Reilly: foster parents can be rejected if overweight
PEOPLE who want to foster a child can be turned down if they are too overweight, Children's Minister James Reilly has admitted.
Dr Reilly revealed that the health of an applicant is one of the criteria looked at when assessing a potential foster carer, as is the overall physical ability of a person to care for a child.
"Obesity cannot be ignored as part of the overall health of the applicant and the impact this may have on the experience of a child being placed in their care.
"Significant health issues which may impact on an applicant's ability to care for a child can preclude them from being recommended for approval."
However, this is only one factor of a number that are considered.
"It must be emphasised that what is being examined in the assessment process is the prospective carer's ability to care for a child placed with them and the carer's values, attitudes, life experiences, commitment and flexibility in responding to the need of the individual child," he added.
Dr Reilly was before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, answering Labour TD Ciara Conway, who said she knew of prospective foster parents who were turned down on the basis of their Body Mass Index (BMI).
She asked if he was aware of variations in the regulations and standards governing fostering assessment from region to region.
Dr Reilly admitted the Child and Family Agency is only now finalising a national assessment framework for foster care.
This document should be issued later this month and will mean fostering assessment nationally will be standardised.
Prior to a negative decision being made, an applicant is afforded an opportunity to make a final submission and also has the right of appeal based on a full review of the relevant file and evidence.
There are currently around 6,500 children in state care and the majority of these are fostered.
There is always a shortage of suitable foster carers, particularly in areas of Dublin.
Meanwhile, the committee was told that recruitment of inspectors for pre-schools is ongoing.
Over recent years a number of areas have had no inspector, or an inadequate number.
The aim was to have 49 inspectors in place by early this year. The committee also heard that at the end of November, there were 24,439 files on children recorded as being still open.
Of these, 8,451 were not at the time allocated to a social worker. Among these children, 2,844 were classed as a "high priority".
Emergency cases are dealt with immediately where the child is in danger, it was noted.