Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan has criticised the Department of Education for failing to secure a school place for a child who was traumatised and in the care of the Health Service Executive.
In a report published today, Ms Logan said the department's actions had an adverse effect on the child's educational and personal development.
The child was out of school for almost two years after 26 secondary schools refused to enrol him.
The boy, an immigrant who was separated from his mother and siblings, was almost 13 when he was expelled from one secondary school.
The report says he had experienced a number of traumatic events that played a significant part in the disruptive behaviour that led to his expulsion.
Numerous attempts were made over the following two years to find a school place for him but 26 local schools all rejected applications made on his behalf.
The report criticises the Department of Education's actions on a number of grounds, including its failure to meet its responsibility to ensure that all schools in a catchment area cater for all pupils.
The department has not accepted several of the Ombudsman's findings.
It told the office there was no evidence that the child had been adversely affected.
The boy at the centre of the case did finally secure a school place but only after a District Court judge expressed concern and a social welfare officer made direct contact with the head of the local Education and Training Board, formerly the VEC, which runs schools in the area.
The report acknowledges that forthcoming legislation should address some of the issues of concern in this case and it expresses concern that the legislation will not go far enough.
It calls for a more coordinated response from the authorities in terms of education for children in care.
The report says children in care have particular needs and need a distinct policy.
It says the Department of Education should develop a mechanism to ensure that no child is out of school for more than one term.
It says the Department of Education should address these matters as a matter of priority.
The Department of Education has said that admission policies and practices reside with individual schools.