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Foster Care Damage is Permanent
December 16, 2007 permalink
The three children of Tim and Gina Williams were taken by British child protectors. When an appeals court ruled in their favor two years later, the children were returned, but they were not the same kids. The family now lives in constant fear. This case shows the futility of trying to undo the damage caused by wrongful intervention in the name of child protection.
Pain of social work sex slur family
There was supposed to be a happy ending, but for now the scars run too deep.
When Tim and Gina Williams' three children were taken into care, the Mirror described their story as "every parents' nightmare".
Wrongly accused of sexually abusing their children - two girls and a boy all under 10 at the time - the couple were finally vindicated and reunited with their little ones.
But by then their children had spent two agonising and utterly unnecessary years in care.
And now, more than a year after their children were returned to them and they were absolutely vindicated in the High Court, a damning report is to be released listing 32 recommendations that might ensure such an appalling blunder by a social services department never happens again.
The Newport Safeguarding Children Board's full report will remain confidential. But the summary heavily criticises Newport City Council, the Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust and the Gwent police.
Tim and Gina, 38, from Newport, South Wales, want the board to publish the damning faults in full.
But for now they hope the report will ensure no other families endure such living hell.
Tim, also 38, says: "Of course we're still angry at how we've been treated. Of course we're bitter. But we've never been interested in pointing the finger at individuals who made mistakes.
"We just want to know that serious lessons have been learned and that no one suffers like our family. We wouldn't want our worst enemies to go through what we did."
Sadly, the suffering is far from over for the Williams family.
Tim and Gina believe Zara, now 13, Ieuan, 10, and eight-year-old Courtney - whom the family call Buffy - have been damaged by their years in care.
Gina explains: "Our children are so different since they came back to us, it's like having three little strangers at home.
"None can bear to have us out of their sight because they think we won't come back. They believe they were taken into care because we didn't love or want them any more."
Zara had always been happy at school before being taken into care but now her teachers say she can be disruptive and can't settle in class.
Ieuan, once a sensitive little boy, has become an angry child who screams, shouts and hits out at doors and walls. He plays with the boy next door, but won't venture beyond that.
Recently, leaving for a week's school trip to an adventure park, he sobbed so much as the bus pulled away that his parents wanted to take him off.
He was terrified he was waving goodbye to his mummy and daddy for the last time.
Buffy, meanwhile, is too scared to go to sleep in case she wakes to find her parents gone, and tiptoes into their room in the middle of the night to check that Tim and Gina are still there.
She's reluctant to leave their side, choosing to play with dolls and colouring books in the living room rather than in her pink bedroom. She cries each morning as she says goodbye at the school gates.
"All three are extra clingy and constantly fight for our attention," says Tim, who has a heart condition and cannot work.
"If they don't see us at the school gates the moment the bell rings they freak out, so we have to get there 10 minutes early and stand in exactly the same spot. We take them everywhere with us because they refuse to go to babysitters. But whenever we see the children angry or in tears, we have to remember that it's not their fault.
"They were ripped from us and still don't understand why. They think it was because they were naughty, even though we've tried to explain it to them as best we can."
The family's terrible ordeal began on May 15, 2004. An 11-year-old boy had been invited to play with the children in the paddling pool and later in the day he and Buffy were sent to change out of their swimming gear and into their bed clothes.
But when Tim went upstairs he found the boy, minus his pyjama bottoms, on top of his five-year-old daughter whose nightie was above her waist.
Furious, he called the police who were followed by social services. And there began the chain of events that ripped the family to pieces.
Weeks later, Buffy sat with her mummy in hospital while she winced and sobbed as she endured an internal examination. The results devastated her parents.
The doctor said Buffy was the victim of chronic sexual abuse by an adult. Tim immediately became a suspect.
The medical report also said the abuse might have been caused by an implement, thereby also casting suspicion on Gina.
It wasn't long before social services called at the family's terraced home, wanting to take the children into care. "They said if we didn't hand them over they'd get a court order to take them from us," says Tim.
"After three sleepless nights and endless hours of talking, we felt forced to agree to their demands."
Banned from discussing details of the investigation with their children, Tim and Gina drove their distraught children to the social services office, telling them they were going on a little holiday.
Staff whisked Zara, Ieuan and Buffy from their parents' arms as soon as they arrived. They were not even allowed to say goodbye and heard screams of "Mummy! Daddy!" even after they'd left the building.
Over the next bleak two years, Tim and Gina saw their children for 90-minute supervised sessions each week. They missed milestones such as birthdays, learning to ride bikes and school plays and two Christmasses spent in terrible, lonely misery.
This year Tim and Gina have again spent more than they can afford on Christmas.
"All we ever wanted was our kids back where they belonged," says Tim. "Of course we spoil them, we can't help it because we feel we have to make it up to them."
Jessica Good, solicitor for the family, is still fighting their corner.
She says: "Brushing things under the carpet does not help. We will take all the possible steps to secure publication of the full overview report. I hope Tim and Gina can discover the truth about why this happened to them."
But for now, Christmas is a chance to forget for a while.
Ieuan is secretly trying to rip the corners of the Transformer wrapping paper to peek inside a giant present under the tree.
Buffy has knocked a bauble to the floor and Zara almost stands on it in stocking feet.
Within seconds the three are shouting at each other and the Williams' house is filled with the noise of excited, argumentative children. And that's exactly how they like it.
In care According to the Association For Adoption And Fostering there are 60,000 kids - equal to 150 primary schools - in care.
Our two years of torment
How the family's nightmare unravelled...
MAY 15 2004
Tim calls police when 11-year-old boy found on top of five-year-old Buffy.
JUNE 8 2004
Buffy is examined in hospital.
JULY 26 2004
Hospital examination results cast suspicion on Tim and Gina.
AUGUST 23 2004
Children taken into care.
APRIL 29 2005
Local authority applies for court order to ensure children remain in care.
SEPTEMBER 22 2006
Children returned home after Buffy is re-examined by an American doctor, who insists she was not abused.
OCTOBER 17 2006
High Court judgement passed, rejecting allegations of abuse.
DECEMBER 14 2007
The Newport Safe guarding Children Board's report criticises Newport City Council, the Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust and the Gwent police.
Source: Mirror (UK)