exposing the dark side of adoption
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Probe after orphan death


Probe after orphan death

A County Armagh couple should have been identified as a family in need as soon as they adopted Romanian twins, a disciplinary hearing has been told.

Portadown couple Geoffrey Briggs and his wife Gwen, went to Romania in July 2000 expecting to adopt one child but were given two children, both of whom were seriously under developed.

One of the orphan boys, David, died four months later, while the second, Samuel, suffered a fractured skull at the hands of his adoptive father, a former missionary.

Briggs was later convicted of grievous bodily harm, and sentenced to two years in prison.

An investigation subsequently began into the work of Portadown health visitor Claire McDonnell.

She is appearing before the Nursing and Midwifery Council's disciplinary committee in Belfast charged with misconduct, failing to keep proper records and falsifying records. She denies the charges.

On Thursday, her former boss at Craigavon and Banbridge Trust, Geraldine Maguire, told the hearing that Mrs McDonnell had called at the Briggs' home in July 2000.

She had found both boys to be under developed and identified the Briggs as first-time parents who had been shocked when they were given two children.

However, she did not identify their case as high priority or refer it to other authorities.

The next home visit did not take place until September. The hearing heard it was concern over the Briggs case that had prompted them to order an audit of Mrs McDonnell's entire caseload.

Mrs Maguire said that the audit, which excluded the Briggs case, showed up a range of problems with several cases.

Disciplinary proceedings were then started, culminating in the current hearing.

Earlier, Mrs Maguire told the hearing that Mrs McDonnell's caseload had been smaller than average.

A quarter of her cases had involved Army families based at Portadown's Mahon Road.

Mrs Maguire admitted these would have involved additional clerical work, particularly in July and August as large numbers of military families moved into Portadown.

However, she insisted the reduced case load had been enough to compensate for that.

2004 Feb 26