Researchers, led by a team at Lancaster University, have uncovered startling new information about the number of babies taken into care at birth.
The data, which has been made public for the first time, was compiled by a team of researchers, funded by the Nuffield Foundation and led by Prof Karen Broadhurst from Lancaster University.
It’s calling for policy change to stop babies repeatedly being taken into care.
The report updates initial findings presented last year, revealing that a ‘hidden population’ of mothers are caught up in a cycle of family court proceedings, with one child after another being removed from women’s care.
This new research identifies, for the first time, the relationship between young motherhood and the risk of court-ordered removal of children and new statistics concerning removal at birth.
The researchers are based at Lancaster University, Brunel University, London and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.
Prof Broadhurst said the number of teenage mothers captured in the dataset was worrying.
She said: “How does court-ordered removal impact on women’s own developmental journey to adulthood?
“It is evident that these girls – many still children themselves – simply do not understand the court process.”
Professor Broadhurst added that after having a taken from her, mothers were unlikely to get the required level of help needed to stop problems being repeated because agencies were not under any statutory obligation to provide comprehensive support.
Many of the women had difficult childhoods and were then severely emotionally damaged by having their babies taken form them.
Prof Broadhurst said: “We need policy change to mandate help for women to overcome these difficulties, otherwise the human and economic costs are huge and the family court will continue to recycle some of the youngest women.
“In addition, the number of infants removed at birth is increasing and we need to understand why this is so. Although more children generally are entering care, there is a disproportionate increase of infants subject to legal proceedings at birth.”
The research team found more than 13,000 infants subject to legal proceedings at or close to birth (within 31 days) between 2007 and 2014.
The work is funded by a second grant from the Nuffield Foundation. Further detailed case file review work is continuing and the study will run until June 2016.