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Mother has 16 babies taken into care amid surge in newborn removals since 2007

Published 14/12/2015

Figures on the number of newborn babies being taken into care have been compiled for the first time using family court records
Figures on the number of newborn babies being taken into care have been compiled for the first time using family court records

The number of newborn babies taken into care in England has soared in recent years, according to a report.

One mother had 16 babies taken away from her, it has been revealed after figures showed that 13,248 babies were taken into care at birth or not long afterwards between 2007 and 2014.

Researchers at Lancaster University, Brunel University, London, and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust compiled the figures using family court records.

Professor Karen Broadhurst, who led the research, said: "Although more children generally are entering care, there is a disproportionate increase of infants subject to legal proceedings at birth."

The report said 2,018 newborns were made the subject of care proceedings in 2013, up from 802 in 2008.

The research showed that around half of the babies were taken from women who had other children in care, while a third were removed from teenage mothers.

Prof Broadhurst told the Press Association: "We don't really know why the number has increased but there are a number of factors which could contribute.

"There is more pressure to remove infants from situations of harm earlier because we can see the longer infants are left in situations of harm, the more psychological harm."

The researchers interviewed 72 women "in depth" and found on average they had four babies taken into care.

Prof Broadhurst added: "These women had a child removed and then got into a pattern. They often talked about an initial unplanned pregnancy and then how having children removed exacerbated risky behaviour such as alcohol and drugs misuse.

"They described being in an absolute state of despair, suicidal and still completely and utterly destroyed by the process."

Prof Broadhurst said these "repeat clients" of the family court often followed the pattern seen in women who lost their babies or have a stillborn, becoming pregnant again "in quick succession".

She said: "As you have more babies removed the desire to replace the lost baby becomes stronger."

The report calls for a law to be introduced to make support for mothers who have their babies removed available.

She said: "The key issue is that England doesn't have any statutory requirements for post-removal support. There are not support services for young mothers with babies who have risky behaviours.

"We would like to see a statutory obligation on agencies to provide this to interrupt cycle early."

The researchers worked with Pause, a project funded by the Department for Education already working with repeat clients of the family court in seven UK locations, as a model.

Although Prof Broadhurst could not comment further, she said the woman who had 16 babies taken into care was now receiving support from Pause.

Sophie Humphreys, chief executive of Pause, which piloted in Hackney and has been extended to Doncaster, Greenwich, Hull, Islington, Newham and Southwark, said: " These important findings underline the urgent need to break the destructive cycle in which too many women find themselves trapped.

"All too often young women - particularly teenagers - who have already had one child removed, become pregnant again and again with the same result. This is causing untold heartbreak and damage to these woman and their children, as well as loading great costs on both society and the taxpayer.

"Pause is pioneering a unique preventative programme across the country to intervene at the earliest opportunity and give women control over their lives through intense therapeutic, practical and behavioural support. Our pilot projects are targeting over 180 women, beginning to break the cycle of pregnancy, care proceedings and the removal of their children by the courts."

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