A father came home from work to find his baby dead after the mother fell asleep next to them, having just drank “two or three” bottles of wine. The child, referred to as Baby A, was six months old when she died.
According to a report by Derby and Derbyshire Children’s Safeguarding Board, the mother had a history of “chaotic alcohol abuse,” reported Derbyshire Live.
The report also stated Baby A had suffered “preventable harm”, making clear that while the health needs of the baby were assessed, the risks posed to it were “unrecognised and underestimated” – largely due to poor communication between agencies.
The mother’s substance abuse was linked to stress, according to the safeguarding board – particularly during the time at which she had fertility treatment for her first pregnancy. While she had previously been treated for depression and anxiety, this had stopped during her pregnancy.
During this time the mother was also assessed, and told a midwife she did not drink alcohol – but it was later revealed she both smoked and drank while pregnant, once again starting on medication for anxiety and low mood after the baby was born.
The mother told professionals during check-ups with health visitors that she was struggling to take care of the new baby alongside her toddler, and was even reported missing at one point by her sister.
Her husband also previously reported to the police that she had driven the car intoxicated with her children present.
While professionals are said to have “confronted” the mother over alleged alcohol abuse, the report reveals: “The outcome was an acceptance of mother’s script that her alcohol usage was under control.”
No risk assessment was carried out, despite the warning signs of alcohol dependence and potential danger to her children. When the father came home to find Baby A “apparently lifeless” between the sleeping mother and the arm of the chair, resuscitation attempts were made and were partially successful – but the baby died two days later.
Afterward the mother admitted she had consumed two or three bottles of wine and fallen asleep holding her baby.
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The report stated that Baby A’s father and maternal family “subsequently presented a picture of persistent, heavy drinking for many years, which was very different from that presented by Baby A’s mother herself”.
The report added that professionals should have investigated the situation further, rather than always believing what the mother told them about her drinking habits.
It said: “Had the information that emerged after Baby A’s death been fully shared beforehand it could well have shaken the confidence of professionals that this baby was safe and led to more assertive safeguarding action. There was discussion about the need for professionals to be not only professionally curious but also professionally sceptical when dealing with a carer who had alcohol problems and to develop the confidence and skills to be able to engage not only with all immediate carers but with the wider family, or to recognise that blocking this engagement could be a reason to consider escalation.”
The report says that between January 2018 and Christmas 2020, five infants died in Derbyshire where abuse or neglect was a cause, and six further young children were left with life-threatening injuries.