‘Huge rise’ in newborn babies subject to care proceedings
14 December 2015
- From the section UK
There has been a “huge” rise in the number of newborns who are subject to care proceedings in England, according to figures compiled for the first time.
Some 2,018 babies were involved in such cases at birth or soon afterwards in 2013, compared with 802 in 2008, the University of Lancaster report said.
About half were taken from mothers with other children in care. A third were from women who became mothers as teens.
Most babies would have been taken into care at hospital, the report said.
The figures, compiled for the first time using original family court records, showed a total of 13,248 babies were taken into care between 2007 and 2014 at birth or shortly after.
Dr Karen Broadhurst, who has been leading the research at the University of Lancaster, described the rise as “huge”, adding: “We know generally there’s an increase in children coming into care. But this group is disproportionately increasing.
“Some mothers are caught in a destructive cycle: their child’s taken into care, because of neglect or abuse, they quickly become pregnant again without changing their outlook or circumstances.
“Social workers take their next baby away at birth – and the next.”
Louise, who is in her early twenties, was sexually abused from the age of seven.
At 11 she ran away from home, and was placed in foster care but did not settle.
Over the next five years, she spent time in nearly 40 foster homes before going to live with a family member again.
Aged 18 she became pregnant and her son was born when she was 19.
“I started leaving him with other people because whenever he cried I just wanted to pick him up and shake him – and I shouldn’t have been doing that as a mum, I should have been protecting him and looking after him – but I was going out and getting drunk.
“The social services got involved because I was involved with them as a child. I didn’t have family support. I didn’t have nobody. I asked them for help but obviously it resulted in me losing my child.”
Shortly afterwards, she became pregnant again and was “over the moon” but she had her son taken away from her again by social workers.
“It tore me apart,” she said. “I just kept crying and crying. Even now – it doesn’t get any easier…”
Louise is now part of the Pause project in Doncaster, a scheme which helps women break the cycle of court proceedings and further pregnancies.
She said she was now planning to get a career and be more settled before having children again.
About 10% of the babies that are removed at birth will be returned to their mothers at the end of care proceedings.
Some may be looked after by other family members, while others may go into foster care or be placed for adoption.
Dr Broadhurst said there had been a “general trend towards taking more timely action, getting in there quicker”, which partly explained the increased number of newborn babies being placed into care.
But she said there was little research about why it was happening.
“That’s a key question for me. In the absence of any analysis research evidence, what more could we have done to prevent this huge increase?”
The Department for Education said it was aware of the problem and has given extra funding to projects such as Pause, and the family drug and alcohol court, which tries to help women who have successive children taken into care.
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