A "huge rise" has been reported in the number of newborns being taken into care in England, with some parents said to be stuck in a "destructive cycle" of neglect, abuse and pregnancy. Researchers even discovered one vulnerable mother having an extraordinary 16 babies taken away from her, one after the other, after she kept falling pregnant.
Figures compiled by family court records showed 13,248 babies were taken into care at birth or shortly afterwards between 2007 and 2014. Some 802 newborns were subject to care proceedings in 2008, but by 2013 this had jumped to 2,018.
Lead researcher Professor Karen Broadhurst told the BBC the rise could be partly explained by "a general trend towards taking more timely action" where children could be at risk. But she said the number was "disproportionately increasing", and said more studies was needed to determine the exact reasons for the "huge" rise.
She suggested it may partly be reversed by helping some mothers break out of damaging patterns of behaviour. Professor Broadhurst said: "Some mothers are caught in a destructive cycle, their child's taken into care, because of neglect or abuse, they quickly become pregnant again without changing their outlook or circumstances. Social workers take their next baby away at birth – and the next."
The study, compiled by researchers at Lancaster University, Brunel University and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, showed a third of newborns were removed from teenage mothers, while about half were taken from mothers with other children in care.
This included, the BBC was told, one mother who had 16 of her own children taken away. The woman is now said to be receiving support from the department for education-funded Pause project, which helps mothers who have had babies taken from them.
Prof Broadhurst told Press Association these "repeat clients" of the family court often followed the pattern seen in women who lost their babies or had a stillborn, becoming pregnant again "in quick succession".
She said: "As you have more babies removed the desire to replace the lost baby becomes stronger. The key issue is that England doesn't have any statutory requirements for post-removal support.
"There are no support services for young mothers with babies who have risky behaviours. We would like to see a statutory obligation on agencies to provide this to interrupt cycle early."