Toddler Dies While Foster Parents Party

Toddler drowned in pool as her foster parents partied

A toddler who had been taken into care died after being found floating in her foster parents’ swimming pool.
Anna Hider, 17 months, was discovered unconscious in the water by the couple at their home in Hampshire on Sunday evening.

She was taken to the Queen Alexandra Hospital in nearby Portsmouth, but was pronounced dead an hour later.

Last night, Anna’s devastated parents blamed the decision to take their daughter into care for her death.

It is believed the foster family were entertaining guests at a party at the house when the tragedy unfolded.

The case again throws the spotlight on to the care system and the apparent ease with which children can be taken from their birth parents.

It is less than a week since a Daily Mail special report outlined how dozens of children are allegedly being taken from their parents to be placed for adoption, often on the back of the flimsiest of allegations and, at times, mere hearsay.

Anna, her seven-year-old sister, and her 13-year-old brother were taken into care last year. The girls had been placed with separate foster families while the boy has been living in a care home.

Last night, their mother, Emma Hider, told the Mail how she had been fighting for Anna’s return when she died.

Mrs Hider, 31, from Paulsgrove in Portsmouth, said: “I got a phone call last night saying that Anna was in hospital.

‘The next thing I knew, she was dead. They told me over the phone as I was on my way into the hospital.

“I’m angry and I want the truth. I want to know how my beloved daughter ended up face down in someone’s swimming pool. I just cannot understand how she is dead.”

Anna had been made the subject of an interim care order, which precedes a full care order and gives local authorities the power to share or take full parental responsibility for a child or children.

Mrs Hider, who is unemployed, said she was allowed to see Anna every weekday and spoke to her on the phone at weekends. She added that she never missed a visit.

She described how Anna “loved animals” and was “always laughing and interested in the world around her”.

Mrs Hider went on: “I want everyone to know what social services are like. If Anna was still in my care she would be alive now.”

She said social services had not allowed her to break the news to her other two children, who have different fathers.

Anna’s father, Clyde Massiah, 45, had split up with Mrs Hider and lives in Oswestry in Shropshire.

Mr Massiah, also unemployed, said he believed the foster family were entertaining guests at a party when Anna woke up and walked downstairs to the swimming room.

He added: “They [the foster parents] have got plenty of money – and caring is supposed to be their job.”

The couple refused to discuss the circumstances surrounding their children being taken into care.

But a neighbour told the Mail the children were taken away last summer, after concerns were raised at the school of one of the older children.

A spokesman for Portsmouth City Council, which is responsible for adoption in the city, refused to comment on Anna’s care history, or what led her to be taken from her mother.

But councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the leader of the council, offered “sincere condolences” to Anna’s family.

He added: “In Portsmouth, we make every effort to keep children with their natural parents-Care proceedings are taken only when there’s strong evidence that these are in the child’s best interests.”

The Mail has repeatedly highlighted the secrecy surrounding care and adoption proceedings. Parents have had their children taken away after being judged not “clever” enough to raise them, or even because of financial hardship.

This month the Mail also revealed how some councils are being offered bonuses worth as much as £2million over three years if they meet targets to raise the number of adoptions by 50 per cent.

Since the article around 100 readers have contacted us saying their children had been taken without good reason.

Labour’s adoption targets were intended to lift more older children out of care.

But critics say councils, encouraged by the promise of extra cash, have merely earmarked those children who were easiest to place in adoptive homes – babies and toddlers – while the older children remained in care. In the year to March 2006, there were 3,700 adoptions from care in England.

Across the UK, there are around 5,000 children waiting for adoption, and 80,000 in the care of local authorities – two thirds of whom will be placed with foster parents.

A spokesman for Hampshire Police said initial investigations into Anna’s death suggested a “tragic accident”.

A post-mortem will be conducted and an inquest has been opened and adjourned.

Child in foster care dies after being found in swimming pool

A 17-month-old girl has died after being found floating in a swimming pool while in the care of her foster parents. Anna Hider was found unconscious in the garden pool at their home in Havant, Hampshire, on Sunday evening.

A police spokeswoman said attempts were made to resuscitate the child after she was found shortly before 9pm. Paramedics took over when they arrived and she was taken to Queen Alexandra hospital, Portsmouth, where she died an hour later.Police said yesterday the death was being treated as an accident and there were no suspicious circumstances, but they were investigating the circumstances on behalf of the coroner. A postmortem examination will take place.

The child’s mother, Emma Hider, 31, said yesterday that she had been negotiating with Portsmouth social services for a year to regain custody of her daughter, who was placed in care last summer.

“I thought she was going to be safe and now I am going to have to bury my daughter. I am so angry and I want to know the truth,” she said. “I want to know how my beloved daughter ended up face down in someone’s swimming pool. I just cannot understand how she is dead.

“Anna should never have been taken off me. If she was still in my care she would still be alive.

“She was a beautiful little angel with a love for life. I just remember her with a big smile on her face – she was always laughing and loved animals.”

Ms Hider has two other children who are in foster care.

Anna’s father, Clyde Massiah, 45, said: “I want some answers about what happened to Anna. How she can be in care of social services and end up dying? I feel we have been let down by them.

“I have not even been spoken to by them and I am the father.”

Police have decided not to release the address where the child died.

“Due to the sensitive nature of this inquiry and the sensitive circumstances surrounding it we will not be releasing the address of where this occurred,” a police spokeswoman said. “It’s not in the public interest to release the information. It would do more harm than good.”

Portsmouth city council said the authority would carry out a review into what had happened.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the family of the child who tragically died yesterday,” council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said in a statement.

“The child was the subject of an interim care order. We are offering every support possible to all those who have been affected by this.

“We are liaising closely with the police, who are investigating the full circumstances of this tragic incident.

“We understand that there will be an inquest and the city council will also carry out our own review of the circumstances.”

Lee Glendinning
Tuesday July 31, 2007
The Guardian

Mother may sue over baby who drowned in foster care
The mother of a toddler who drowned in a swimming pool while in foster care may take legal action over the tragedy.

Anna Hider, 17 months, was found unconscious in her foster parents’ pool at their home in Hampshire on Sunday evening during a ‘family get-together’.

She was taken to Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital, but died an hour later. Police are investigating the circumstances of the death.

Anna’s biological mother, Emma Hider, 31, said yesterday she was consulting lawyers, explaining: “I feel really angry. I want justice done. I want to know what, where, why and how.”

Speaking at her flat in Havant, Miss Hider said she had been ‘very close’ to getting Anna back from Portsmouth Council’s social services department, whom she accused of “mucking her around”.

Of Anna’s foster mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, Miss Hider said: “I’m not trying to say she’s a bad foster carer. I want her to go to the funeral because if she doesn’t, it’s just going to eat her up.

“She brought my daughter up for the last year. She was getting her dressed, putting her to bed.

“In a way I hate her but in a way she still needs to say goodbye.

“She has a heart of gold. She must be going through hell at the moment just like I am. But why wasn’t that pool covered? Why wasn’t she being supervised?

“When you’re a foster parent you have to have eyes in the back of your head.

“They’ve got to take even more special care. They get paid loads a week to look after that child.”

Anna’s biological father, fairground worker Clyde Massiah, 45, said: “All we have is memories now until we lay her to rest. Emma went straight away to see about getting a tattoo done in memory of the little one.”

Of her plans for the “perfect funeral”, Miss Hider – whose other children, aged seven and 13, are also in care – said: “I want a glass coach and horses. I want everyone to wear bright colours.

“Anna never wore black so why should anyone else?”

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