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“All a bit of a nightmare:” Parents’ experience of professional intervention following sudden, unexpected child death Denise Turner Department of Social.

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Presentation on theme: "“All a bit of a nightmare:” Parents’ experience of professional intervention following sudden, unexpected child death Denise Turner Department of Social."— Presentation transcript:

1 “All a bit of a nightmare:” Parents’ experience of professional intervention following sudden, unexpected child death Denise Turner Department of Social Work and Social Care University of Sussex

2 ‘ Sudden, Unexpected Death in Infancy’ a multi-agency protocol for care and investigation’ (Royal College of Pathologists and the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health, 2004) Response to Sally Clark; Angela Cannings and Trupti Patel – all released on Appeal (2003) Recommendations: Formalisation of ‘Rapid Response’ : The ‘golden hour’; Investigation and interview; crime scene …Police are required to treat the deaths as a potential crime (ACPO, 2005).

3 Further Recommendations… Initial police investigation should be followed by examination in A & E and a later home visit, within 24 hours if possible. This home visit should be carried out ideally, by a ‘trained and experienced health professional’ usually a paediatrician, ‘who will have the confidence of the family and authority with the police’ (RCPCH & RCPath, 2004, p. 2). A multi professional meeting to discuss the family and the death and ‘provide a …report for the coroner’ (RCPCH & RCPath, 2004, p. 3). This is likely to be the first of several meetings, with the aim of considering ‘how procedures at the time of the death and afterwards were managed’ (FSID, 2011, p. 6) and these meetings will usually culminate in a Case Review. The conclusions reached from this Case Review also lead to a report which is sent to the Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP) formed in turn from groups of professionals who meet several times a year to discuss child deaths within their area and ‘report on the lessons learnt.’ ‘CDOP also produces information and reports for Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards…. ‘Parents are not invited to be part of this panel …but may be invited to contribute comments..’ (FSID, 2011, p.6)

4 ‘Every parent has the right to have their child’s death properly investigated..’ ‘the family should be at the centre of procedures and every process should be sensitive to the family’s needs’ (Kennedy Report, p. 3) A thorough, systematic investigation of the circumstances of the death based on the best available evidence and a sensitive, caring approach to the family…the two are not mutually exclusive’ (Sidebotham and Fleming, 2007, p.98). ‘given the nature and sensitivity of the subject, some contentious issues remain…’ (Kennedy Report, p.5)

5 Parents Stories… Two uniformed officers arrived…a great big guy with full uniform on (belt etc) and not sure if he was armed, I didn’t really look to check (Chrissie). Well we had armed police, because I saw a Taser and I said ‘Is that a Taser gun? And she said ‘no it’s a real gun’ (Andy). And then we had two plain clothes turn up, ‘The Child Abuse Team’ their business cards said, or words to that effect, rather than child protection...so you were sort of guilty until very much proven otherwise (Andy). I didn’t like being in the back of a police car…when we got to our house; several neighbours were outside keeping an eye. There was a uniformed officer outside and a squad car (Chrissie).

6 ‘Why Jason Died’ (Dept of Education, 2008) ‘The reality is you can’t make things worse…’ /http://www.youtube.com/watch?v =U_F7yTVB2Iw

7 Recommendations 1: Language: One of the biggest factors that I would like to see changed is national so I doubt it will ever happen but …I had just finished talking to the human Policeman. He was helpful and understanding and just doing his job and I was happy with that but I then encountered some plain clothed Detectives who gave me a card saying ‘Child Abuse Team.’ I had just left a policeman who basically wanted to know the story, because at the end of the day, Dylan had come to harm, even if we hadn’t harmed him. So straightaway I go to someone giving me a card that says ‘Child Abuse Team.’ It made me think “Shit..Do they now think I’m guilty?’ There was a part of me that felt guilty anyway, as I had failed as a parent because my child was dying so I couldn’t fail any more than that. So to then have this feeling that they actually thought that, gave me this fear of being like that solicitor that went to prison and she didn’t do it...Sally Clark it was I think and so I knew that it happens and that all of a sudden it’s happening to me, although I knew I wasn’t guilty. (Cathy)

8 Recommendations 2: Siblings: Whilst Mike and I were away the Police had arrived at our house and at that point in time my friend Sue, her daughter and Josh were still in the house and were just preparing to go up to Sue's house….Sue was keen to take Josh off to her house and provide him with just warmth and love. She didn't know how much he understood about what had happened but she knew it wasn't her place to tell him anything else other than to provide him with a safe place until we returned. When the Police arrived at the door, they entered and they informed Sue that she, her daughter and my son should not leave the house. I think what happened after that is that Sue had finally persuaded them that that was not the right thing to do in the circumstances. I don't know exactly how that conversation went… Sue…understood that the most important place for Josh to be was around his peers, his friends and comfort and not with them, but Josh obviously remembers the Police man arriving at the house.

9 Recommendations 3: Endings: And as I say they never…we were just kind of left, well we never had any sort of conclusion from the police (Ellie). So then the police weren’t involved after that but they never sort of rang or got in touch, to say or to tell us anything…we just didn’t hear from them again (Andy).

10 And finally….. if they’d informed us it would have made such a difference. These things didn’t have to cost very much money because I know everything is limited resources and we can’t expect what we might want. But a ’phone call just to check that you hadn’t hung yourself or just a call to check that you were there or whether you needed some sedatives. And also just to check that my other children were all right because there was part of me that thought ‘hang on a minute; you think I’ve killed my son, but you don’t actually care where my other children are.’ It all seemed a bit weird because if I had killed my son then someone needs to be looking after us or at least asking. We were just there waiting…If you buy things off eBay you get s and phone calls all the time about when it’s coming and what’s happening… but when Dylan died there was no one to hold accountable, there was no one to go to (Cathy)

11 Some questions to think about … Thinking of the DVD can this experience be ‘made worse’ or is it the case (as many say) that you can never ‘do the right thing’ in these circumstances? Is it possible to combine ‘systematic investigation’ and a ‘sensitive caring approach?’ And how? Are the potential consequences to parents and siblings simply a regrettable part of a necessary safeguarding process? Is the language used - ‘Child Abuse Team etc’ a necessary part of that same process? Listening to this today, what are your immediate emotional reactions?


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