Published: 24th June 2014
A new study conducted by the Universities of Manchester and Brunel has shed light on family court records, highlighting that 22,790 children were taken away from parents who were involved in repeat care cases.
Over the past 7 years, 7,143 mothers had appeared in the family courts for repeat care proceedings, with local authorities taking their children away 90% of the time. The study shows that 50% of mothers who are involved in care proceedings are under the age of 24 by the time of the first care case and their children are usually removed very early - in some cases, they are removed soon after their birth.
The lead research in the study, Dr Broadhurst from the University of Manchester said, "in approximately 42% of cases, infants were subject to care proceedings within a month of their birth, which is an important finding."
"We know that in 70% of cases infants were subject to proceedings within the first year of their life, which obviously leaves the mother with very little time to turn her life around. We think there is an average of 17 months between the first time a mum appears in court with an infant and the second time she appears in court with another infant."
"It suggests to us there's a very short interval between pregnancies, which gives mums very little time to engage in their own rehab."
Family judges have a duty to remove young children, infants and babies from their mothers if they have been found guilty of domestic violence, emotional neglect or substance abuse.
Many senior family judges have expressed concerns over what they have seen - a constant cycle of pregnancies and child care proceedings - where a mother who has been deemed as unfit to care for their child returns to court a couple of years later, with another child who they cannot care for - and repeating the cycle again and again.
"The work of the family courts for years has been removing the second, the third, the fourth child from the same mother. Not infrequently the sixth, the seventh, the eight.
"In one case I've removed the 14th and I know two judges that have removed the 15th child from the same mother", said a recently retired family court judge.
Researches involved in the study have said that the results highlight many positives, as it shows that, whilst it is difficult for mothers who are repeatedly involved in care proceedings, local authorities and family court judges put the needs of the child first, and have successfully done so to help thousands of children throughout the UK.
They also believe that the research can help the family courts recognise that further positive changes are needed to help young mothers to change their behaviour and to turn their lives around.
One program that is designed to do this is the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC), which has been running for the past 6 years. Since its inception, it has been responsible for reuniting 35% of mothers with their separated children, compared to 19% in the family courts. This initiative has received praise from the family court and its president, Sir James Munby, "FDAC is - it must be - a vital component in the new family court." Sir James has also called for an FDAC in every family court across the UK.
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