Tragedy as foster mum dies

A FOSTER mother hanged herself after three children were removed from her care by social workers.

Denise Horsfield became depressed by the break-up of her foster family and, despite the intervention of psychiatric nurses, she believed her chances of adopting one of the children had gone for good.

The 52-year-old was found hanged in the garage of her Bessacarr home two days after the third child, a six-year-old girl, had been taken from the house.

Mrs Horsfield’s husband, John, a retired prison officer, broke down several times as he told the Doncaster inquest how badly his wife was affected by the events leading up to her death on April 15.

Mr Horsfield, of Howden Close, said their problems began before last Christmas when a 14-year-old girl, who they had fostered for seven years, was taken from them along with her young baby after an assessment by social workers.

“We were told they wouldn’t be coming back to us,” Mr Horsfield said. “Denise couldn’t accept that, she couldn’t understand it. She had a feeling of injustice about how it was managed, and she was bothered about the kiddies as well.”

The couple had also fostered a six-year-old for two years, and decided to try to adopt her after Mr Horsfield took early retirement.

He said the process was stressful and intrusive and the more often they were visited by adoption workers the more Mrs Horsfield became convinced they would not be able to keep the child.

Mrs Horsfield was unable to sleep properly because of worrying about the situation and on April 5 was found on a motorway bridge, unable to explain what she was doing there.

Her husband took her to hospital where she was given anti-depressants but a week later he heard a bang from upstairs and found her trying to hang herself from a bedroom door.

“I couldn’t get a reason from her. She just said they were taking the children away. She’d got it into her head we were going to lose the daughter we hoped to adopt,” he said.

The next day social workers came to the house and took the child and her belongings away and the psychiatric crisis team visited and gave her more medication. The following night she got up while her husband was asleep and, in the morning, he found her hanged from the garage roof.

An independent inquiry carried out afterwards by James Mitchell, from North Lincolnshire NHS Trust, established the crisis team had reported Mrs Horsfield was at risk of self-harm if the child was taken from their care but Mr Horsfield said he would be able to take care of her because he was at home.

Doncaster coroner Nicola Mundy said the removal of the children had a “profound effect” on Mrs Horsfield and she was having increasing difficulty coping with life. Because she did not leave a suicide note and both the hanging attempts had taken place when her husband was at home, Ms Mundy she had doubts about whether she intended to kill herself and recorded an open verdict.