Social workers and other practitioners were intimidated by a couple who adopted three children and then abused them both physically, emotionally and verbally over 10 years according to the serious case review.
The review found that practitioners failed to challenge the adoptive mother’s aggressive and hostile behaviour and that the parents’ social class and professional standing – they were pharmaceutical scientists – was another deterrent that allowed the abuse to continue for so long.
“In this case, many professionals struggled to maintain a child focus when faced with [the adoptive parents’] aggressive behaviour and their disguised compliance, and their approach was affected by perceptions and assumptions made regarding the parents’ social class, professional status and high academic qualifications,” the review said.
Cheshire East has made it a priority to build professionals’ confidence around the need for greater challenge to parents, carers and other professionals in order to safeguard children effectively.
The review identified 10 missed opportunities to carry out investigations and help the children. The eldest child contacted social care and other agencies about his adoptive parents’ abuse of himself and his siblings. Repeatedly, he and his siblings were sent back to the home, despite their protests.
“The conclusion of this serious case review was that at various stages over the 10 years, the abuse was both predictable and preventable. Prime responsibility for those oversights and decisions rests with Cheshire East social care and its emergency duty team, but there were occasions when the police should have been more challenging of social care’s plans and escalated their concerns for resolution at a more senior level.”
The children were also badly let down by their schools, the report said. However, on two occasions, teachers contacted social services with concerns about the family, but practitioners said they did not have adequate evidence of abuse to follow these up in a robust way.
The review also pointed to shortcomings in the adoption assessment process, which it said focused too much on meeting the applicants’ needs, with “insufficient consideration” of the needs of children who might be placed with them. The parents were considered a “rare commodity” because they were willing to take a sibling group of three and the SCR said professionals tried to help their application as much as possible.
The couple had had no experience taking care of children prior to the adoption, had only just begun to live together and often missed appointments. Two of the children were placed with the couple after just six days, with the third child placed six days after that. The SCR said there were early warning signs of placement breakdown during supervision but they were either unnoticed or unreported by practitioners.
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