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Vulnerable Birth Mothers and Recurrent Care Proceedings

Final Summary Report

There is growing national awareness that a proportion of birth mothers who appear as respondents in care proceedings, have had children removed from their care in previous proceedings. In 2015, our research study provided the first estimate of recurrent care proceedings in England, indicating that a sizeable population of women will appear in successive proceedings (Broadhurst et al. 2015a). Our early findings have prompted searching questions about what might be done to prevent this negative cycle, given the distress that ‘repeat removals’ cause for families as well as the demand that these cases inevitably make on services.

In response, a raft of new preventative initiatives have emerged, with multiple local authorities and charities now determined to make services available to women, to prevent recurrent care proceedings. The discovery of recurrence has clearly prompted a major change in how local authorities and the courts think about the impact of the family justice system, given that one in every four women appearing in care proceedings is at risk of returning to court.

This is a summary report that aims to present, in brief, the key messages from our comprehensive study of birth mothers and their recurrent care proceedings. The full research report, along with other papers and practice resources, is available from our website at: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/child-and-family-justice/publications/

In this summary report, we provide new evidence with the aim of helping agencies to understand the reasons why women return to court, and what more can be done to break this negative cycle. We also make recommendations regarding national data collection to ensure that intelligence about recurrence is more readily available for policy-makers and practitioners.