Research completed by Lancaster University has shown that one in four mothers who have a child removed through the Family Court is likely to be subject to Care Proceedings again with regards to future children. The time gap between these sets of proceedings are often small and the mother / father is not likely to have come to terms with the loss of their child(ren) from their care. It is also likely that the parents have not made the sufficient changes arising from the Local Authority’s concerns since the last proceedings.
However, just because parents have had a child removed from their care previously does not always mean that future children will be removed from their care. The Local Authority will complete the necessary statutory visits and assessments such as a pre-birth assessments to assess if the parents are able to care for the unborn baby. They make take into account the findings made by the Court in the previous proceedings and use this in the threshold that the Court have to consider when making an Order for the new baby.
When a parent has a child removed from their care, the amount of support available to the parents is limited post proceedings. In terms of emotional support, if the Court grant Care and Placement orders and the child is subsequently adopted then parents are usually offered post-adoption counselling. The aim of this counselling will be for the parents to come to terms with the fact their child has been permanently removed from their care and contact has or will cease in due course.
This form of support does not however help the parent’s address the concerns the Local Authority had during the proceedings. The government developed an ongoing programme called Troubled Families which focuses on intervention with families who are experiencing issues such as re-occurring mental health issues, anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse amongst other concerns. The family may be identified by the Local Authority as needing support and a key worker will be assigned to address these systemic issues which are ever prevalent in Care Proceedings. The second phase of this programme is currently being rolled out and will run until 2020 aiming to turn around the lives of more and more families.
An organisation called Pause works with mothers who have had children removed from their care and are at risk of repeated pregnancies which result in the same situation. The organisation works by helping the women address the ongoing concerns that could impact on their care for future children and effectively “pause and take control of their lives”.
Pause aims to put the mother in control of her own needs and pairs them with a therapeutic practitioner to develop an ongoing professional relationship to formulate positive goals and achievements rather than focusing on the negatives. Pause enables the mother to work with the practitioner for around 18 months to address the issues that they are facing and may have been facing for a number of years. Research by Lancaster University has shown that 4 in 10 women who have had their children removed from their care into foster care or adoption were care leavers themselves and these issues may stem back to this time.
It also encourages women to take a break from pregnancy and gives them advice on the various contraceptive methods aimed at educating and assisting the mothers in future planning. If a mother is a teenager when she had her first child removed, the chances of her returning to Court to face further Care Proceedings increases to 1 in 3. If Pause can help women make the necessary changes at an early stage, it may mean that any subsequent assessments completed by the Local Authority will be positive and any children born to the mother may be more likely to remain in her care in the future.
Here at Emery Johnson Astills, we have extensive experience in advising and assisting parents at all stages of involvement with the Local Authority including pre-birth child protection conferences spanning to Care Proceedings.
If you have Local Authority involvement with regards to your child or unborn baby and would like advice in relation to this then please don’t hesitate to contact us at our Leicester Office on 0116 255 4855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509 610 312. Alternatively, you can contact us via the website on www.johnsonastills.com for expert legal advice in this area.