Online event: Marking motherhood on the body – the tattoos of mothers who live apart from their children

Welcome to another week.

An online seminar looking at the stigma faced by mothers who lose children to the care system – and who often carry their children with them through body art – is taking place this month.

The event has been put together by the university of Lancaster’s Center for Child & Family Justice Research, and will be hosted by Lisa Morriss (CFJ) who will deliver a seminar for the Morgan Centre, University of Manchester, and Siobhan Beckwith, co-founder of Women Centre’s Mothers Apart- Common Threads Collective.

Lisa and Siobhan will share the initial findings of a pilot project funded by the Sociological Review. The page for the event says the researchers used “a narrative approach alongside arts-based visual methodologies to explore the inscription of tattoos with 8 mothers who live apart from their children. Highly stigmatised and often silenced through the scrutiny of state intervention and personal shame, these mothers carry images and the names of their children on their body in the form of tattoos.”

The page goes on to say, “For these mothers, this is a unique form of loss and trauma as their children are alive, but many mothers are not allowed to know where their children are living. The children are a ‘ghostly presence’; there and not there at the same time (Gordon, 2008). The loss is especially difficult during the pandemic when the mothers are desperate to know that their child is well.”

“The tattoo is a way of embodying motherhood; keeping their child(ren) with them – etched in their skin – until reunification. Thus, their tattoos mark past separation, present connection, and hope for future reunification with their child. The intimacy of tattooing your child(ren) on your body can be seen as a way of challenging the silencing that stigma brings; and enabling the telling of alternative stories.”

The seminar, which takes place on 28 April, from 3-4pm (UK time) is open to everyone and is free to attend.

To register for the seminar, click here.

For more details on the event, you can email Lisa at (


Siobhan Beckwith is co-founder of WomenCentre’s Mothers Apart- Common Threads Collective which takes a collaborative approach to increasing awareness of the lives of mothers who live apart from their children. She is the co-author of In our hearts: Stories and wisdom of mothers living apart from their children and co-editor of I had to dig deep, exploring the isolation experiences of mothers apart during the Covid 19 pandemic. Siobhan is currently studying for her doctorate at the University of Huddersfield exploring the mental health of mothers living apart from their children following removal.

Lisa Morriss is a Lecturer in the Sociology Department at Lancaster University. Lisa developed the concept of ‘haunted motherhood’ after her experiences as a researcher in the archives of the Family Court. She has published work on haunted futures in Imogen Tyler and Tom Slater’s Sociological Review Monograph on Stigma; and has talked about her experiences in the archives on the BBC 4 radio show Thinking Allowed in the episode on Stigma. Lisa received a Sociological Review Kick Start Award to fund the Marking Motherhood project.

Researching Reform apologises for its silence over the last two weeks as we’ve been working behind the scenes on an upcoming project, which we will unveil shortly.

The Buzz

Welcome to another week.

These are the latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

In a world first, a corporal punishment case goes to the UN – Voice of the Child Podcast

A young girl has lodged a case at the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) detailing the relentless corporal punishment and abuse she experienced at her school in Sri Lanka, when she was just 11 years old.

The case, believed to be the first of its kind, has been accepted by the top UN body, and asks the court to protect all children in Sri Lanka from corporal punishment, and to put an end to conflicting legislation inside the country which has created a loophole allowing child assaults.

Speaking to the Voice of the Child from London, Adriana Wickramanayaka Cutter, who is now 14, talked about the violence she experienced at an international school in Sri Lanka and how it led to a trauma diagnosis.

Like many children at school in Sri Lanka, Adriana was subjected to repeated blows to the head, painful bouts of ear pulling and demands to kneel before male teachers in front of the class, as forms of discipline. After her parents complained, the school waged a bullying campaign against Adriana, which lasted almost two years.

Her brother Alex Wickramanayaka Cutter, 18, spoke about how his sister’s treatment affected him, and what happened to him after his parents objected to the routine use of corporal punishment at the school.

Adriana and Alex’s mother Dr Thushara Wickramanayaka, who is the daughter of former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka, and the founder of the Stop Child Cruelty Trust, joined the call from Sri Lanka to explain how the law suit came about, and why it is needed to put at end to a culture of child assault around the world.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Early Years Review Launches Virtually

A long-awaited government report into improving health and development outcomes of babies and young children in England launches today.

The Early Years Review, led by Andrea Leadsom MP, will launch virtually this afternoon, on Zoom.

The event, chaired by Leadsom, includes 10 speakers:

  • Lord Russell of Liverpool
  • Dr Cheryll Adams – Executive Director, Institute of Health Visiting
  • Professor Jane Barlow – Professor of Evidence Based Intervention and Policy Evaluation, University of Oxford
  • Professor Viv Bennett – Chief Nurse, Public Health England & Government Advisor on Public Health Nursing and Midwifery
  • Miriam Cates MP – Member of Parliament for Penistone and Stocksbridge
  • Professor Peter Fonagy – Head of the Division of Psychology and Language Science, UCL & Chief Executive of the Anna Freud Centre
  • Dr Alain Gregoire – Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist & Founder and Honorary President, Maternal Mental Health Alliance
  • Anne Longfield – Former Children’s Commissioner for England
  • Tim Loughton MP – Member of Parliament for East Worthing and Shoreham
  • Professor Eunice Lumsden – Head of Early Years, University of Northampton

The event will run from 1pm – 3pm, during which attendees will have the opportunity to ask the Chair and additional speakers questions.

The press release from the Department of Health and Social Care can be accessed here.

Organisations who wish to attend can register their interest here.

Children and the European Court of Human Rights – Event

An online seminar scheduled for this afternoon and hosted by Nottingham University, will look at child-focused cases which have been brought to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.

The speaker for the event is Dr Claire Fenton-Glynn, a senior lecturer in law at Cambridge University.

Dr Fenton-Glynn, who has written a pioneering book, Children and the European Court of Human Rights, will be talking about the contents of her book, which look at ECHR case law touching upon areas including juvenile justice, immigration, education, religion, family life, child protection, and adoption.

The event takes places today, Wednesday 24th March 2021, from 3pm – 4pm, and appears to be free to attend.

You can register for the event here, which will be held on Microsoft Teams, and send any questions or queries to

The Latest

Welcome to another week.

These are the child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Many thanks to TumTum for sharing the first item with us.

The Latest

The latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Children’s Care Review Will Not Hold Child Protection Sector Accountable For Failings

Josh MacAlister, the head of the new care review looking into children’s social care in the UK, has announced that he will not help families and children who have been hurt or negligently treated by professionals inside the sector.

In his engagement plan, MacAlister said the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care (IRCSC) would look to the future rather than provide any historical context, and that it would not “remedy the individual poor experiences individuals may have faced.”

How an inquiry can offer anything of value without looking into allegations of gross misconduct and negligence is beyond us, but that is the official line MacAlister has chosen to take.

If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, the engagement plan — rather condescendingly — adds, “To summarise simply, if willing, we want you to use your experiences to help us build a better system for future generations and tell us about what we can fix now for those of you that already have children’s social care experience. We will support you to contribute to the review by providing specialist and professional support [provided by the NSPCC and Child Line], or you might want to access support by speaking to someone you already trust.”

Despite offering no incentive for families to get involved at this point, the plan then goes on to list the ways in which people can help the inquiry, by sharing what they think should be done to improve children’s social care. These include, workshops, local discussions, focus groups and online surveys.

Our priority suggestion would be to ensure that the sector is held accountable for every negligent act and injury.

And we will be calling this review Josh MacAlister’s review from now on, to reinforce the understanding that this is not a faceless, people-less review, but one which is run by real humans, who should be held accountable when doing a job, particularly one as important as reviewing an entire system.

Language has never been more important – calling something a review, or an inquiry, makes it too easy for people to hide behind an inanimate object without a conscience. This is Josh’s review.