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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of Lambeth Council Investigation Report

Contents

E.3: The 1990s: LA‐A61

17. LA-A61 was fostered as a baby in the 1990s, before being placed with adoptive parents when she was around two and a half years old in 1995. From the outset, her adoptive parents were concerned about some of her behaviour, which suggested that she had been sexually abused.[1]

18. In 1995, Lambeth Council held its first meeting in respect of this case. At a subsequent planning meeting in January 1996 (at which the police were not present) it was acknowledged that LA-A61 had probably been abused. The Adoption and Fostering Unit of children’s social care was asked to investigate.[2] By March 1996, Lambeth Council had undertaken to involve the police but failed to arrange a meeting with them. In April 1996, the Metropolitan Police Service wrote to children’s social care, noting lack of response to its correspondence and asking for a meeting as soon as possible.

19. Although LA-A61’s adoptive parents had raised concerns about child sexual abuse in 1995, it was not until July 1996 that the Adoption and Fostering Unit investigation into the foster carers had been completed and a final report provided to Ms Constantia Pennie (principal manager adoption and fostering). LA-A61 had not been interviewed by the police. Other boroughs and agencies had, however, been informed that LA-F31 and LA-F32 should not be fostering.[3]

20. The Lambeth Family Finders and Adoption Unit report concluded it was unclear what had happened to LA-A61. LA-A61 was described as a child who had experienced considerable trauma, evidenced in her sexualised behaviour and her ongoing anxiety and distress. It was noted that 65 children had been placed with LA-F31 and LA-F32 between 1979 and 1997.[4] As a result of other serious child protection concerns, it recommended that LA-F31 and LA-F32 be deregistered as foster carers.[5] (This did not occur until October 1997, more than two years after the initial complaint.)

21. At a further meeting in May 1997, the Lambeth Council investigation was described as “inconclusive” about who had abused LA-A61. A psychologist, a play therapist, a home support worker and a doctor agreed that LA-A61 had been sexually abused when she was placed with LA-F31 and LA-F32.[6] By the time of this meeting, a check of foster carer files revealed that LA-F32 had been convicted in 1959 for indecent assault of a four-year-old, when he was 12 years old.[7]

22. In February 1999, concerns were raised about links between LA-F31, LA-F32 and another foster carer whose name (and that of LA-F31) were found following a police search of Michael John Carroll’s home (on his arrest as part of Operation Care).[8]

23. In March 1999, Ms Helen Kenward (who was leading the Children’s Homes in Lambeth Enquiry (CHILE) team supporting Operation Middleton) reported on LA-A61’s case to Dame Heather Rabbatts, Lambeth Council’s chief executive. Ms Kenward concluded that the failure to investigate LA-A61’s case rigorously was itself a disciplinary matter. In her view, it was “outrageous” that after nine meetings over 12 months the investigation was inconclusive and had failed to establish either abuse or, in the interests of justice, the innocence of the foster carers. The Lambeth investigation report was first forwarded to police in 1999 by Ms Kenward.[9]

24. A further CHILE report on LA-A61’s case in 2000 noted that she had five social workers between her birth in 1992 and 1995, as well as periods with no allocated social worker. There was a lack of continuity and she suffered from the incompetent management of her case. The report stressed that it was clear to professionals that LA-A61 had suffered greatly in the foster placement. The impact of her highly distressed behaviour on her adopted family was traumatic.[10] More generally, the CHILE report also concluded there was no investigation of other children who were, or had been, in LA-F31 and LA-F32’s care. The report noted that “Lambeth felt the adoptive parents were troublemakers”, despite their comprehensive recording of LA-A61’s distress and repeated requests for help and support.[11]

25. The handling of this case demonstrated a failure to recognise the urgency of the situation and a lack of focus by staff in children’s social care on the need to help and support the adoptive parents and to progress the investigation into the abuse of LA-A61 promptly. It was a profoundly damaging process for LA-A61 and her adoptive parents.

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