Boy taken from 'too old' grandparents now with his grand aunt
The young boy who has been removed from the foster care of his grandparents because they cannot fully meet his needs has now been placed with other relatives - who are a similar age.
The nine-year-old was looked after by his grandfather and grandmother, who are in their mid-60s, for a number of years.
However, following an assessment by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, he was removed on grounds, which included their age.
The boy is now living in foster care in the south-west of the country with a grand aunt and her husband of similar age, who are also caring for another sibling.
The boy's distraught grandfather became emotional yesterday as he spoke of his heartbreak at the loss.
The child had originally been placed in the care of the couple, who are farmers, by their daughter.
Under fostering guidelines, there should not be an age gap of more than 40 years between the child and foster family, although exceptions are made.
The grandfather said yesterday: "He (the boy) told me he wants to come back here and go to his old school."
The child was due to make his First Communion locally on Sunday but in the end he made it in the other county, to the distress of his grandparents.
"We have not seen them for the last month. My wife cannot sleep with worry," said the grandfather.
The family's case has now been taken up by Independent TD Mattie McGrath, who is trying to secure the intervention of Children's Minister Katherine Zappone.
He condemned the age rule, saying that if it was applied to natural parents, then it would exclude many who have children later in life.
The couple are supported in their bid to have the boy returned by a local GP who said that it would be detrimental to remove him.
Other references came from his local school, which confirmed that he was a good pupil who always had his homework done.
In a letter to the grandparents, Tusla acknowledged the emotional attachment the couple had to the child.
But the agency said that they would not have the full physical and emotional energies needed to foster a teenager.
It also referred to concern about farm safety.
However, the grandfather said yesterday that this had been addressed.
Tusla said it followed guidelines and was satisfied that the decision of its foster care committee was the right one for the overall welfare of the child.
The agency said the child needed other care and that it had to look after the best interests of the boy.
It was not challenging the love and care of the grandparents but the assessment was that they could not fully meet his needs. A spokeswoman said applicants had a right to appeal.
No final decision will be made until the applicants are afforded an opportunity to make a written submission and have an oral hearing with a committee made up of separate staff.