Glasgow & West Scotland

Foster carer killing: Good practice not followed for placement

Dawn McKenzie, 34
Image caption Dawn McKenzie, 34, was stabbed by the 13 year old in her home in Hamilton in 2011.

A fatal accident inquiry has heard that the way a foster placement was sourced, for a child who later killed his foster mother, was not good practice.

The 13-year-old boy, who is not named for legal reasons, was placed with Dawn McKenzie 34, and her husband in Hamilton in November 2010.

The child stabbed Mrs McKenzie to death in her home seven months later.

Giving evidence, social worker Steven Lorimer said he had not been involved in matching the boy with the McKenzies.

Mr Lorimer, who had been the boy's designated social worker since June 2009, told the inquiry that the couple were only found days before the child moved to live with them.

He added that had not himself met Dawn McKenzie and her husband prior to the child being placed in their care.

Key meetings missed

Mr Lorimer said that no choice of carers had been offered, which he said would be preferable when matching a child to a placement.

The social worker, who is employed by Glasgow City Council, told the inquiry that he had been due to visit the McKenzies soon after the after the boy was moved.

However this and other key meetings were missed due to snowfall during the winter of 2010, when council staff were advised 'to travel in emergencies only'.

The inquiry also heard that despite the council's own policy stating that a planning meeting with the agencies involved in the child's care plan should have been held within 48 hours of the move, this again did not happen because of the snow.

Mr Lorimer said his first meeting with the McKenzies did not come about until the 18 January - more than six weeks after the boy had moved to live with them.

He added that this meeting occurred at a children's hearing, and not at the couple's home.

Mr Lorimer also admitted to the inquiry that he did not visit the boy at the McKenzie's home every four weeks, as he should have done. He said he was not trying to make excuses, but that this was due to his heavy caseload at the time.

But he said that despite this he did telephone the house a "normal amount".

Positive placement

Mr Lorimer later described the boy's case as "settled" in April 2011.

He said the child had become a little bit more confident and from what he observed he was doing well in his placement.

The boy was attending school, not engaging in criminal activity, took pride in his appearance and appeared settled after his adverse childhood, Mr Lorimer said.

The month before the boy killed Mrs McKenzie "all his needs were being met" by the "by-and-large positive placement".

Mr Lorimer said there were occasions when the child would test the boundaries, for example he would sometimes answer back and would sometimes have time-outs in his bedroom.

A meeting of professionals about the boy on 15 June 2011 concluded he was thriving and there should be no plans for his placement to be changed.

Dawn McKenzie had her first serious issue with the boy that evening.

He had been in contact with his mother on Facebook.

This was not allowed under a supervision order.

The child was only allowed contact with his mother in specific contact visits at the social work office.

Mrs McKenzie confiscated the laptop. She discussed this with Mr Lorimer who told her to tell the boy that it was his instruction to take the laptop from him.

Mr Lorimer said the boy had accepted the sanction. It was not meant to be a long-term sanction.

The inquiry in Motherwell continues.

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