Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Teresa Cooper, 41, who blames drugging at Kendall House for the fact her three children born with defects

Jenny Booth

The practice of sedating troublesome teenagers in care homes was today being linked to birth defects after ten women came forward to complain that their children had been born damaged.

As teenagers at the Church of England-run Kendall House in Gravesend, Kent, the ten were routinely restrained with huge doses of tranquillisers and other drugs.

Sedating children was allegedly commonplace in care homes during the 1970s and 1980s, although the levels of drugging at Kendall House,a home for girls with problems, appear to have been unusual.

Now fears are surfacing that the drugging may have impaired the girls' chances of having healthy babies. The alarm was raised by Teresa Cooper, who left the home in 1984 at 16, and has since written Trust No One - a book about her experiences.

Ms Cooper's three children all have birth defects. Her eldest son was born with respiratory difficulties, her second son is blind and has learning difficulties, and her daughter was born with a cleft palate and a short lower jaw.

Files from Kendall House show that she was given medication at least 1,248 times over a 32-month period, including anti-psychotic drugs intended for schizophrenics, drugs to counter side-effects, sedatives and anti-depressants, the BBC reported today. The dosages were high - she was given up to 10 times the current recommended dose of Valium.

Since her book was published, Ms Cooper says, nine further former residents of Kendall House, who all underwent similar drugging, have been in touch with her to report having children with brain tumours, learning difficulties and cleft palate.

Ofsted, the schools and childcare inspectorate, says that hundreds of children may have been drugged in the care system throughout the 70s and 80s, subjecting them to possible health risks.

Mike Lindsay, national co-ordinator for Children’s Rights Alliance for England, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Using drugs to control the behaviour of children was perfectly acceptable as far as their own professional understanding at that time went."

In 1980, Kendall House became the focus of national controversy when the levels of drugs being prescribed by psychiatrist Dr Mahenthiran Perinpanayagam were revealed in a TV documentary.

Healthy girls in his care were given pills designed for schizophrenics, psychotics and Parkinson's sufferers, and the teenagers were often held down and forced to take them, the documentary said.

By 1984 a report into the home by the Department of Health and Social Security was scathing about the drugs given to the girls. Inspector Dr Dorothy Black said she was extremely concerned about "storage, monitoring and administration of psychotropic drugs", adding: "The home needs close and urgent attention."

Full article here: Times Online