The government is denying that social workers are targeting babies for adoption. Listening to desperate calls from pregnant women or mothers of new babies and toddlers on our help-line would quickly show their denials are not true.
Health visitors are often instructed to give all parents a "risk rating", if possible while the child is still in the womb, or soon after the birth - this is done without parents' knowledge or consent. The questionnaire used is highly inaccurate as a predictive tool, and has a very high rate of false positives. Pregnant teenagers, the unemployed, anyone with a history of mental illness, and so on, are on the watch list - supposedly so that they can get extra support, but it is often simply extra surveillance. Midwives are instructed to report risk factors, and are losing the trust of the women they care for.
When social workers investigate mothers as a potential risk to their children we see incredibly high stress levels in women who fear losing their babies (even if the fear may not be justified). Research has shown this high level of stress hormones in the mother's blood can reduce the baby's growth as well as causing behavioural problems in childhood. We also suspect that it is affecting the process of birth in a number of our clients. For example, delaying birth beyond term.
Expectant mothers who were themselves brought up in care have an increased risk of social workers taking their babies, without even giving them a chance to show that they can be good parents, and providing them support and help. The State is,in effect, saying "as your corporate parent we gave you such damaging care that you are unfit ever to be a parent yourself".
Mothers with a previous history of mental illness (perhaps caused by bereavement or a damaging relationship), or mothers with postnatal depression (very common) or psychosis also risk losing their children. The extreme shortage of mother-and-baby psychiatric units where they can safely be together is a scandal; Primary Care Trusts are seldom willing to pay for such care outside their area. The grapevine in many communities is accurately circulating the risks, so mothers who may need medical care tell us they are concealing mental illness, for fear of their children being taken. Two academic studies have shown that questionnaires to identify postnatal depression no longer work, because mothers lie. This is dangerous, since we now know that suicide is the major cause of death associated with childbirth.
Women also tell us they are concealing the fact that their pregnancy resulted from rape, or that they suffer domestic violence, for the same reason. One man, after beating up his wife, hands her the phone and says "Now call the police - and the social workers will come and take your kids." So she stays silent. Others tell us that social work intervention has resulted in aborting a baby they would have wanted.
Not all attempts to have children adopted succeed, and mothers may have them returned after weeks, or months. The intense bond fostered by the high levels of oxytocin the mother has from giving birth and breastfeeding has been damaged. The baby has lost the breast milk which gives life-long health advantages, and contact visits are never frequent enough to breast feed.
We are a pressure group with 40 years' experience in supporting parents with complaints about maternity care. But since the unprecedented growth in calls about child protection proceedings in the last 9 years or so, we have accompanied clients to meetings and observed social workers' home visits. We have been horrified at what we have seen, and equally appalled by the lack of accuracy and bias in many of their reports, and the selectivity of evidence they give to the courts.
Questions should be asked of the Commission for Social Care Inspection. In their annual inspections up and down the country they criticise local authorities whose adoption figures are not high enough. It is the rise in the adoption total that wins Brownie points, NOT a reduction in older children lingering in long term "care" with an unsettled future. Hence the social work snatching of new born - prime adoption material, which also met the needs of settled, wealthier, older infertile couples. As one client told us, "What they are doing is redistributive eugenics."
Perhaps it is time we started measuring and recording the damage caused by 'child protection' interventions and doing the kind of cost-benefit analysis which is now required for drugs, surgery and other health interventions?
Beverley Lawrence Beech, Chair AIMS
Beverley Lawrence Beech - tel: 0870 765 1453 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean Robinson - email: email@example.com
Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services, 5 Ann's Court, Grove Road, Surbiton, Surrey, KT6 4BE
Daily Telegraph - 29th January 2007 - Adoption too expensive for local councils
Daily Mail - 26th January 2007 - Children put into care for being fat
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