New research has emerged which confirms that women who have their children removed from them and placed into foster care, are more likely to commit suicide than mothers whose children are not fostered.

An article in The Conversation written by Elizabeth Wall-Wieler, a PhD student at the University of Manitoba, Canada, highlights key research which shows an increased mortality rate for mothers who lose their children to the care system.

Wall-Wieler explains that while mothers whose children are taken into care sometimes have underlying health conditions, the studies take those pre-existing conditions into account, meaning that the data is directly linked to the impact of losing a child to the care system.

The first study, published in December 2017 in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, was co-produced by Wall-Wieler, and examines suicide attempts and suicide completions among mothers whose children were placed in care. The researchers discovered that suicide rates among these women was almost three times higher and the death rate almost four times higher than those mothers whose children had not gone into foster care.

More research co-produced by Wall-Wieler and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, in March 2018, found that mothers whose children were placed in care were almost five times more likely to die from avoidable causes such as unintentional injury and suicide, and almost three times more like to die from unavoidable causes, including car accidents and heart disease.

A third study, published in the British Medical Journal’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, in October 2017, shows that when a mother loses her child to the care system, her physical and mental health become significantly worse.

While the above research does not address the impact the care system has on fathers, it’s likely that this data will emerge in time.

The research, which applies to both the US and UK child protection sectors, highlights the importance of thinking about the effects the care system has on parents and the need to address the current policy and legislation around foster care and adoption. Wall-Wieler recommends more support services for grieving parents, and while this is an important point for parents who have already lost children to care, it does not address the underlying realities of children’s social care today, which is not fit for purpose.

It is also a timely reminder that policies which seek to wrench children away from parents rather than offer families support wherever possible, is both misguided and dangerous. President of the Family Division, Andrew McFarlane, horrified the British public last week when he suggested that care orders should be made while children were still in the womb. The family court process is deeply traumatic, and orders seeking future removal of children who are currently unborn would without a doubt lead to more mothers committing suicide, and taking their unborn children with them.

Setting aside the legal problems pre-birth care orders create, which McFar-Gone (our new name for him), should really be familiar with, the research is a sobering reminder for our senior judges that moving away from more holistic solutions could lead to many more deaths inside the family justice system.

Many thanks to Susan for sharing this article with us.

FC Al.

Chart Source: Fostering in England 2016 to 2017