Grandparents have been left heartbroken after their grandchild was removed from their home, after Tusla decided the couple were too old to provide adequate foster care.
Age was one of the grounds cited to the couple as a reason to remove the child they were caring for for almost five years.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath has called on Minister for Children Katherine Zappone to demand a clarification from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
“The grandparents, in their mid-60s, had made this child the heart and soul of their world since coming into their care,” said Mr McGrath. “The child was cherished, well-educated, well looked after, all of which was testified to by consultants, a school principal, and a local GP.”
The child is now living in another county with non-relative foster carers.
The Irish Examiner understands that Tusla outlined six criteria that the couple did not meet as foster carers, which led to the child being removed from their care.
One of the guidelines they were deemed not to have met is: “Applicants are of an age that ensures there is a reasonable expectation that they can provide adequate care for the child in the future.”
However, a GP testified on behalf of the grandmother stating that she was in good physical and psychological health.
The Irish Examiner also understands that a consultant paediatrician assessed the child’s health prior to the removal and said that the grandparents provided a “huge degree of stability”. In the assessment, the paediatrician also stated that he was “strongly opposed to any attempt to move [the child] from [the] present placement”.
Other reasons cited for the removal of the child from the care of the grandparents centred around communication matters between them and Tusla.
Two specific guidelines that Tusla said were not met were: “Evidence that applicants can seek and accept support when necessary,” and “Ability to work as part of a team with the Child and Family Agency with a commitment to operating within relevant standards, policies and guidelines of the agency whilst providing foster care”.
This case arises after the newly appointed Tusla chief executive, Fred McBride, last month said: “We must be careful not to remove children from relationships which might be very positive for some children, even if it is not positive for all.”
A spokeswoman for Tusla told the Irish Examiner that there were age-related guidelines in place for foster care arrangements.
“It is preferable not to place a child in a home where there is a 40-year age gap or more between the carers and the foster child,” said the spokeswoman.
“However, there is understandably flexibility around this guidance and each case is treated individually having regard for the identified needs of the children concerned.
“Where a placement breaks down or is no longer meeting a child’s needs, Tusla places the child with a relative or approved general foster carer who is best suited to meet the child’s identified needs.”
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