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Foster carer

Daily Mail Newspaper - July 2009

Daily Mail- July 2009

The whistleblower wanted to expose what had happened so that the public could be aware of how a baby had died because of a fostering mix-up.

The full story from the Daily Mail is outlined below.

We are helping to get the foster carer legal representation to help her get justice.


Daily Mail article:

The day foster carer Maria Jones welcomed a troubled 16-year-old teenage single mother into her home, she had no way of foreseeing the devastating consequences. 

Social workers, she was told, were looking for an emergency placement for the girl because they feared she might not bond with her child because of her disturbed background. 

Maria, 49, was eager to help and support the vulnerable teenager. 

With 15 years of experience looking after more than 100 children from babies to 18- year-olds, she felt confident that the young woman, whom we will call Jane - to protect the identities of the children involved, we have changed names and omitted certain details - would, like all her other charges, leave in a better emotional shape than when she arrived. 

Foster mother Maria Jones

Foster mother Maria Jones said her life was ruined after social workers failed to mention the violent past of of teenager she cared for

But because of a devastating failure by social services, a baby almost died and Maria has lost the fostering job she loved. 

She feels betrayed by London council and the National Fostering Agency (NFA), whom she claims failed to tell her the full extent of Jane's behavioural and emotional problems. 

Within a year of Jane arriving at Maria's three-bedroom house in the South of England in 2007, the baby of another teenage girl was critically ill in hospital. 

Jane was arrested after police found high levels of table salt in the baby's powdered formula milk. 

The records that were withheld from Maria show Jane was more than capable of the callous act. 

It was only six weeks ago that Maria learned at a court hearing the true extent of Jane's disturbed childhood and violent behaviour. Had she been told sooner, she says, she would never have allowed the girl into her home. 

Managers at a children's residential unit where Jane lived before she was placed with Maria believed she was suffering from 'morbid jealousy syndrome'. 

One member of staff had recommended that a team of social services, police and medical health professionals monitor her closely because - in a chilling prophecy, given what happened just 12 months later - he feared she was capable of killing a baby. 

The small baby who almost died after being poisoned by troubled teenager Jane

The small baby who almost died after being poisoned by troubled teenager Jane

'I felt ill when I found out the things this girl had done before she came to me,' says Maria. 

'I discovered that at the unit she was described as volatile, unpredictable and bullying, with an intense dislike of other women. 

'But all I was told when they asked me to take her was that she had a bedwetting problem - I later found out she did this deliberately. 

'She'd threatened one resident with a knife and another with a fork. She was also suspected of spiking another resident's drink so she could have sex with him. 

'Why wasn't I made aware of any of this? Why wasn't I told Jane was promiscuous and had slept with more than 100 men, had several venereal diseases and feared she had HIV? 

'I also found out that, while at the unit, she'd watched a TV programme about a child who had died when too much salt was put into pre-prepared mashed potato, so she knew how dangerous it could be. 

The staff had discussed the programme with the residents.' Maria's powerful testimony offers a shocking insight into a care system cracking under the strain of providing care for seriously disturbed children. 

It also serves as a warning to foster carers that they might not have access to all the essential information they need about the children they take into their homes. 

The baby survived the salt poisoning without lasting damage, but the outcome could so easily have been different. 

'Jane should never have been placed in a foster home and certainly not one where there was another teenage girl with a baby,' says Maria, who has two grown-up children and six grandchildren. 

'If I'd been told about her past behaviour, I would have refused to take her, because of the risk not only to my other foster children, but my own grandchildren. 

'I received just one phone call before Jane was placed with me. I was not shown any reports or assessments. The social workers must have hadsays Maria. 

'The foster family was not told about Jane's troubled history. Her father had left when she was a baby, and her mother  -  with two younger children to look after  -  couldn't cope with her eldest child's behaviour. 

Maria later found out that Jane had threatened to harm her siblings, who were frightened of her. 

With the benefit of hindsight, Maria says Jane was a deeply disturbed young girl in need of professional help, rather than a placement in a foster home with another vulnerable girl. 

Louise, whose identity has been protected, should not have been in the same house with her baby and Jane

Louise, whose identity has been protected, should not have been in the same house with her baby and Jane

Matters became tense when Louise fell pregnant and gave birth to her son 15 weeks prematurely. 

Jane reacted first with indifference, then abuse, followed by jealousy over the attention she thought Louise was receiving from Maria while her tiny baby was in hospital for several weeks. 

'Jane became angry. She started leaving rude, aggressive and obscene notes on doors,' says Maria. 

'I tried to be even-handed with both girls and was careful not to show any favouritism. I treated them exactly the same, with love and concern, but Jane's behaviour worried me.' 

Maria became so fearful about the worsening atmosphere in the house that she persuaded Jane's mother to take her home for Christmas. 

Later, she suggested to social workers that Jane should be placed elsewhere. No action was taken. 

Louise's baby had been home from hospital for only two weeks when he fell ill. 
'The girls kept their formula milk side by side on the table in the kitchen, next to the sterilising equipment,' says Maria. 

'A few days before the baby became ill, Jane made a big point of saying her baby wasn't going to be drinking formula any more and from now on would be drinking cow's milk and no one was to touch it. 

'A day or so later, Louise became worried because her baby was not feeding well and was a bit chesty. 

'When I picked him up, his stomach was rock hard, but we decided not to panic because the baby already had a doctor's appointment arranged for the next day.' 

The GP sent the baby straight to hospital. 

'At first, they thought it might be meningitis, but the doctor ran some tests and kept saying "sodium". I thought: "Isn't sodium salt?" 

Then I started thinking about the big fuss Jane had made about putting her baby on cow's milk and became suspicious. 

'So, leaving Louise with her sick baby at hospital, I went home and tasted the formula  -  it was salty. I was horrified. I didn't want to I did my best and rose to the challenge. 

Even the local council admits the placement was far from ideal, given the girl's history and circumstances. 

'After the police took away Jane, I had to clear out the whole house of food, cleaning materials and even toiletries because if Jane was capable of putting salt in baby formula, what else might she have been capable of? Bleach in the bubble bath? 

'During the first four months she was with me, she didn't have a single visit from a social worker. Surely, if someone had read all the reports on her behaviour, she should have been monitored closely.' 

Maria has been left to pick up the pieces of her life, but what she would like more than anything is for Louise and her baby to come home to her. 

'I still see them, but her child is in care until the council can provide them with accommodation and that seems to be taking for ever,' says Maria. 

She has been told that Jane's son was taken away from her following the salt poisoning incident, and she is living in council accommodation. 

'I haven't seen Jane again. What worries me is that this girl is out there, walking around totally free, capable of doing something like this again and there's no one doing anything to help her,' says Maria. 

'Instead of being placed with me, I honestly believe this girl's problems were so severe she should have been sectioned. It's a miracle that baby didn't die.' 

A spokesman for the NFA told the Daily Mail: 'During the matching process between foster carer and child, whatever information has been passed on to us by the local authority's social services department would be passed on to the foster carer. 

'We can only pass on whatever information we are in possession of from the local authority.' 

A spokesman for the council said they could not comment while the case was under review. 

For Maria, with no foster children to look after, it is all a terrible end to what had been the most rewarding of vocations. 

• All names have been changed.