December 14, 2015

Significant increase in new born babies taken into care

Cases have more than doubled between 2008 and 2013, rising from 802 to 2,018. This significant increase has been described as disproportionate, compared to the rise in the number of older children made subject to care proceedings and removed from their parents.

Half of the new born babies that were put into care were removed from mothers of children who had already been subject to care proceedings.

It appears to be more common for a mother whose child has been removed to fall pregnant soon after the conclusion of the care proceedings, in the same way as the mother of stillborn child might seek another pregnancy as a way of coping with the loss.

Unfortunately, the subsequent pregnancy might come before a mother has had a chance to address the issues of neglect, mental health, domestic violence, or substance abuse which had led to the removal of the previous child. A mother who is already ‘in the system’ with a child in care will already be known to social services so they will already hold a lot of the information required to make a decision regarding the newborn. The time of the pregnancy will also be available for social services to make further investigations.

The removal of two (or more) children from the same mother might seem extremely unfair. However, it is the welfare of the child which is paramount. The removal of any child, whatever their age, is a drastic and traumatic step. When there are serious concerns about a mother’s ability to care, the removal at a newborn stage will often be in the child’s best interest.

There is little support for mothers in these circumstances, although it is hoped that a project called Pause will highlight the work needed. Pause provides an intense programme of support and aims to break the cycle and give women the opportunity to reflect and tackle destructive patterns of behaviour. More information can be found on the Pause website.

I have worked with many women who find themselves in this cycle and it is important to get urgent legal advice if social services are involved.

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