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Friday, June 15, 2012

Dennis and Terence O'Neill

During World War II Dennis O'Neill was murdered by Mr. and Mrs. Gough. The death occurred in rural England. It occurred while these two boys were placed with them as foster children. During their stay with the Goughs, two other foster children were removed from their care as the home was deemed as quite unfit. Dennis died but his brother Terence barely survived. On the very, very few occasions that child protection systems interviewed the boys, they were either under the watch of the Goughs or were too afraid to speak up. The abuse grew over time until the brutal night that Dennis would be killed.

What is fascinating about this case is the amazing similarity to present day cases - children who were moved about within the foster care system; rarely seen by child protection workers; failure of information to properly flow between those who could have saved Dennis; failure to properly inspect the Gough house; failure to have the children properly assessed by a physician.

It is sad to see, some 60+ years later, the same mistakes being made by child protection systems.

Terence O'Neill has written an autobiography of his story in the book, Someone to Love Us. In it he tells of the unstable journey through the child protection system of the day. What is even more fascinating, is the story of his life afterwards. He wrote the book only a few years ago - in his seventies.  In the book, you get to experience the trauma and its legacies throughout the lifespan. How the damages of childhood becomes the hungry ghost of adulthood.

This is a book that anyone interested in child protection should read.

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