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Impact on women when a child is removed from their care – urgent analysis required

A new study led by Professor Karen Broadhurst of Lancaster University and funded by the Nuffield Centre has found that 1 in 4 women who has had a child removed from their care will return to the family court. This increases to 1 in 3 when the first pregnancy happens when the mother is a teenager. The study finds that it is often the case that a mother will become pregnant during or shortly after care proceedings have finished, with a similar outcome of removal for the second and subsequent babies.

The loss of a child in this manner is undoubtedly one of the most traumatic experiences a person can have. In most cases, a mother will not intentionally set out to harm their child. On the contrary, they love the child and want more than anything to be a good mother. However, because of their own difficulties, often as a result of mental health issues or a troubled childhood of their own, they are simply not equipped to meet the needs of their child. In cases where the court has approved an adoption, the mother can usually expect to have no direct contact with the child for the duration of their childhood, if at all. This is an extraordinary loss, and makes the cyclical nature of care proceedings even more troubling.

The underlying reasons that lead to a mother getting involved in these situations are seldom addressed effectively within the arena of care proceedings. The most prominent exception to that is the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) whose staff work intensively with parents with substance misuse problems over the course of the proceedings. For the many mothers that do not fall into this category or do not have the opportunity to work with FDAC, it is generally the case that they are left largely unsupported once care proceedings conclude with the permanent removal of their child. We are left with a vulnerable person experiencing such incredible loss fending for themselves. This study shows us that there is an urgent need to analyse these cases and understand better what resources can be put in place to support these mothers at this difficult time in their lives.