Many women who have had more than one of their children placed in public care or adoption on child protection grounds spent time in the care system themselves as children, new research has found.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at Lancaster University and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, revealed that 40% of these mothers had lived in foster care or children’s homes and an additional 14% had lived away from their parents through other arrangements.
Many had suffered abuse and neglect as children and 64% became pregnant as teenagers and struggled to cope with being a mother.
The study also found that many of these women were unable to access support, either to help them cope with parenthood or to help them psychologically after their children were removed.
“We have identified a larger number of ‘repeat mums’ partly because we now have more years of data, but also because we know from national statistics that more families are coming before the family courts in care proceedings,” explained Professor Karen Broadhurst at Lancaster University.
“Regarding the high rates of removals at birth that we have uncovered in this study (60% of all repeat cases), we urgently need to establish best and humane practice in these difficult circumstances to ensure professionals work in partnership with mothers as far as possible and that clear pre-birth plans are in place at a timely point,” she said. “We need to see agencies routinely seeing pregnancy as an important window for change – pre-birth help needs to start much earlier.”
“Although there is much more that needs to be done, the positive reaction to this study within the family justice system demonstrates how population data combined with research evidence can be the catalyst for change that will ultimately mean fewer women and children suffer,” added Director, Justice and Welfare at the Nuffield Foundation Teresa Williams.
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