A report prepared by the University of Lancaster has indicated that in 2008 there were 802 babies involved in care proceedings from birth and more recently that number has sadly risen to 2,018.
Of these children approximately half were removed from the care of mother’s who already had other children in the care system and a third were from women who became mothers as teenagers.
This rising trend will probably come as no surprise to anyone who is involved in these matters but it will no doubt come as something of a shock to the wider public. It is without doubt that separation at birth is a traumatic and distressing experience for a parent.
There does however appear to be high incidents of this happening when older siblings have already been the subject of care proceedings. It is not unusual for further children to be born shortly afterwards. The mother might perhaps harbour a vain hope that this time she will be allowed to keep the baby. However, if the circumstances that had led to care orders for older children are still in place and nothing has actually changed then it is inevitable that there will be the same outcome.
Turning your life around can be very difficult and is usually impossible to do without professional help and support. But it can be done - as a lawyer acting for parents in care proceedings I have seen dramatic turnarounds.
However, the time for demonstrating that previous problems have been addressed is very limited and it is an extremely difficult task if the process only starts when care proceedings are already underway. The Court is required, except in exceptional circumstances, to conclude cases within 26 weeks and there are positive indications that most cases are concluding much sooner than 26 weeks.
While a child has a Social Worker it is quite unusual in care proceedings for the parent to have an adult Social Worker to provide the necessary support and direction towards specialist services that would help. The advice for these matters will tend to come from the Local Authority and from the child’s Social Worker but it is inevitable that a parent may perceive them being on opposing sides.
Adult Social Services in particular seem to be facing serious problems as a result of general budget cuts and if parents are to fall by the wayside without parent specific support, then sadly we may only see the number of babies being born into care increasing.
Note: It is important to remember that Legal Aid is still available for cases that involve proceedings being brought by the Local Authority, except in emergency cases. In such matters there will usually be a pre proceedings stage and one or more meeting(s) taking place with the Local Authority before Court proceedings start and Legal Aid for advice and representation at those meeting is also automatically available.