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Provision of supports and therapeutic services for a child with special needs in foster care

In September 2008 the Ombudsman for Children commenced an investigation under Section 8 of the Ombudsman for Children’s Act, 2002 following the receipt of a complaint regarding the provision of supports to a child with special needs in foster care.

The child in question is 14 years old. He was born with multiple physical and intellectual disabilities and is visually impaired. Legally the child is in the care of the HSE and has been living with his foster parents on a full-time fostering basis as part of their family since he was an infant. He is completely dependent on his foster parents in all areas of his care including feeding, toileting, bathing and dressing.

Because of the multi-faceted nature of the child’s disabilities, he requires a range of therapeutic services including speech and language therapy; physiotherapy; and occupational therapy. These services were provided by a private service provider contracted by the HSE; by the HSE directly through community services; and sourced by the family and paid for using the foster care allowance. According to the complainant, the level and quantity of therapeutic services being provided was and continued to be insufficient to address the child’s needs. As the child is in the care of the HSE, it was the understanding of the foster parents that the appropriate supports and services would be made available to him as per the National Standards for Foster Care and was agreed at the time of the fostering placement.