Sunday Life

Mum's grief

06 March 2005

The only request an Ulster foster mum had was for a few private moments, mourning the death of the cherished young child who died in her arms.

Instead, she claims she had to endure more than 12 hours of added grief, because of Social Services which, she claims, threatened her with the police.

The Belfast woman - who can't be named for legal reasons - is utterly distraught at the way the death of her much-loved little foster son was handled.

And she desperately wants the authorities to re-evaluate how they deal with similar cases, in the future.

At 12.30am on January 12, John (not his real name) lost his brave, four-year battle to survive against all the odds.

He was severely disabled and suffered from seizures, was brain-damaged and unable to see or hear.

The youngster was completely immobile and dependent on his foster family for 24-hour care, seven days a week.

They knew the little lad - who first came into their home on December 12, 2000, aged just eight weeks - had a life-limiting condition.

And they were also well-aware that when he died, he would be handed over to his birth parents; they never had a problem with that.

But they were not prepared for what eventually happened.

Anne (not her real name) said that while she tried to give her foster son a life of dignity, in death it was a different story.

"There was complete confusion within Social Services from the moment he died," she claimed, choking back tears.

"Firstly, we were told we could make funeral arrangements, which we began to do.

"Then we were told he would have to be handed over immediately to his birth parents and if we didn't do so, the police would be called.

"The funeral director arrived to lay him out, but was told he couldn't, for legal reasons. So, for over 12 hours, my house was in total chaos and nobody knew what to do next.

"And I cradled him in my arms for all that time, until I had to give him up.

"I even had to clean his wee body at one stage and block his wee nose, as fluid was beginning to seep out."

Added Anne: "Despite his terrible illnesses, John gave my family a love that they never before experienced.

"And we feel so awful that, in death, it was all so undignified."

Anne claims that at least eight social workers were involved in the whole unpleasant episode.

She believes it could all have been handled so much easier, if someone had taken the initiative and explained exactly what was going on.

"We kept being told different things and eventually, at around 3.15pm, more than 12 hours after the wee man died - we were allowed to put his body in a casket.

"It was in the back of a funeral car, and there wasn't even a flower or anything, and he hadn't been properly laid out.

"It was all so cold and heartless, and we're inconsolable that we couldn't say goodbye properly.

"That wee man never knew anything in his life but love and devotion and thank God he never knew what went on that weekend he died. Even if someone had said to us that we had to have him ready by a certain time, it would have made such a difference."

The story of Anne's plight was highlighted last week on BBC Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan show.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?