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Young mothers ‘recycled’ by family court

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Mothers who have had a child taken away are likely to face the family courts again over subsequent children.

Researchers from Lancaster University say that this will happen to at least one in four such mothers. The number increases among women who were teenagers when they gave birth to their first child: one in three of those will return to family courts, the study suggests.

Using records from Cafcass, researchers examined care applications launched by various local authorities between 2007 and 2014. More than 13,000 featured newborn babies less than 31 days old.

Once a woman’s first child has been removed, it is likely that their second – or any subsequent children – will also be taken away very soon after their birth, the research found. Such children are also more likely to be adopted, which means their mother would not have any contact with them at all.

Lancaster University Professor Karen Broadhurst said that the number of teenage mothers who lose their children to care proceedings was a cause for concern. She claimed that a lot of the women are “children themselves [and] simply do not understand the court process”. Additionally, she suggested that a lot of young mothers will not seek assistance to improve their circumstances following the removal of a child, and that no one was obliged to offer them such help.

The professor warned that “the family court will continue to recycle some of the youngest women” if new policies are not put in place which “mandate help for women to overcome these difficulties”.

A report on the findings was published in the academic British Journal of Social Work.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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