Tuesday 25 October 2016

Boy's foster parents say State should pay for orthodontic treatment 'because he was been bullied over his protruding teeth', High Court hears

Tim Healy

Published 28/06/2016 | 16:34

Dentist (stock photo)
Dentist (stock photo)

THE foster parents of a 14-year-old boy say the State should pay for orthodontic treatment which the foster mother says he needs because he was been bullied over his protruding teeth, the High Court heard.

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Two orthodontists  said he needed the treatment with one saying if it was left until he is older, the treatment would be more complex, the court heard.

The foster parents went ahead and paid for treatment out of their own pockets and the mother claims they should be reimbursed by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) which oversees and pays for the placement of children in foster care.

The court heard there is a €1,400 per month tax-free payment to foster parents for children under 11 and, it had been argued, the treatment could be funded from this.   The treatment cost €4,750.

The foster parents have looked after the boy for the last ten years along with the boy's older brother and another younger child.

The foster mother brought him to a HSE dentist after she became concerned about him being bullied at school over his teeth which he was self-conscious about, her counsel Ciaran Craven said.

She was told to bring him back when he was older but she went to a private orthodontist who recommended treatment as soon as possible, counsel said.

The boy's CFA social workers suggested she bring him to another private orthodontist who also recommended early treatment saying it would be more complex when he got older and would require some jaw surgery.

She went ahead with the treatment but  when she became aware funding for the treatment would not be forthcoming, she applied to the District Court to make a decision.  This was done under a provision of the 1991 Child Care Act which allows for the District Court to direct or make orders on any question affecting the welfare of a child.

It was accepted in the District Court the treatment was in the child's interests, Mr Craven said.  However, it was also accepted he did not meet the criteria under which he could avail of public orthodontic treatment, he said.

The District Court declined to make an order on the basis of separation of powers between the judiciary and State bodies and therefore did not have the jurisdiction to do so.

In her High Court challenge to that decision, the foster mother says the District Court erred in its decision.

Eoin Carolan BL, for the CFA, said his client appreciated the valuable work the foster parents did and it was a matter of regret the issue was before the court.

The CFA, he said, was entitled to form policies and deal with all children equally.  For the District Court to exercise the power it has under the welfare provision of the Child Care Act (Section 47), it must be satisfied some threshold has been met, counsel said.

The District Judge found the threshold criteria had not been met, he said.

The case continues before Ms Justice Marie Baker.

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