Social workers misread Ghanaian culture in baby death case

Social workers failed to understand the Ghanaian cultural values attached to weight and size in the case of a 10-month-old baby who died after her mother force fed her, a serious case review has concluded.

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Social workers failed to understand the Ghanaian cultural values attached to weight and size in the case of a 10-month-old baby who died after her mother force fed her, a serious case review has concluded.

The review by Waltham Forest’s safeguarding children board has yet to be published but extracts were released yesterday following the conviction of the mother of causing or allowing the death of her baby daughter “Diamond”. A post-mortem report found the baby had died of pneumonia following excessive amounts of pureed food in her lungs resulting from her mother “cup-feeding” her to boost her weight.

In addition to a lack of cultural understanding, communication problems may also have arisen in trying to understand the father’s English. The review recommended that the use of family members as interpreters in child protection enquiries should be consistently avoided.

Social workers were also unaware of the risks surrounding force-feeding, instead focusing on the risk of injury caused through excessive force when feeding. Their concerns were also diluted because the feeding stemmed from the mother’s concern for her child’s welfare.

The review recommended that senior managers should have to authorise any decision not to progress a case to a child protection conference if inquiries have concluded that a child has suffered “significant harm”. Such senior managers should be able to “reflect on the circumstances but not be involved in the day-to-day decisions of the case”.

Other concerns included the gaps created by a stretched health visiting service and patients not seeing the same GP on repeated visits.

The review also recommended that when child protection cases are closed future plans should be clear about the role of universal services through a child-in-need meeting.

The SCR is due to be published later this month.

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