THE death of a woman killed by her first foster child – a 13-year-old boy – might have been avoided had the placement agency taken into account the couple’s lack of fostering experience, a sheriff has found.
Dawn McKenzie, 34, was stabbed by the teenager she and her husband Bryan were looking after at their home in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, in June 2011.
The boy, referred to only as child D, was detained for seven years in 2012 after admitting culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
A fatal accident inquiry into Mrs McKenzie’s death was held earlier this year before Sheriff David Bicket in Motherwell.
He said had Foster Care Associates Scotland (FCAS), an independent fostering agency which arranged placements for Glasgow City Council (GCC), “taken proper account” of the couple’s relative inexperience, her death may have been avoided.
Mrs McKenzie applied to FCAS after seeing a newspaper advertisement. The couple expressed a preference to foster children aged between one and eight but the older boy, who had a troubled background, was placed with them in November 2010.
The sheriff found there were “no defects in a system of working” which contributed to the death of Mrs McKenzie. He said: “No-one could have predicted that child D would have acted in the way in which he did, and no-one could have predicted the tragic consequences for a dedicated and caring foster carer such as Dawn McKenzie.
“It is clear that both GCC and FCAS take their responsibilities extremely seriously and they have taken on board changes needed to practice and to promote the safety of foster carers and children in care.”
But he added: “The death of Mrs McKenzie might have been avoided if Foster Care Associates Scotland … had taken proper account of Mr and Mrs McKenzie’s status as new carers, and lack of suitable prior experience of adolescent aged children such as child D and accordingly had not recommended them as suitable prospective carers for child D.”
The inquiry was told that, in the days before she died, Mrs McKenzie had confiscated the boy’s laptop and mobile phone after discovering he was having unsupervised Facebook contact with his mother.
On the day of the attack he had been grounded after failing to return from school on time.
Mr McKenzie had left the house to spend the evening with his brother-in-law when his wife was stabbed ten times, including a fatal wound to the abdomen.
A significant case review found in 2013 that shortages in staffing and resources affected the care of the boy in question.
Estella Abraham, chief executive of Foster Care Associates Scotland, said: “Dawn McKenzie was highly regarded as a child care worker before becoming a foster carer with FCA Scotland.
“The conclusion of the inquiry was that Dawn’s death was the result of an entirely unpredictable event.”
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “While Sheriff Bicket is clear that nothing could have predicted this tragedy, we believe it is appropriate to take time to give his findings the consideration they deserve before commenting.”