British social services criticised after toddler dies from methadone overdose

A UK toddler died from a methadone overdose after social workers failed to take him into care, a damning report revealed today.

Jayden Lee Green, who was just a month short of his second birthday, was found dead in his parents' bed after overdosing on the heroin substitute in August last year.

The toddler lived with his crack cocaine and heroin-addicted parents Jamie Green and Sonia Britton in a filthy flat in the St Georges area of Bristol.

A serious case review, commissioned by Bristol Safeguarding Children Board, found there was a lack of co-operation from Jayden Lee's parents with all involved in dealing with them.

This included drug agencies, midwifery, housing, health visitors, social workers and there were also regular failures to keep appointments or be at home when visits were made.

The report stated: "What was lacking was the authoritative challenge to this lack of co-operation, there was a lack of enforcement of consequences. There was a lack of challenge by practitioners across the range of agencies."

The report, which referred to Jayden Lee as "Child K" throughout, continued: "The extent of the parents' lack of engagement, avoidance and dishonesty grew over time and although this was recognised by practitioners there was insufficient challenge by professional and no sustained, planned approach to protecting the child.

"The only way that Child K's death would definitely have been prevented was if he had been placed away from his parents.

"The opportunity to do this was lost due to the failure to follow through on the initiation of care proceedings.

"However, a better-planned and authoritative approach to the family may also have prevented his death."

It was revealed today that Jayden Lee suffered two head injuries - one at seven weeks and one at 11 weeks - and his parents gave the same explanation.

The report stated that this should have raised concerns that the injuries were not accidental.

The boy also sustained injuries to his face at 21 and 23 months old and again the same explanations were given when he was seen by medical professionals.

Britton, 35, and Green, 33, were accused of killing their son by giving him the drug that they were both prescribed by doctors.

After a three-week trial at Bristol Crown Court, Green was convicted of manslaughter and causing cruelty to a child and jailed for nine years.

The jury cleared Britton of manslaughter but convicted her of child cruelty and causing or allowing the death of a child. She was jailed for four years.

The trial heard that there were bags of rubbish lying around their one-bedroom ground floor rented flat, as well as drug paraphernalia kept in cupboards and crack pipes under the sink.

A rolled up cigarette was found in a child's cot and there were also dirty potties.

Both his parents were prescribed methadone and scientific tests showed the fatal dose administered to Jayden Lee was not the first time he had been given the drug.

During the trial the court heard that several different agencies were monitoring Green and Britton in caring for their son but they were able to pull the wool over their eyes.

"Sonia Britton and Jamie Green were aware that health care professionals, drug workers as well as social services were monitoring their behaviour as well as trying to help them," prosecutor William Mousley QC told jurors.

"They created an image with those professionals that they were looking after Jayden Lee. Of course nobody knew they were giving methadone to Jayden Lee.

"While both of them cared about Jayden Lee, he was not their priority. They were drug addicts, whose need for drugs came before Jayden Lee."

The serious case review said there were a number of "missed opportunities" for health and welfare professionals to "fully understand the circumstances" of Jayden Lee's home environment.

Before he was even born there were concerns that Britton was regularly injecting heroin while also taking methadone during the pregnancy.

Following his birth he became subject of a child protection plan but that was discontinued.

A second child protection plan was commenced but moves to take Jayden Lee into care were never initiated, the review said.

During this time Green and Britton continued to use heroin and methadone and were also were falsifying regular urine tests. They pair later admitted they "knew the tricks to get around screening".

"None of the professionals involved with the family had foreseen the possibility of either child being given methadone by one or other of their parents," the serious case review said.

"There is some evidence through other serious case reviews and research that administration of methadone and other substances including alcohol to children by their parents may not be uncommon.

"Although the death of Child K could not have been predicted there were indicators that the long-term outcomes for Child K may have been negatively impacted by his parents' lifestyle."

The serious case review was damning of social workers as well as other health and welfare professionals who had contact with Jayden Lee and his parents.

"The practitioners working with these parents do not appear to have been able to develop sufficiently trusting relationships to be able to overcome the resistance, secrecy and denial that characterises much substance abuse and to fully understand the motivation and capacity of the parents to adjust their lifestyle to meet the needs and demands of a young child," the review said.

"There was a failure by the first social worker to develop sufficient rapport with the parents 'to be able to gather a clear picture of their day-to-day lives'.

"The recording contact by the second social worker who was involved with the family after the birth of Child K was so limited that it is difficult to judge the depth or quality of their assessments."

During a press conference at the Council House in Bristol, some of the agencies involved with Jayden Lee expressed their regret at his death and said that lessons had been learnt.

Professor Ray Jones, chairman of Bristol Safeguarding Children Board, said: "This is a terrible tragedy with the death of a little boy, who was much loved, by the actions of those who cared for him.

"Now that criminal proceedings have concluded, we can publish all the findings from this serious case review.

"All agencies involved have agreed an action plan to ensure the lessons learnt will inform future practice, helping to protect children in Bristol.

"The board accepts all of the recommendations in the report and we are giving particular attention to how we ensure all workers and agencies in contact with drug-misusing parents keep the safety and welfare of children as a major focus and seek to challenge parents about the potential implications of their drug misuse on their parenting.

"We also want to drive home the message that giving methadone to children is dangerous, with potentially disastrous consequences, as in this case, which resulted in Jayden Lee Green's death and his parents both serving prison sentences.

"All the agencies involved continue with a determination to act to protect children across the city."

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