Death of baby with drugs in system ‘not related to deficit in service’

Boy’s mother ‘vulnerable’ young woman who struggled with addiction, notes report

 After Oscar was born, toxicology reports showed he had cannabis and cocaine in his system at birth. File photograph: Getty Images

After Oscar was born, toxicology reports showed he had cannabis and cocaine in his system at birth. File photograph: Getty Images

 

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The death of a two-week-old baby, who was born with traces of cannabis and cocaine in his system, was “not related to any deficit in service”, a report has found.

The boy’s mother was “a vulnerable young woman who struggled with addiction and homelessness” and “all possible efforts” were made by social work and care services to stabilise her drug use and assist her with parenting, the report by the National Review Panel said.

However, it warns that an over-reliance by social workers on extended family support for cases of vulnerable young parents can lead to the “rule of optimism” in relation to programme and can hinder “critical evaluation”.

The boy, given the name Oscar in the report, “passed away” from sudden infant death syndrome (Sids).

Before Oscar’s birth, his mother Sandra, a single mother on a methadone programme, “very much wanted to overcome her addiction, but struggled to adhere to the prescribed regime and continued to use cannabis and sometimes other substances . . . Sandra herself was resistant to the notion that her use of cannabis, which she considered harmless, was impacting on her parenting ability.”

She has been referred to social care services after concerns arose about her daughter Ruby exhibiting sexualised behaviour. When Ruby was five years old, Sandra became pregnant and homeless at the same time. There were further referrals about her drug use and parenting of Ruby, and concerns that the father of Ruby – and the as yet unborn Oscar – was abusive.

“Because of her homeless situation, her accommodation changed very frequently which was disruptive for Ruby.” Sandra was asked to leave more settled accommodation after drug paraphernalia was found in her room.

Oscar and Sandra

After Oscar was born, toxicology reports showed he had cannabis and cocaine in his system at birth.

“Sandra denied knowingly taking cocaine but acknowledged that she had smoked a joint two days before his birth which may have contained it.

“Oscar was considered to be doing well and was discharged with Sandra after three days.”

Over the days that followed, Sandra had telephone contact with her social worker and was visited by the family support worker and the public health nurse. “Although very tired, she appeared to be coping well. Sadly, Oscar passed away at two weeks of age from Sids.”

The report by the review panel, chaired by Dr Helen Buckley, says although early referrals were fragmented, Sandra received a “consistent multiagency service” before and after Oscar’s birth.

“The early management of the case was not helped by changes of social workers, but there is evidence of more active oversight during the final six months of the review period.”

The panel is an independent body, which conducts reviews of instances where children in care, in aftercare or known to child protection services die or experience serious incidents.