If you are pregnant and it is likely that social services will be taking an interest
in your unborn child you have the advantage of time – time to plan and time to act.
This time must be used wisely if you are to have any chance of preventing your baby
being taken at birth.
If you have had a child previously removed, particularly recently, then it almost
certain that social services’ agenda will be to remove your newborn and have a plan
for adoption. If you were in care yourself, a victim of domestic violence, have learning
difficulties or have been 'diagnosed' by a social work appointed 'expert' as having
some mental health condition then you are likely to be a target too.
Do not attempt to conceal your pregnancy as that in itself will be used against you.
Engage the help of a good Solicitor or Lay Advocate to steer you through the process.
It is far better to challenge social services earlier than later, but do not trust
what your social worker says. Expect the worst from them and plan and fight accordingly,
do not become lulled into a false sense of security by encouraging words from your
Chances are that after your first midwife appointment social services will be informed
and from then on the ball will begin rolling towards the inevitable unless you act!
Our lay advocates are well-versed with these situations. If you need help, support
and guidance please contact us.
Here are some basic ideas to think about:
Pregnant? Time to plan ahead
Once SS are involved there will be a pre-birth assessment and conference. Engage
fully with this – this is your opportunity to evidence change.
Examine why your previous child was removed and show evidence of how things are now
different. It may be that you have undergone some counselling, completed a parenting
course, secured new accommodation, got a job, left a previous 'risky' (in their eyes)
partner – prove these things to the conference and social workers.
In addition to this, send a letter outlining all of these changes and the evidence
of them to the Director of Children's Services (UK) / Senior Social Worker & Area
Manager (Ireland) and demand that the service upholds its statutory duty under the
Children's Act 1989 (UK)/Child Care Act 1991 (Ireland) to work to keep families together
or re-unite them as soon as possible. Once you have effectively put them ‘on notice’
of this it can open up other courses of legal action for you to take against them
if they fail in their statutory duty.
For the conference - gather as many family members together as possible in support
of you. Grandparents to the unborn baby, aunts, uncles etc. This is to show the
extended support you have and also a range of possible kinship carers that may apply
for a Special Guardianship Order. Remember, your aim is not just to try to keep your
child but avoid the possibility of a forced adoption. No adoption will mean there
is always the opportunity to bring your child home.
Any changes you still need to make? Make them . Don't rely on social workers to help
you, make those changes yourself. Social workers do not want to work with you, despite
their claims. Their agenda will be focused and one track – removal and adoption.
If your changes do not prevent social workers going to court, you must oppose every
order, right from the first hearing. Do not consent to any order! Make them fight
and prove their case.
If asked to sign a Section 20 Voluntary Care Agreement, you must refuse even if they
threaten you with Court. Make them apply for an Emergency Protection Order/Emergency
Care Order and oppose it. The bar is high for an EPO and this is your first opportunity
to test the social services evidence. They must prove there is an immediate threat
to the child for such an order to be granted.
Agree to any further assessments but only if those assessments are carried out whilst
you have your baby with you – you cannot be correctly assessed if you are parted
from your child. Also, stand your ground for breast feeding. Your baby has the right
to be breast fed & not just have expressed breast milk in a bottle.
There could be an opportunity to go to a mother and baby unit or a mother and baby
foster placement. Ask the court to give you the opportunity to prove that the changes
you have effected and have evidence of are taken fully into consideration for an
NEVER consent to an order, even if your solicitor or barrister tells you to. Refuse
and tell them to oppose it. This is important as any order can be appealed EXCEPT
one to which you have consented. You do not want to close any avenue of testing the
social worker's evidence and you need to keep your options open going forward.
Once you know you are pregnant and before you bring this to the attention of a midwife
or social services you have the opportunity to consider leaving the jurisdiction
– in other words, fleeing.
This is not an option to be taken lightly and needs serious planning. For more details
on the whole fleeing situation see our Fight or Flight? page. Here we will concentrate
on the key advantages and disadvantages for a pregnant mother-to-be.
The over-riding consideration is of course, finances. How will you support yourself
and your baby? There is no point going any further in this plan unless you can answer
this question in the positive. You will need money for accommodation, utilities,
and of course day to day living as well as the associated expenses of having a baby.
You cannot rely on benefits in the country you may move to – there are no guarantees
that you will receive any, though it is worth doing some homework on what you may
be able to claim (eg Child benefit is payable in many European Countries). Don't
rely on UK benefits, you are only supposed to be able to claim them for three months
after you leave the country and if social services do find out that you are pregnant
and have fled it is not unknown for them to get your benefits stopped.
Maybe you have a partner who can support you? Parents or grandparents who will provide
resources, savings etc? You need to be sure that you can survive as being homeless
in a foreign country with a child is likely to see social services there remove and
accommodate any homeless child. We have contacts in a number of countries that can
help facilitate your move and can offer advice but none of these good people can
accommodate you or pay your way.
Although you have time you still need to act quickly. The sooner you are in a new
jurisdiction and settling the stronger your chances are of stopping any attempt to
'return' your newborn under either the Hague Convention or Brussels II. These are
draconian international measures that provide for 'returning' a child to the previous
habitual residence of its parents. Don't leave it until the last minute, do it as
soon as practically possible.
You have the right to settle in any European State under the Charter of Fundamental
Rights of the EU. Countries further afield may require visas or proof of substantial
funds. Unless you have a passport then you are limited to the Common Travel Area,
which is why Ireland has become such a popular destination.
It is important to consider that the authorities in a new jurisdiction may also become
involved in your case, however a slightly different and less draconian approach may
be found and there is always the 'fresh pair of eyes' that could make all the difference.