The lost voice of the child….
For my MA I am currently reading through serious case reviews for high profile Child Deaths in the UK. Some of these Serious case reviews and enquieries I have read many times such as the SCR of Peter Connelly and Victoria Climbia. No matter how many times I have read them, I still feel the same shock and sadness when reading them.
The one that I have never read in great depth is that of Daniel Pelka . If you are not familiar with the case, Daniel was a 4-year-old boy who died at the hands of his mother and her partner. He went through some horrific abuse leading up to his death. He was starved, fed salt to make him sick up any food he may have eaten at school, beaten, locked in a room for god knows how long.
For my MA I am studying Daniel’s case. The picture that accompanies this blog is a picture taken from Daniels house after he died. That is not blood that you can see. Is from the chemical treatment that police put on the door during their investigation into Daniels death. They had discovered that Daniel did not have his own room, nor did he share a room with his sister. When Daniels mother and her partner murdered Daniel they placed him in his sisters’ bed and in the morning, she woke up to find him dead in her bed. She said she knew he was dead because she felt his chest and his heart was not beating and there was blood and green/yellow liquid coming from Daniels nose and ears. She was 9 years of age. So, when professionals were told that his sister had woken up and found him dead next to her, it was presumed that they shared a room.
This was not the case. Daniel was kept in a small box room with no bed, no heating, and no lightbulb. When the police discovered the room, they said that the carpet squelched under their feet and they realised that this was because the carpet was socked with urine.
So, investigations begun, and they used a chemical to see what had gone on. And when the treated the door…this appeared.
Scratch marks and hand prints. All below the door handle. All the right height for a small 4-year-old boy. The adults had removed the door handle so that Daniels 9-year-old sister could no longer sneak food into him when he was being starved. The removal of the door handle also meant that Daniel could not leave the room unless the door was opened for him. There are many other horrific elements to this picture and the one that is available of Daniels mattress, but I won’t go into any more detail. I will leave you to read the serious case review if you choose to. I will, however, draw your attentions to one las thing. If you look at the door handle, or where it should be, you will see thee is no hole. When they removed the door handle Daniel was able to use his finger to open the door. He could also peek out of the hole in the door. SO, they turned the door handle upside down and screwed it. Making sure that Daniel had no way of leaving or looking out of that room.
Daniels parents separated after Daniel was born and mum had a couple of partners after the break up and finally ended up with the man who took Daniels life. Through all her relationships, including Daniels dad there were reports of domestic abuse and violence, including the man who took Daniels life. (As you may see I am not naming any of the parents/ partners of parents in this blog. That’s because they disgust me, and I do not want to say their names.).
Like I said, the picture of the door got to me. I don’t know why, as I have seen many haunting things. I guess its because it looks like he must have stood there say after day knocking, banging, rubbing his little hands on the door. You can see the different layers of “Stuff” and he stood at that door, in various states many times.
Do you know his mother tried to drown him in a cold bath? His own mother partially drowned him as punishment. Punishment for what? He was 4 years of age.
Do you know that the school noted many times they were concerned about Daniel? That he would eat anything. ANYTHING. They talk about there being a sports day at school and one of the events being a pancake race. These little half cooked pancakes were tossed all over the school field, kids kicking them and scuffing them with their shoes. One of these pancakes was found in Daniel’s pocket a few days later. Covered in grit. He must have been keeping it they’re for the next time he was starved.
During the serious case review members of staff from the school said they often noticed he had cuts and bruising. Yet they hardly logged or reported it officially. A 4-year-old, eating food from the floor and bins, unexplained injuries, and a history of DV in the family. Tell me how that little boy was missed?
Daniel was seen 3 weeks before he died by a doctor. When the doctor undressed him for examination, Daniel wet himself. The doctor also noted that Daniel did not speak a single word. The doctor also noted that both Mother and Partner stayed present during the examination. The doctor did not record that he challenged/spoke about the wetting or the lack of communication with the adults.
And that leads on to the worst bit about this case. The bit that makes me feel sick just typing it.
NO professional…not one…not a doctor, not a school member of staff, no social worker …Has recorded in having any kind of conversation with Daniel about how his life was outside of school. There was a language barrier…. Yes.
But…Get a translator then init! Do something. What …No one thought to ask him if he was Ok!!!
There were so many missed opportunities to save Daniels life.
Peter Connelly. There were so many opportunities to save his life. I could sit and list all the professionals that failed that little boy. But I won’t. Please click on Peters name and read the serious case review for yourself and if you have never read it before, brace yourself. What I will tell you is that DV was rife in the family. That the family was known to services. That a doctor saw him days before he died and did not examine him. Did not engage him. Too young, was Peter to have a “Voice”. But I am sure if the doctor had taken 5 minutes form her day to pick him up and look at him, he may have whimpered with pain from his broken back.
Victoria Climbie. There were so many opportunities to save this little girl’s life. She was in hospital and nurses stated that they were concerned about her appearance. That she was dirty. Victoria was admitted to hospital several times with injuries. Please click on her name and read her serios case review. You will see it again…No record of speaking to the child. No record of the voice of the child being heard.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
All these children, and the many thousands that have died at the hands of their parents/caregivers were known to services and concerns were raised. Yet they still died.
We can go back as far as you like within child protection services and you will read it repeatedly. Children that die even though there was plenty of opportunity to save them.
There are outcomes from the serious case reviews and ideas of how better to improve our practice. How to stop this “Happening again”. Yet it keeps “Happening again”.
So, I ask myself what is going on in the world? I must look at myself as a professional and as “Is what I am doing for the children and young people I have worked with over the years good enough” I would say that yes, that it is good enough. However, I see practice take place that is not good enough both in the Serious case reviews that you can read and in real life.
I will never understand how any professional…scrap that…any adult. Would not do their best for a child who needs their help. I have lost count of the sleepless nights I have trying to find information I need to support a child or work out what is going on in a child’s life. I’m not saying that everyone should work like that, but you must always do the best that you can.
When I was a child, and in no way was my life anything like these children who lost their lives, I can honestly say that not many adults ever spoke to me directly about what was going on. My mother did not abuse me and did not allow others to abuse me willingly. I was not starved for punishment, but I was starving at times. I had to take cold baths because we did not have money for heating. I was that kid a lot of time that you wouldn’t want your kid to play with. The dirty kid.
I can never remember a practitioner of any kind asking me what was going on. I remember staff at primary school fussing around me because I was unkept at times. I remember social services coming in and examining me, prodding my belly, and getting me to lie down on a table because a sexual abuse allegation had taken place.
I don’t remember anyone talking to me. Asking me if I was ok. I was asked if I was “Safe” once. How did I know if I was safe or not? I was a child.
So, todays blog is a chance for us as humans, professionals, parents…who ever…to take a refresh at how we deal with the children in our lives. Please read the serios case reviews I have added. Is its difficult reading…. of course, it is…it’s about children being abused and murdered. But sometimes we need to see it in black and white…that people failed these children and how they failed them. So, we don’t make the same mistakes.
Speak to your children. The children you gave birth too, the children you work with, the children you see and think “I wonder if they are ok”.
I had to sit and speak with a child recently whose files is so big its like a book. Reading it you will think “This cant be true” “A child can’t be left to live like that”. But it is the case for many of the children and you people in the UK. They live or have lived in horrific conditions daily.
Anyway, I sat with this boy with the file. There must have been over 50 accounts of Domestic abuse in the house, drugs, weapons, rape allegations, threat of courts but to name a few, all over about 17 years.
This boy has been living in conditions at times not dissimilar to those of the case reviews I have added. I read his file before meeting him and I was not sure what to expect…but what I was presented was further from my minds eye than you can imagine.
He sat before me and initially didn’t say much, looked away, not interested. We started talking about his future and this went on to his love of art. I made comment about liking the way he would always style his hair and suddenly he came alive, speaking to me and taking about his love of art and design. We must have spent an hour together, talking about everything and anything but that file.
Then, and only after I had seen who he really was I asked him if everything was ok at home and was, he safe. His body language shifted. Like we had been having a good time and now I had spoiled it by talking about the stuff I was here for…digging about what was going on at home.
I saw this, so I asked him if he knew what a serious case review was. He said no. So, explained it to him. He is a very bright boy. I told him of examples (Without details) of how failings can happen for children and that this is why I needed to check. I also told him that I also was very interested in what he wanted from life.
And then me and this boy had one of the frankest, adult like conversations I have ever had with a child that is living extreme circumstance. Ince he knew why I wanted to know about home and also the consequences of knowing he was ok to talk.
I then said that his voice in all this was important and that I needed him to speak, not just tick some boxes or answer set questions, I wanted him to talk about how he feels about what his home life was like.
14 years of age. Lived in an abusive household his whole life. Looking to go into care any second. A true survivor if ever I have seen one.
And when I asked him “How do you feel about what has happened to you”?
He replied, “No one has asked me that before miss”?
I can vouch from my own experience that between 1989 and 2019 the childs voice is still lost in the system……
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