Neglected children had rotten teeth, matted hair and headlice

A family of neglected children were found with black and rotten teeth, matted hair which alive with lice, and lacking in basic hygiene and cleanliness, a court has heard. Such was the state of the dental decay for two of the children, they each had to have more a dozen teeth removed after being taken into foster care.

One of the children of the family, despite approaching school age, was not potty trained and had speech problems, and the youngsters were described as being “thin and pale”.

The shocking condition of the children was set out at Swansea Crown Court when the mother – who lives in south west Wales but who cannot be named to protect the identity of the youngsters – appeared in the dock charged with neglect. Sian Cutter, prosecuting, said all the children were on the at-risk register of the local council’s social services department following concerns about their home environment and about the mother’s violent partner. The court heard partner was subsequently jailed for assault.

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The prosecutor said the social worker assigned to the family saw the children more than 40 times and while the level of care was said to “fluctuate” and the house was reported to be “messy” no immediate safety issues had been raised. However, all that changed when a new social worker took over the case. Matters came to head more than a year after the jailing of the mother’s abusive partner when social workers and police went to the family address following concerns about the mum’s new boyfriend who was at the property and was under the influence of drink or drugs. The court heard the mother became “verbally very aggressive” towards the visitors and tried to stop police from getting to her partner.

All the children were found to have poor dental hygiene and rotting teeth, with a police officer who went to the house later describing some of the teeth as resembling “black pegs” in the mouth. The children were wearing dirty clothes, some reported being hungry and said they had not eaten despite the fact it was mid-afternoon. Thee court heard one of the children, who was approaching school age, was wearing a nappy and had issues with speech and language. The youngsters were described as looking dirty and smelling as if they had not been washed. All were said to be “thin and pale”.

Miss Cutter said the social worker described it as the worst case she had dealt with in her career. All the children were taken into emergency foster care.

The court heard the children of school age in the family had very poor attendance records at the local primary – as low as almost 50 per cent for some of them. A number of the children had thickly mattered hair infested with lice, with obvious scabs, dried blood, and bite marks on their scalps and ears caused by the nits. Read about a man with history of punching and throttling partners who has been jailed for his latest attack.

The prosecutor said two of the young sisters were put in the same foster placement and were found to have hair which was “densely covered with lice”. She said the little girls had thanked their new carer when a nit comb was used to start removing the lice but that it took two months to completely cure the infestations. Both the girls also had severe tooth decay with one of them bleeding from the gums in bed at night. The youngsters subsequently each needed more than a dozen of their milk teeth removed by a dentist who concluded the problem had been caused by poor oral hygiene and diet and had been “entirely preventable”.

In her police interview the mother said she was struggling to cope as a single parent, and felt her children had not needed her.

The court heard that since being taken into foster care, all the youngsters are doing well.

The defendant, who is now expecting another child, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of child neglect when she appeared in the dock for a plea and sentencing hearing. She had no previous convictions.

Jon Tarrant, for the defendant, said it was difficult for a mother to accept that she had gone wrong, especially as in this case when she had gone “so badly wrong”. He said his client was the victim of domestic abuse had clearly made “terrible choices” in partners and the people she chose to associate with, and there may be psychological reasons behind those choices.

Recorder Benjamin Blakemore told the woman she had been the sole carer for her children, that they had needed and relied upon her, but she had failed to provide the necessary care and attention. He said it was clear the defendant was a somewhat “desperate individual” with her own issues but that instead of seeking help when she felt she was struggling to cope with bringing up the children she had seemed to have other priorities and to “just let them get on with it”. The recorder said it must have been a painful experience for the children to know they were fending for themselves, and said each would have suffered emotionally and psychologically in their own ways and the effects of the defendant’s failures would be wide ranging.

Recorder Blakemore said he could tell the defendant felt guilty and shame for what she had allowed to happen, and now realised just how badly wrong she had gone. With a discount for her guilty pleas the defendant was sentenced to five months in prison suspended for 12 months, and was ordered to complete a rehabilitation course.

The recorder said it was for others to seek answers about how the social worker originally assigned the family had apparently missed what others had seen.

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