Baby Nicola: ‘I wouldn’t batter her’ – parents blamed baby’s wounds on acrylic nails and car seat

Sunderland Civic Centre.
Sunderland Civic Centre.
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She was just 11 weeks old in March last year when health visitor spotted unusual bruising to her abdomen when her mum took her to a clinic.

When asked, the mother thought they could have been caused by her nappy or acrylic nails, and began to get upset when it was suggested children’s services and a specialist would be contacted, telling the clinic she would not “batter her baby”.

When the baby was admitted, it was found Nicola had multiple healing rib fractures and a healing brake to her left clavicle, which did not match up with the explanations from her parents.

The baby’s dad, who suffers from “mild Asperger’s” with a history of violence and depression and claimed his ex-partner harmed their youngster, questioned whether a tight car seat could have caused the injuries.

She was put in a foster placement by the police when she was discharged.

Later that month, social workers told health visitors the dad said she had fallen onto the arm of a chair when he had been holding her.

The man was later charged with neglect and ill-treatment and given a suspended sentence by a court.

The serious case review details how the dad’s story about the harm caused to his older child was accepted without much question and more discussions should have been held between social workers, with missed chances to record and share information, despite efforts of health visitors.

However, the report also says health professionals should have been more curious, given a baby had previously been injured in the care of one of her parents, but demands on their time and heavy workloads meant they struggled.

An opportunity was also missed because a meeting was not held when mum and baby were discharged from the maternity ward, which could have clarified the position of supervised contact between baby and father.

There were also no discussions between the community midwife and health visitor surrounding arrangements, or contact with either mother or father’s GP.

The report says the poor performance of children’s services has resulted in a loss of confidence by professional colleagues.

It adds it was not until later in the review process that health professionals recognised the similarities between the injuries of the man’s older child and his baby.

The report also states a health visitor had a “gut feeling” about the mother and baby, but had no evidence to back it up, but had she been aware of the father’s history, would have pursued her instinct.

One of the points the agencies have pledged to work on is encouraging workers to use their “nous” to ensure they get the full picture.

The report concludes: “This review is a stark reminder to professionals of the importance of not only sharing information, but also questioning what is being shared and on what basis decision and actions are undertaken. This requires the continued acceptance that safeguarding children is a responsibility shared by all agencies.”