Pause’s latest report sets out how the government can better support birth families, so that the removal of a child into the care system never happens more than once. Pause’s Never More Than Once report calls on the government to better understand the scale of repeat removals and respond to birth parents’ needs. Providing birth parents with the right support could contribute to ending the cycle of repeat removals, thereby reducing the number of children entering care, as well as avoiding trauma for families and saving money to the public purse.
Repeat removals – families who experience the removal of their child(ren) into the care system on more than one occasion – are a hidden but prevalent issue across England. Almost half of all newborns who are subject to care proceedings were born to mothers who previously went through care proceedings regarding an older sibling. Pause, a charity that works with women who have had more than one child removed from their care, states that this cycle of ‘repeat removals’ is not inevitable. It sets out how the government could break this cycle, by approaching support services and children’s social care policy through the lens of birth parents.
‘Anya’ (not her real name), a woman who has received support from Pause and has completed the 18-month Programme, says:
“I think this service [Pause] should be given to women who are in the process of losing children, rather than after. If I’d have had the help I have now, back then, I think it could have been avoided and things might have been different today.”
In the last ten years, the number of children entering care has risen by 21%. Efforts to better understand repeat removals, as well as the support needs of families experiencing them, could end the cycle of repeat removals, thereby reducing the number of children entering care, avoiding trauma for families, and saving money to the public purse.
There is currently no statutory obligation to deliver post-removal support to all birth parents. This means that after the removal of a child, the vast majority of birth parents are left struggling to cope with preexisting difficulties, which may escalate, while facing the additional trauma of losing a child. It is at this point at which a cycle can start (or continue). Many parents who have had children removed from their care will go on to have more children removed in the future.
Jules Hillier, Chief Executive of Pause, says:
“The women we work with have difficult and often dangerous lives. Some grew up in care themselves and all have been through care proceedings and had a child removed from their care – one of the most invasive, traumatic interventions a state can make into family life – after which they are completely dropped by services. We see women stuck in a terrible cycle of repeated pregnancies that result in a child being removed. More must be done to understand and meet the needs of this group of women.”
Pause provides an 18-month programme of support to women who have had multiple children removed from their care, which is tailored to each woman’s individual needs and goals for the future. ‘Montana’ (not her real name), a woman who has completed the Pause Programme, says:
“The support, encouragement and empowerment from Pause changed my life… the positivity they brought into my life helped me climb out of the negative hole I was stuck in.”
Evidence from Pause shows that sustained investment in trauma-informed support services for birth parents not only benefits women, but also decreases the number of children entering the care system and delivers savings to the public purse. To ensure no family experiences the removal of a child more than once, Pause asks the government to:
- Understand the scale of repeat removals, by improving data collection on the rates of recurrent care proceedings.
- Recognise the role of birth parents when understanding the complex nature of families, by providing coordinated and accessible support for these families through Family Help.
- Provide evidence-based support for parents who no longer have children in their care, to build firm foundations for the future, by ensuring there are services available for them.