Working with recurrent care-experienced birth mothers: Resource Pack (2019)

Published: 22/05/2019

Author: Ryan M




Social workers, lawyers and judges have long been aware that some women return to court as respondents in care proceedings after having already experienced the removal of one or more children in previous proceedings. It is also recognised that a proportion of these women return to court on many occasions and lose multiple children to public care and adoption.

A concern about recurrent care proceedings involving women with substance misuse problems was a key factor in the setting up of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) in 2008.1 In 2012, the London FDAC specialist team brought together a group of academics and practitioners to discuss the issue of recurrent proceedings, share examples of good practice and highlight services being set up specifically to address the problem. A second meeting of this ‘community of interest’ took place in 2014. Also in 2014, a series of papers on the subject of ‘repeat removals’ appeared in Family Law, placing the issue firmly on the policy agenda (Shaw et al, 2014; Harwin et al, 2014; Broadhurst and Mason, 2014).

In addition to the FDAC, at this time initiatives were being set up in Suffolk, Brighton, Reading, Salford, Nottingham and Hackney. Both community of interest events in 2012 and 2014 were an opportunity for discussion of the different models and approaches being used. Among these early initiatives, FDAC and Pause 2 (which began with a pilot in Hackney in 2013) have the highest profile, but many of the others are still going strong and a good number of other services have been developed since. More details about them are provided in this resource.

In 2017, a team at Lancaster University published the final report of a Nuffield-funded research study into Vulnerable Birth Mothers and Recurrent Care Proceedings (Broadhurst et al, 2017) The study analysed data held by Cafcass on all care proceedings in England, enabling the researchers to demonstrate the scale of the issue – that one in four birth mothers will reappear in care proceedings, within seven years, following an initial set of proceedings. Qualitative elements of the research included in-depth interviews with mothers and information from a review of case files, improving our understanding about the factors related to women reappearing in care proceedings.

An online version of this publication contains open access tools, films and presentations.

View the online resources

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