attend,” he said.

A meeting will not be held until June with the special education needs organiser (Seno), which deals with pupils’ applications for support on behalf of the National Council for Special Education.

The social worker said a decision would be made after that about whether or not the boy would go to school.

He said the boy’s foster carer had raised concerns about the boy, who had become “emotionally unregulated and physically aggressive”. He had attended a clinic and saw a child psychiatrist and a psychologist.

He was diagnosed with attachment disorder, which can occur when there is a failure to form a normal attachment to a primary care giver.

Providing report

The psychiatrist would be providing a report, the social worker said, though he did not know if it would go into detail about support needs or would simply state the diagnosis. Asked by the judge when the report would be available, the social worker was unsure. He said he would ring the psychiatrist again next week.

The judge asked why the clinic did not simply provide the report, on which the agency could then base decisions about the child’s future needs. He said it was “totally unsatisfactory” and he needed a timeline.

The court was also told the boy’s father had sought a second, independent, parenting capacity assessment, which assesses parents’ strengths and weaknesses, to be paid for by the agency. The father had disagreed with the findings made about him in the first assessment and said he would prefer a male psychologist to carry out the new assessment.

The social worker said he had contacted 15 psychologists, and so far had been given only two quotes.

“Either they weren’t available or haven’t done one [parenting capacity assessment] before … there is quite a small pool of people who complete them and the vast majority are female,” he told the judge.

He said he could not apply for funding for the assessment without having three quotes.

“You won’t get a decision on funding without three quotes, even though you contacted 15?” the judge asked. “Can you explore that? There has to be a limit to what you have to do.”

The social worker said he would.

The judge extended the interim care order for the boy for a month. He also asked to be supplied with the agency’s Strategy for Schools Attendance document.

A separate initial interim care order, for two children, was adjourned by the judge when he was told the children’s mother had not been provided with a solicitor by the Legal Aid Board.

A letter was provided from the board, stating the mother was qualified for legal aid, but the board was unable to provide it as no one was available.

A solicitor for the agency said the children were both in voluntary care at present, and so it was satisfied the case could be adjourned. If the status quo changed, the agency would come back into court, she said.

The judge adjourned the case for four weeks.