A new study published today (10 October 2018), has reported that the likelihood of newborn babies being involved in care proceedings has increased from 15 to 35 per 10,000 births between 2008 and 2016. The study ‘Born into care: Newborns in care proceedings in England’ was led by Professor Karen Broadhurst, Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University, and funded by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory. This data was found by analysing population-level data collected by Cafcass, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.
In 81% of cases, a local authority judging a child to be suffering, or at risk of suffering, ‘significant harm’ led to a court-issued order and the ultimate removal of a child – whether this was for kinship care (21%), fostering (13%) or adoption (47%). A significant finding was that the number of cases varied considerably between different regions. For example, figures for Yorkshire and Humber were almost twice as high as those for London, even though demographics and levels of deprivation were thought to be similar.
The report has called for a re-examination of the proceedings, particularly in the case of families new to the courts. The duration of a pregnancy doesn’t necessarily provide enough time for a thorough assessment, so more statutory guidance is needed for pre-birth assessments. It also recommends establishing best practice for care proceedings at birth.