Haringey child abuse case: The story of Child D
19:43 16 March 2015
Â© Nigel Sutton
The serious case review into Child D paints a grim picture of an early upbringing in a family involved in “gang and drug-related violence” and underpinned by drug use, stints in prison and foster care.
Child D’s teenage mother, known as Miss F, had herself been abused by her father and spent two years in foster care from the age of 10. Almost completely deaf and reliant on lip-reading to communicate, she had self-harmed – stabbing herself in the leg after a row with her father over a boy – before falling pregnant by a man twice her age, known only as Mr H.
He already had two children involved with social services in another borough, and was arrested for possession of a gun just a month before Child D was born.
Miss F admitted to social workers around this time that she didn’t even know the father’s surname, but knew he had spent time in prison.
She was also pressurised by her father and grandmother to terminate the pregnancy, but was determined to keep it and convinced “naive” social workers she was capable of looking after her child, despite an obviously difficult home environment.
The family home was beset by problems. Police carried out a drugs raid there shortly before the birth, and when Child D was just one month old - around the same time as its injuries were sustained - they had a brick thrown through their window and four men forced their way in and held a knife to a friend’s throat in an incident over a stolen mobile phone. The report says this “must have been very frightening for the family and in particular Miss F with her newborn baby”.
Health and social care workers were also unaware that Miss F’s violent 14-year-old step-brother Child Lhad been returned to the family home just 10 weeks before she was due to give birth.
Child L’s social worker had failed to consider the impact of his return from care to the family, and not told any of the team concerned in Child D’s welfare.
The youth offending team also failed to inform others that Child L had breached his bail conditions.
Police had failed to notify their colleagues of Mr H’s arrest for gun possession, and the drugs raid on the house.
The SCR called it “disappointing” that professionals at the Whittington Hospital could not persuade Miss F to take up the post-natal support offered to her, and said that given the family history the teenage pregnancy nurse who saw her should have completed a common assessment framework - which could have promoted early intervention across the agencies.
At the end of a fact-finding hearing in December 2013, a county court judge said neither parent had provided “any reasonable explanation for the injuries” suffered by Child D, saying it was not possible to ascertain who had inflicted them - Miss F, Mr H, Child L or Miss F’s father – nor exclude any of them as suspects.
Cllr Liz Morris, Lib Dem spokeswoman for children, said: “It is worrying that not one of the agencies involved in this case responded to what the review states was a ‘plethora of information, risk factors and family history’ when this was clearly a child at risk. And there were repeated failures in how professionals dealt with the family.
“Learnings from this SCR must be applied and reviewed to ensure that children in Haringey are safe.”
A Haringey Council spokesman said: “We accept the findings of this independent review, which makes it clear that the different agencies involved in this case could and should have taken more robust action to protect the child, and we are sorry that this did not happen. We’re pleased that we were able to take positive action to find the child a successful care placement.
“As made clear in the LSCB’s multi-agency action plan, the council and our partners Whittington Health and NHS England have taken measures to implement recommendations made, including working more closely together to support families at the earliest possible stage.”
Whittington Health medical director Dr Richard Jennings said: “Whittington Health apologises unreservedly for the weaknesses identified within this review.
“Since this tragic case in 2013, we have been working very closely with all the agencies involved to understand how the event occurred and to take forward and embed the important lessons identified. We remain totally committed to protecting and safeguarding babies and children in our local community.”