Child services missed four chances to intervene in forced pregnancy case
Review says authorities overlooked signs that girl forced by mother to inseminate herself was being treated cruelly
By Sandra Laville
Social services missed four chances to intervene in the case of a mother who forced her adopted daughter to inseminate herself with donor sperm to provide a baby for her, a serious case review has found.
The mother, who has been jailed for child cruelty, bought sperm from abroad via the internet and forced the girl to regularly inseminate herself, court papers revealed.
The mother, described as a highly articulate woman who loved her children but isolated the whole family, was visited in prison as part of the review but refused to accept she had done anything wrong.
The girl, known in the case as A, is believed to have had a miscarriage at 14, but went on to have a baby at 16. She was too scared of her "domineering" mother to refuse to inseminate herself.
A serious case review into how the authorities failed to recognise the signs that the child was being treated cruelly was published on Wednesday. The local children's care services of the council involved, which cannot be named, were found to have failed to respond to repeated warnings.
The local authority involved in the case called on Wednesday for tighter restrictions on purchasing sperm on the internet, as it accepted the findings of the report. "The unprecedented nature of the exploitation of A's fertility has highlighted weaknesses in the current regulation and control of the trade in donor sperm," it said. "The local authority … calls upon the government to review the legal framework in these areas."
The review found there were four significant missed opportunities which, had they been "handled more thoroughly and appropriately", may have led to "an earlier understanding of the grounds for serious concern".
Before the girl gave birth to a baby boy, the local children's social care services (CSC) had been contacted on a number of occasions, the report said. An "unqualified officer" dealt with the first complaint. The children's services department "allowed themselves to be fobbed off" by the mother in relation to another complaint, and "worrying allegations" about the way she cared for her family had not been explored.
The report added that concerns about the woman's approach to parenting had not been challenged.
The mother had already adopted three children as babies from abroad, twice when she was married and once after her divorce. She had chosen not to give birth herself because of a health condition and had undergone an elective sterilisation.
But she was upset, court papers revealed, when her attempts to adopt a fourth child were thwarted, and she was denied adoption approval. She instead turned to her adopted daughter to provide the baby she wanted.
The serious case review said that when the girl was 14, the woman took her to a GP with concerns her daughter might be pregnant and alleged that she been drugged and possibly raped at a party. The GP failed to pass this information on to another authority.
The report found that when CSC made inquiries to the health visiting (HV) service about child protection allegations, the latter said there were "no identified safeguarding concerns". The HV service appeared to have given "insufficient weight" to the repeated concerns owing to the social profile of the family, who are described as "educated, articulate, middle class", it said.
The local authority concerned said it accepted the findings and recommendations of the serious case review.
In a statement it said it took "enormous courage" for the daughter to come forward and disclose what had happened to her.
"The serious case review identifies weaknesses and shortcomings in the approach of the local authority to the information which was available to the local authority between 2006-2009," it said. "It is vital that lessons are learned from this and the LA has already actioned a number of recommendations arising from the detailed consideration of this case."
Reporting restrictions prevent the naming of the family, the local authority and the area they lived in.
Court papers relating to the case revealed the artificial insemination was planned when the daughter was 13, began when she was 14 and ended when she became pregnant at 16 with D (her child).
At the birth of the child midwives were alarmed at the "pushy and insensitive" mother who tried to prevent her daughter breastfeeding the baby, saying: "We don't want any of that attachment thing."
Midwives called in child protection workers when the mother attempted to remove the baby from the ward.
The daughter, who had no friends of her own age, told investigators that she was "shocked, pretty shocked" when her mother first asked her to inseminate herself, but said she also thought: "If I do this … maybe she will love me more."
In agreeing, she said, "feelings of gratitude for my adoption influenced how I behaved."