Twins who were beaten, abused, starved & driven to the brink of suicide by their FOSTER PARENTS
Mar 28 2010 Laura Armstrong
COMPENSATION AT LAST FOR…
Twin sisters Helen Stuckey and Sarah Walsh hugged each other with joy last week – unlike when they were little girls and hugged as they trembled with fear.
The reason for last week’s quiet embrace was that the 26-year-old sisters have finally won compensation from a council that put them in the care of the foster parents from hell.
From the age of two, Helen and Sarah were regularly beaten by the couple who should have given them a loving, protected life.
Both girls, who have bravely waived their anonymity, were also forced to perform sex acts on each other while their vile foster brother watched.
And Sarah was sexually abused by their twisted foster dad between the age of five and 16.
Staffordshire county council staff visited the children frequently but failed to spot warning signs.
These included both sisters trying to commit suicide DOZENS of times, SEVEN ignored reports of physical abuse and THREE disregarded admissions by their stepfather that he and his wife beat the kids.
Social services were unaware of the sexual abuse but Helen and Sarah claim it would never have happened if they been removed from the evil family’s care.
Helen told The People: “This battle was never about winning a large amount of money. For us it was our way of getting social services to admit blame for what happened to us.
“They will never admit blame – we understand that now – but in our minds this pay-out suggests they at least accept they were negligent.
“Now we can fully move on and try to forget those years of hell.”
The girls were placed with the foster parents in 1985 after their mother – a schizophrenic – was unable to look after them.
Almost immediately after they were taken in, the physical abuse started.
Sarah said: “If we hadn’t had each other, I honestly don’t think we would have survived. We were beaten and abused from almost day one.”
In 1988, social services admitted they were worried that the foster brother – then aged 15- was looking after the five-year-old twins during the day. But NO action was taken.
In 1993 the foster parents admitted to a social worker that the mother smacked them although carers are NOT supposed to use physical punishment. Again no action was taken.
Next year both parents agreed to stop using corporal punishment. This did NOT happen.
Shockingly, the girls weren’t only being physically abused. From 1988 until 1996 Sarah and Helen were forced to perform sex acts while their foster brother watched. Sarah was also sexually abused by her foster dad.
Sarah said: “We never did anything about it because we were too scared.”
Helen added: “Despite everything we have been through, we don’t want to be seen as victims because we know we are lucky to have escaped our foster family.
“But there must be thousands of helpless children out there trapped in abusive families.
“And one day we hope to change the law so that social services staff are required to take responsibility for the mistakes they make.”
Sarah continued: “Our foster mum was a nasty drinker and if she was drunk or hungover she would go after us with anything she could get.
“Whenever she did use her fists, she would wet them so the punch would hurt more, and then pull us upstairs by our hair.
“I wanted so badly for the beatings to stop, but we were frightened to say anything in case the social workers took us away and split us up.
“So instead we learnt to say nothing when we were beaten. And when it was over and we were alone, we would sit and cry together.
“I was so unhappy and frightened but knowing Helen was there holding my hand helped.”
Helen said: “It wasn’t just the beatings, it was the humiliation. We used to be called the waterworks by classmates because we’d always be crying when we arrived at school.
“And we never made friends because other children were too frightened to come to our house. They had seen the beatings, such as when our foster mum pulled Sarah outside by her shirt collar and slammed her up against a brick wall, screaming that she was a slag and telling her to p*** off.
“Other times we’d be banned from eating for ages, or made to eat until we were sick, just for trivial reasons. I remember once as a child eating Stork margarine with sugar on top because I was so hungry.
“I didn’t care that it made me feel sick, I was just so desperate that I just shovelled it in like an animal.”
The People knows the identity of the twins’ foster family but has decided not to name them for legal reasons.
Their foster mother is still inolved with children while their foster brother now has children of his own. Their foster father died of cancer seven years ago. Helen said: “It scares me to think that our foster mum is still working with young children.
“In the 15 years I lived with her she never once showed Sarah or me a shred of pity, let alone any love.
“If we sobbed when she hurt us, she would just hit harder.”
Sarah said: “The things our foster brother made us do was more confusing than anything else at first. But when my foster dad abused me, I felt sick and alone.”
Helen, tortured by the belief that she was to blame for her sister’s suffering, took an overdose of pills and cough mixture.
Sarah was thrown out by her foster mum when the twins were 16. The homeless teenager began cutting her wrists and was hospitalised after four overdoses.
She said: “After years of abuse I really believed what our foster parents had told us – we were worthless and there was no point in living. It was only when my foster dad died in 2003 I finally felt that I could open up about everything.”
In 2006 Helen and Sarah reported the abuse to police.
Their foster mum and brother were questioned but released without charge after the Crown Prosecution Service ruled there was a lack of evidence of the brother’s abuse and the time limit to prosecute the mother for assault had expired.
So the twins – now mums themselves – launched a claim against Staffordshire County Council.
Now they have received £70,000 compensation three weeks before the case was due to be heard in court.
The compensation is NOT for the abuse but for social services breaching their duty of care.
Sarah said: “Hearing the settlement had been reached was like having a 10-ton weight lifted.”
Helen added: “I still see our foster mum in the street sometimes and she laughs if she catches sight of me. But now I can put all the anger that I used to feel behind me.”
Staffordshire County Council said: “We made an out-of-court settlement but do not accept liability for the allegations which have never been proved. We have, however, offered the claimants help and support.
“The fostering service has come a very long way since the 1980s. We were inspected by Ofsted in 2009 and our fostering service was judged outstanding.”
Solicitor Richard Scorer of Manchester law firm Pannone said: “We were able to find information to support Helen and Sarah’s case.
“Although no amount of money can ever compensate for what they went through, I am pleased to have played a part in getting them justice .”