A child contracted gonorrhoea and chlamydia at age seven or eight after she was abused by her foster father.
He ‘breached the trust placed in him by sexually abusing her’, claims social services spokesperson in a serious case review.
The girl, kown as Claire, was taken into care at the young age of six after a 32-year-old friend of her brother sexually abused her as she lay in the same bed as her mum, who was drunk.
After a few months of her living with her grandmother, she was rehomed with a foster couple named as Mr and Mrs George (not their real names) in south London, in 2012.
But on the morning after her first night with her foster family, Claire arrived at her school in Croydon walking ‘splay legged’ and complaining that ‘she was hurting inside her vagina’.
Teachers, who had known Claire since she was in reception, knew this was unusual and reported it to social services, but social workers thought it must have been down to the sexual abuse she suffered previously and failed to investigate.
She had been given a child protection plan since she was a baby, due to concerns about drugs and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and neglect.
On one occasion, when Claire was four, she was found wandering in the street alone as she had been locked out of the family home.
Her birth family agreed to ‘give her up to be cared for by the state’ as they thought it would give her a better life. They said they were devastated and angry to hear what had happened to her.
Right from the start of her placement with Mr and Mrs George, there were warning signs.
As well as the report from her teachers, Mrs George told social workers she was finding it hard to cope. Within a week after she came to live with them, she asked for her to be removed from the placement, appearing distressed.
As the placement went on, things seemed to be improving, although Mrs George had counselling for panic attacks during the time, just over a year, that Claire lived with them.
The truth emerged after Mrs George contacted their doctor to say Claire had vaginal soreness, asking for the cream to be prescribed. The GP took swabs and contacted social services, concerned that she could have a sexually transmitted infection and that she was unsafe.
‘A decision was taken to await the swab results before taking any other action,’ a case review said. ‘The (social services) manager informed the GP of this decision; the GP correctly told the manager she was extremely concerned by this response and went on to make numerous phone calls to health colleagues in an attempt to elicit a different response.’
The lack of swift action ‘left Claire at risk of harm and fell well below expected practice,’ a review found.
Sarah Baker, CSCB Independent Chair, said: ‘Claire’s’ foster carer breached the trust placed in him by sexually abusing her. On behalf of the Croydon Safeguarding Children Board I want to express the deep sadness we all feel for the terrible experience Claire and her family subsequently went through.
‘Staff have been fully engaged with the Serious Case Review. All, without exception, believed at the time of this incident they were providing Claire with a safe and secure home.
‘The review found no evidence that anything at the time could have indicated this foster carer was likely to sexually abuse a child in his care. However there are still lessons to be learned and actions were immediately taken to tighten up a variety of processes. Staff have also received additional training and guidance to increase their awareness and understanding. I will ensure the findings from this review are built into our future action plan.
‘Claire is doing well with her new foster carers despite this horrible experience and continues to enjoy the unconditional support of both them and her family. On behalf of the Board I wish her all the very best for the future.’