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One-year-old died in tragic accident in her home, just months after being reunited with mother

Susan had spent some time in the care of the State before her death at the age of 15 months.
Jul 17th 2014, 7:00 AM 22,404 11

SUSAN DIED IN a tragic domestic accident at her own home when she was just 15 months old.

A report into her death has been released by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, as she had previously spent some time in the care of the State.

Authorities first became aware of the family when her mother, Kate, failed to return to pick her up from a childminder and could not be contacted.

At that juncture, the gardaí removed Susan from the minder’s care and she was placed with foster carers under an emergency order.

Susan was initially considered to be at ongoing risk of significant harm due to neglect but after months of working with the Social Work Department she was returned to her family.

The department considered that the parents – mother Kate and her partner – were capable of caring adequately for their child. They were also deemed willing to engage with support services.

A family support worker was allocated to them, and a place arranged for Susan in a community nursery. The case was waitlisted for allocation of a social worker but this was never achieved.

While Susan was observed to be making good progress over the following months and was
considered to have a good bond with her mother and her mother’s partner, it was also noted that Kate tended to disengage from services.

Kate withdrew Susan from the nursery, and the family support service was terminated due to lack of commitment and difficulty in identifying a role for the service.

No concerns were noted about Susan’s safety and welfare at the time.

She died as a result of a tragic domestic accident a few weeks later.

The review by the National Review Panel found no link between the nature and quality of services offered by the State and the “tragic and accidental death”.

But there were some concerns raised about the lack of a written plan in respect of Susan’s return home, as well as the “limited picture of the daily life of this family” available in the files.

“This limited the potential for reviewing her family’s compliance with the plan laid down by the SWD when she went home,” inspectors said.

They also noted that a more in-depth assessment of Susan’s relationship with her mother was warranted.

“Notwithstanding the above, appropriate services were put in place on Susan’s return to
her family,” the report continues.

“These finite community services were well-managed initially with the allocation of a social worker, an access worker, a family support worker, a community nursery place and the continuation of the public health nursing service. The reluctance of Susan’s parents to engage with the family support service and the nursery limited their positive impact.”

The chair of the review panel, Dr Helen Buckley, said there was one recommendation that has national relevance following the learnings from the incident.

“Child safety programmes and advice provided by child protection and welfare practitioners should be reviewed in line with emerging evidence about accidents to children in the home,” she told the State.

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Sinead O'Carroll

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