A leading Wrexham expert on Child Law and Mental Health issues has expressed ‘extreme concern’ following a report which highlighted a huge rise in the number of newborn babies being taken into care in England and suggestions that it is the fault of failing Childrens’ Services departments.
John Lancaster, a Senior Solicitor with North Wales and Shropshire law firm GHP Legal, says that whilst in a few specific cases there may be justification for making newborns the subject of care proceedings that lead to forced adoption, the problem is more often rooted in the lack of available support for mothers and the time constraints imposed by rigid court timetables.
“Resources need to be given to investigating the root cause of the increased numbers of babies being removed from their mothers at birth and then giving mothers help to prevent this”, said Mr Lancaster. “To blame Children’s Services departments and threaten that those judged inadequate by Ofsted will be given six months to improve and then be taken over by high-performing councils and charities if they fail is not the answer.
“In addition, the 26 week time limit for care proceedings to end prevents any reasonable period for the mother to be offered support to improve her parenting. If she hasn’t got it at the start of the proceedings, there is no time for her to acquire better habits before the end.
“We cannot just keep taking more and more babies away from their mothers and, in many cases, forcing adoption. To do this is the greatest and most violent infringement that could be made into family life and the tragedy of all this is that with more support, many of those babies could be brought up by and enjoy a happy childhood with their birth mother. In the UK, we have the highest rate of forced adoptions in Europe.
“The funding crisis within local authorities has reduced the ability of Social Services to support families in the community, for example the curtailing of the immensely useful SureStart scheme in many areas.
“Children’s Services are under immense stress, financial and otherwise, and those who work there have to make difficult decisions whilst being subjected to criticism and scrutiny. Social Workers are ‘burning out’ under the stress and the last thing they need is the threat that their department will be closed.”