Research conducted by the Nuffield Foundation has confirmed that removing children at birth in child protection cases causes families acute and ongoing distress.

The Foundation’s Family Justice Observatory will now develop guidelines to help steer newborns away from care proceedings.

The news comes after the Foundation published reports which showed unprecedented numbers of newborns in England and Wales being taken at birth and placed into care.

While the finding is not groundbreaking – bodies of research have already confirmed that separating mothers and their children leads to a spike in maternal suicides – it is an important first step in showing the government what needs to change in child protection, and why.

Researching Reform was encouraged to see that the Observatory had taken on some of our recommendations in this area, including recording families’ voices and experiences in newborn removal cases, as well as fathers’ experiences, and the need to develop best practice in this area.

The research combines a literature review and a review of case law, and offers five key messages:

  1. Short time frames for assessments before the birth prevent parents from being able to make any necessary changes and improvements, placing them in an impossible position
  2. Trust, honesty and openness are vital for ensuring that families don’t feel stigmatised and judged, and enabling truly supportive relationships between families and child welfare professionals
  3. Separating a child from his or her mother, father and extended family members is deeply traumatic and should be done only in the most urgent of cases and in the most supportive and sophisticated way possible
  4. Child protection professionals need much better training in this area
  5. A lack of understanding from a family perspective needs to be addressed through research and establishing best practice guidelines

Further Reading:

Screenshot 2019-12-12 at 09.41.52.png