More than 7,100 women have had more than one child taken into care, according to new research.
A total of 22,790 children were involved in 15,645 care proceedings over a period of seven years.
In a study funded by the Nuffield Foundation, researchers from the Universities of Brunel and Manchester studied legal records across England. Cafcass and Sir James Munby cleared publication of the research, which is the first of its kind.
Half the women involved in repeated care proceedings were 24 or less when their local authority made the first application. The youngest was just 14.
Speaking to the BBC, lead researcher Dr Karen Broadhurst noted that:
“…in approximately 42% of cases, infants were subject to care proceedings within a month of their birth, which is an important finding”.
In 70 per cent of cases, she added, care proceedings for abuse or neglect began within a year of the child’s birth, and this “obviously leaves the mother with very little time to turn her life around.”
The average time between an affected mother’s court appearance for one child and a return to court for the next child is just 17 months, Dr Broadhurst noted.
“It suggests to us there’s a very short interval between pregnancies, which gives mums very little time to engage in their own rehab.”
She called on the family court system to help such mothers address their lifestyles.
“We also need to get better at ensuring those young parents can access the treatment that’s recommended within the family court.”
Retired district judge Nicholas Crichton echoed her call for such mothers for more outreach projects.
“The emotional cost to those families, and to their children, is immense but the financial cost to the taxpayer is immense as well and we really have to find a different way of dealing with these cases.”
Earlier this month, Sir James Munby described mothers caught up in multiple care proceedings as a “distressingly regular occurrence”.
The report, entitled ‘Capturing the scale and pattern of recurrent care proceedings: initial observations from a feasibility study’ is available here.