The unwarranted removal of children is not an aberration of the past or The Handmaid’s Tale of the future. Thousands of mothers are being labelled ‘unfit’ and treated as mere surrogates right now.
Successive governments promoting adoption, financial and other pressures on social services, family court secrecy, increased privatisation of children services and cuts in legal aid have led to a 65% rise in children taken into care or adopted – 143,440 in 2016!
The number of ‘looked-after’ children in England is the highest it has been since 1985; one in five children under five are referred to children’s services, one in 19 are investigated; adoptions are higher than in any other European country, and now stand at the highest level since data was first collected. More than 90% of adoptions are done without the consent of the birth family. Fostering and adoption are now multi-million pound industries.
Under the Children Act 1989, the welfare of the child is paramount. Yet the trauma of being torn from the love and protection of a mother or other primary carer, and the additional harm of being in care, are routinely ignored.
The mothers and grandmothers in our coalition have had their children taken at birth, while still breastfeeding, after months under CCTV surveillance in mother and baby units where breastfeeding is forbidden, or couldn’t get their children back from temporary care (like the mother of Lemn Sissay). Others are fighting to stop violent fathers having contact or custody of their children. We come together at monthly self-help sessions and monthly protests outside Holborn’s family court. Most mothers are single, low income, young, of colour, immigrant, have a disability or a learning difficulty, and/or have had children taken before. One woman has lost six children, the last two despite acknowledgement that she was an able and loving mother. One in four whose children are (forcibly) adopted grew up in care.
Our experience that families from poor areas are targeted has been confirmed by new research showing a geographical divide with families from the North of England disproportionately at risk. With nearly four million UK children (28%) living in poverty, the potential for social engineering is huge.
In January 2017 we published the dossier Suffer the Little Children and their Mothers. Its launch was hosted by MP Emma Lewell-Buck who led opposition to clauses in the Children and Social Work Bill which would have removed statutory protection from children in care, enabling further privatisation of children services. The clauses were defeated.
Support Not Separation is bringing together organisations and individuals directly affected by the unwarranted removal of children.
Closed family courts have enabled decisions based on lies, sexism and other prejudices. An end to secret hearings is a crucial demand of the Coalition. Other demands include: Help for families to stay together unless there is evidence of serious actual harm. Support for primary carers – evidence shows that protecting mothers is almost always the best way to protect children. Ending adoptions as a form of social engineering.
We are determined to stop the unwarranted removal of children and to get mothers, grandmothers and other primary carers the support they are entitled to.
Labour’s manifesto commitments to keep child protection services out of private hands, “refocus social care to work with families … to prevent children becoming at risk of going into care,” and increase ongoing support for kinship carers are important steps in the right direction.
Members so far include:
Legal Action for Women, co-ordinators
Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services
Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Global Women’s Strike
Lactation Consultants of Great Britain
Milk of Human Kindness
Movement for an Adoption Apology
Scottish Kinship Care Alliance
Single Mothers’ Self-Defence
WinVisible (women with visible & invisible disabilities)
Women Against Rape
Mothers, grandmothers, children who suffered historic separation, former social workers, the founder of a support service for the children of prisoners, teachers and other professionals.
LAUNCH of SUPPORT NOT SEPARATION – a coalition to end the unwarranted and damaging separation of children from their mother or other primary carer.
WHEN: Tuesday 11 July 6-8pm, Wilson Room, Portcullis House, Westminster, SW1A 2JR
CO-ORDINATED BY: Legal Action for Women (LAW)
HOSTED BY: MP Emma Lewell-Buck
CONTACT: Anne Neale, LAW. Tel: 020 7482 2496