There's been a couple of instances recently in the news where young children have been either neglected or actively abused by family members leading to the deaths of the children.
One of the things I found hardest to get to grips with after joining the job was coming face to face with this sort of depravity and not throwing the parent out of the nearest window. I couldn't understand how an adult could treat any child so badly, never mind their own. But there were lots and lots of examples of how wrong I was. Still, I never quite got used to it.
One particular time, we'd been looking for a guy who was wanted for theft and burglary and we knew he spent a lot of time at a particular house. The woman who lived there, we'll call her "Sara", was a raging heroin addict and had four kids. The youngest was still in nappies and the eldest about fourteen. Her place was basically an open house for any drug addled low life in the area and when her benefits couldn't stretch to her heroin she paid for them by whoring herself to the other users and anyone else she could find. She'd do this at home with the kiddies still in the house.
Anyway, we'd gone round there and put containment on the house to stop the bloke we were looking for skipping over the back wall. I knocked on the door and, after being told to "f*ck off" several times I persuaded Sara that it would be easier if she opened the door from the inside rather than us doing it from the outside.
I walked in and the sight I was met with was enough to block out the abuse she was giving me from about six inches away. As she called me every name under the Sun, including a few I'd never heard before, screaming into my ear I gazed around her "home".
The kitchen was covered in dirty clothes and dirty plates and pans. To the point that you couldn't see any of the work tops and most of the floor. There were flies, living and dead, all over and a small army of ants working their way around the days old rotting food. Turning left, I walked down the hall into her "living room". I call it that, but the only things actually living there were probably what Tony Blair was searching for in Iraq. The sofas were taken up by a group of heroin addicts I was on nodding terms with and they were engrossed in the football. I said hello to them as I looked behind the sofa for the chap we were looking for.
Instead, I found Sara's youngest, filthy dirty and with a nappy overflowing with piss and shit. He gave me a big smile and wave. His hands were black with ingrained dirt.
Sara's carpet was purple originally, but in most places had either worn away or was now more of a browny black colour. There was a stench of human fecaes that made me retch. I asked one of the bobbies with me to wait in the living room and I walked upstairs. Again, the carpet had all but worn away. On the landing there was an ironing board set up and, on the ironing board a large saucepan. Sticking out of the pan was a wooden spoon. I looked inside and saw it contained some rice krispies and milk that had long since gone off. The stink of the sour milk did help to cover the smell of urine from the bedrooms though so small mercies...
The bathroom was more filthy than the living room, the toilet caked in brown stains and the bath full of more dirty clothes. The bedrooms were equally bad, with matresses on the floor barely covered by dirty sheets. Again, the floors were covered in dirty clothes and half eaten takeaway meals.
Sara's room, unsurprisingly, was the cleanest of the lot. That said, it still stank of sweat, dirt and recently burned heroin. I prodded around the rooms with my stick and we eventually found the bloke we were looking for hiding in a cupboard set into the wall in one of the kid's bedrooms. Considering he was going to go to prison, he was remarkably compliant. I put this down to the fact he was close to passing out due to the smell. In fact, he perked up enough to put up a bit of a fight one he'd had some fresh air.
We obviously removed the kids that were there under a Police Protection Order and Sara kicked right off. The loving, caring mother was probably stressed about losing her child benefit payments. As I carried the toddler out (admittedly at arms length. I mean, I like kids as much as the next person but...) Sara was again screaming at me as she was held back by a bobby and one of her smack head mates. The temptation to drag her upstairs and stick her face in the pan on the ironing board was almost overwhelming.
Instead, as she followed me outside and played up to the growing audience of jeering anti-Police neighbours I instead just pointed out, loud enough for them to hear, why exactly I was taking her children away. All of a sudden the neighbours weren't quite as supportive of her.
As we drove away we felt like we'd done a good job all round and I definately didn't mind filling in the paperwork for Social Services to follow up on our P.P.O. Thing is, within a week, the kids were back living in the slum after Sara had given "assurances" to the social workers. Still, we felt like we'd done our bit and at least we knew to keep an eye on the kiddies in the future.
I bumped into her eldest not long ago. She'd left Sara's as soon as she could and got a place at a hostel for young people. She found a job and started a college course and she's doing OK. She's been in trouble once or twice, but not for anything particularly bad and I felt really proud of her. She's beaten the odds and I just hope her brothers and sisters do too.