Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Indifferent

This is an update post on the story of Glory Anawa and her 12 week old daughter Tracy.

As I said at the end of the last blog, when I published Glory's request for lactation support for her daughter, we needed to give the authorities time to respond.

Some responses were excellent, and very encouraging. Brian Pollett, Head of Detention Services, personally responded to me within moments of the cc going out to him. The office of Al Aynsley-Green, The Children's Commissioner was just as quick to email the next morning. Both are actively looking into the case. The Children's Commission does not work on individual cases, so their involvement is in terms of the overall practises in Yarl's Wood.

Eric, Lord Avebury, who works on Borders and Immigration Authority practises, has been highly active is seeking out the facts of the multi-agency involvement in the removal and separation. There appears to have been a breakdown in BIA paperwork over the removal of a breastfeeding baby. Updated regulations on the processing of a separated dyad, which Lord Avebury helped instigate as part of the issues that arose with the Janipher Maseko case, may not have been followed fully. Investigation on this is still being pursued. It has only been 3 working days since we became aware of the situation.

Also, it's probably the first time these precise requirements will have been applied - Government are fond of claiming all separations of breastfeeding babies are 'isolated incidents' even when it's obvious that's not so - therefore it's vital that it's clear what should have happened, and when, and if there are gaps, that they are plugged. So that process may take quite a lot of time. I will blog about this fully after the short break I'm about to take: Watch This Space.

Patti Rundall at Baby Milk Action, also responded quickly, and has had direct discussions with Yarl's Wood Health Care.

The Black Women's Rape Action Project have continued to support Glory, and are trying to collect all the data needed to present clear cases for all the lawyers concerned.

Bedfordshire Social Services, in the form of the Child Protection Team, who had been called in on the accusation of harm, were extremely helpful and supportive of my attempts to sort out what had happened. They revealed that Tracy's status as a breastfeeding baby had been considered in foster arrangements, and they had attempted to get Tracy back to Glory for more than one long visit a day, but it hadn't been feasible.

They also stated that Yarl's Wood Health Care had suggested expressing milk to Glory, and Glory had responded negatively. I was incredibly happy to hear about this offer, as it does show that there has been progress in many ways. The fact that Yarl's Wood and Beds Social Services sat down and talked about specific breastfeeding support is just wonderful, and I have already congratulated both services.

However, the fact that Glory Anawa does not remember these discussion at all, is less good. How does a traumatised mother, who's just had her baby removed, and who is in a detention centre awaiting deportation, hear things? It's an interesting question, and one I think that is going to take a long time to unpick. I have tried to visit Glory again to discuss it, but processes inside Yarl's Wood appear to have gotten a bit mixed up, and although I sat in the Visitor's Hall for 40 long minutes, Yarl's Wood didn't manage to get the message through to Glory that I was there, even 'tho she knew I was coming. I'm seeing her again tomorrow. I'm sure Yarl's Wood will manage to make sure she makes it to the Visitor's Hall this time...

What definitely hasn't happened yet, however, is any lactation support for Tracy. I've written to Yarl's Wood Health Care, as chair of Nursing Matters, and requested such immediately, as well as asked for detailed information on what did happen, and what support was offered Glory when Tracy was taken, how they presented the offer to express, and what management plan they had for Tracy's return to her mother, and her breast.

Unfortunately, Yarl's Wood Health Care have been the most difficult to get a response from, and I suspect it may be some time before all the points are addressed. In terms of the overall issues, and improving things further, there is time.

In terms of Tracy's continued need to supplement with formula whilst she still is not back to exclusively breastfeeding ... there is less time. And so far, on that crucial point... nothing has happened.

Medical Justice attempted to arrange an independent health practitioner to go in and visit them both today, but the paperwork couldn't be processed as... Glory was in the same knot of being sent from one office to the other in order to receive the paperwork to request the visit... that prevented Yarl's Wood staff from telling her I was in the Visitor's Hall.

So they will now be going in some time next week, to review the paperwork and meet with Glory and Tracy.

So we wait... and hope... that the authorities are not just responding... but doing something... I'll keep you posted. Given the responses, I do feel we need to give them all a just a bit more time.

Here's hoping Brian Pollett and Detention Services don't let Tracy down....

Friday, 11 April 2008

Letter From Yarl's Wood

Glory Anawa
Room 137
Yarl's Wood International Detention Centre
April 11th, 2008

To: Sue Jones, Health Services, YW IDC
cc: Alastair Burt, MP for Bedfordshire
Brian Pollett, Head of Detention Services
Al Aynsley-Green, The Children's Commissioner
Morgan Gallagher, Nursing Matters
Baby Milk Action

Dear Ms Jones,

I would like to make a formal complaint about lack of lactation support for my daughter Tracy. I would also like to request immediate lactation support to help her.

When Tracy was removed from me, you did give me a pump for my breast but no one showed me how to use it. You did not tell me I needed to pump at least 8 x per 24 hours to protect Tracy's milk supply. You did not collect my milk and arrange for it to be given to Tracy.

When she was returned to me, no one gave her or me lactation support on latch and milk supply. No one offered me an SNS to help supplement with formula whilst my milk supply built back up. Tracy no longer opens her mouth wide enough to latch properly and I need qualified lactation support to help us both.

Neither did Tracy get bottle teats appropriate to a breastfeeding baby. I do not want my daughter to still need formula and I need support immediately to allow Tracy to only be breastfed.

You have not informed me that formula milk can only be used for one hour and then thrown away. I am making a formal complaint about this and asking for proper formula prep in accordance with WHO and NHS guidelines.

I have complained before about problems with breastfeeding and about how small Tracy was when she was returned. I was sent a man to help me with Tracy but I had to complain to Vicky Morry about having a man in my room when Tracy was breastfeeding. She arranged for him to leave my room when Tracy fed.

My daughter needs help concerning breastfeeding and I am not in any position to help her as I have not been informed what to do.

Please help Tracy.

Glory Anawa

- - - - - -

I visited Tracy and Glory today at Yarl's Wood IDC, and Glory wrote this letter and asked me to pass it onto those named. Glory is 23 and Tracy is 12 weeks old. Glory was in Yarl's Wood until she was 8 months and 2 weeks pregnant, then she was released.

When Tracy was 6 weeks old, Glory was returned to Yarl's Wood with Tracy in her arms. A guard claimed she'd been rough with Tracy, and the next day, Tracy was taken from her, and Glory was placed in solitary confinement, her food and drink served to her through a slot in the door.

When her breasts began to ache with milk, Glory asked for help, and was passed through the door, a hand breast pump and told to express off enough to keep her comfortable. No one told her she needed to pump to save her supply, or to help prevent mastitis. No instructions were given with it - just the pump.

Tracy was brought to her once a day, for an access visit.

After four long weeks, Tracy was returned to Glory, and they were sent back to the family unit. No lactation support was given to a traumatised 10 week old baby, who had lost most of her access to her mother and had been bottle fed formula with no respect for her status as a breastfeeding baby.

No help was given on nipple confusion or encouraging a proper breastfeeding latch after four weeks on a bottle. 2 weeks later, Tracy is still not comfortable on the breast, and still receiving formula supplement.

Yarl's Wood make the formula centrally and hand it out. The mothers then carry it around the family unit, keeping it in their rooms, until it is all used up and they ask for more. No-one has informed them of the risks of contaminated formula. They cannot see if the formula has been made with the correct temperature of water to kill off bacteria in the powder. They cannot keep the milk cool in their rooms whilst they wait for baby to be hungry and need another feed. They are not told they must throw the milk away after an hour, and ask for a fresh batch to be made up.

They have no choice on how it is prepared.

I forgot to ask Glory if she gets proper food and fluids when she's locked up at night, as all breastfeeding mothers should have. Yarl's Wood were not doing this when Janipher Maseko was in the same position last year. When we, and dozens of lactation specialists around the world informed Yarl's Wood on the correct and proper care of a breastfeeding baby and the mother.

When they were told about the need for a proper pumping regime during separation, the need to collect and store milk for the baby, the need for a proper lactation specialist to help the baby back to the breast.

I personally told Sue Jones this to her face, in a meeting at Yarl's Wood with her deputy John Hayes and in the presence of Janipher Maseko.

Yet, when I spoke to her on the phone yesterday, and asked her why she had not arranged proper lactation support for Tracy, her answer, and I quote directly here, was "We are not aware she needed a lactation specialist."

How can the head of medical services, in charge of taking care of newborns, not know that when an exclusively breastfeeding baby has been forcibly separated from her mother, and forced to formula feed by bottle, for four weeks, that this baby will need lactation support in order to get back to the breast? How can she not know the mother will need a proper pumping schedule to maintain supply? How can she not know that the mother is at risk of infection if proper pumping is not done? How can she not know that the mother has a right to have the milk collected given to her baby?

How can the person in charge of knowing what medical care a detainee has, not know this?

Especially when she'd been told in writing, and on the phone, and to her face, the previous year? By renowned lactation experts who took the trouble to write, email and fax from all over the world?

How can this have happened.... again?

I'm visiting Tracy and Glory on Monday. Hopefully, by then, they'll have had the qualified lactation support they need. I did give Glory some printed information from Dr Jack Newman's website. Hopefully, this might help them out as they struggle on without any support or concern from the people in charge of caring for them....

In the meantime, there are two organisations who need your support in helping Tracy and Glory. The Black Women's Rape Action Project, who were instrumental in supporting Janipher and Collin Maseko, are now trying to find Glory and Tracy legal representation and are campaigning for their release from Yarl's Wood as it is unsuitable for Tracy and her needs.

Help them do this by donating money. They work tirelessly to support mothers such as Glory, and do so without a penny from anywhere. They desperately need a fiver from you. Donate online here, or send them some money in the post. Do it now! :-)

It was actually Medical Justice who brought Tracy's plight to our attention yesterday. They campaign for proper medical care for asylum seekers. They too are volunteers, and work without a penny from anywhere. They are also in desperate need of trained medical volunteers to join them.

I'll update as this shameful saga unfolds... we need to give the authorities time to respond appropriately. So we'll see what's happened by my next visit on Monday. Again, if you want to help Tracy and her Mum - send BWRAP some dosh!

Morgan Gallagher - www.NursingMatters.org.uk