An important piece of research by London-based charity AVA (Against Violence and Abuse) shines a light on the connection between preventable domestic abuse and child removals, and offers powerful insights into the way the family court system is used by perpetrators of domestic abuse to traumatise — and separate — children from their non-abusive parent.

The study involved 33 women with experience of domestic abuse and child removal, and peer researchers who conducted 26 semi-structured interviews with mothers in 2021.

At 47 pages it is a thorough piece of research, and in its recommendations echoes much of what Researching Reform and others have said over the years about the need for humane child protection practice and a deeper understanding of toxic patterns of behaviour which put children and their non-abusive caregivers at risk.

Very little in the report touches on how children were impacted by these phenomena as AVA is an adult female-focused organisation, so we would invite them to produce further research focusing on the child welfare aspects within these issues.

We recommend reading the report from start to finish but here is an extract, with real-world testimonies, from the “Impact of child removal” chapter:

“Child removal has profound impacts for both children and mothers, extending far beyond the removal itself. While some mothers chose to share the impact of removal on their children, this section focussed primarily on the impact of child removal on mothers themselves. Many had been living with the threat of removal for years before the event, and expressed the pain, fear and confusion they felt when the decision was finally made.”

Testimony from mothers:

“The [the children] were clinging to me, like, ‘Please don’t send us away, please don’t send us away.’ And the social worker just stood there watching…I put them in the car and then I came back inside and this noise just came – to this day, I’ve never heard a noise like it. And I just remember my dad picking me up off the floor and carrying me to his car, and he took me home because he didn’t want me to be on my own.”

“They informed me your daughter will not come back to you, never ever, and you will not see her again, but if you insist to take or speak or see her, we will take all your kids from you, even the smallest one.’’ I said, ‘Why is that?’ She says, ‘Because you broke the rules.’ Which rules is she talking about? I didn’t know, I didn’t know.”

“When social services got in touch to say they were taking my son from me and placing him with his father, it broke me in a way that only social services can break a mum, and I was absolutely petrified and in fear for my son’s life.”

“When my children were first taken away from me, I literally felt like my heart and everything inside me got ripped away. I wanted to end my life, I didn’t want to be here, I didn’t want to breathe, I didn’t want to laugh, I didn’t want to smile. Everything I did, I felt guilty, because they weren’t with me.”

With thanks to a Tweeter on Twitter called Lisa, who shared the report with us.

You can access the report here.