Senior Lecturer in Social Work
Our findings show that placing babies and infants with older brothers and sisters was the exception rather than the rule...[this] can have huge consequences for their relationships with their siblings.
Lead author Dr Linda Cusworth, from Lancaster University, said, “It is clear from our study that these families have multiple and complex needs. This emphasises the need for a range of early, sensitive and flexible support services to support parents, including those who are care experienced, and those who have had a child previously removed from their care.”
Dr Cusworth added, “The decision to remove a child at or soon after birth is probably the most difficult decision that professionals can make to intervene in family life. It is traumatic for mothers, fathers and wider family networks. It is important to understand more about the circumstances in which removal of babies shortly after birth takes place in Scotland, and this study helps to provide some of that information.”
The use of population-level data by this study also enabled important comparisons with similar research on compulsory care proceedings in England and Wales.
This study found that infants under a year old formed 20% of all children who entered care via the Children’s Hearings System in Scotland. This is a lower proportion than other parts of the UK. In Wales, 30% of all children entering care proceedings between 2011 and 2018 were under a year old, while in England, this was 27% (between 2007/08 and 2016/17).
Between 2013/14 and 2019/20, the proportion of infants in Scotland who became looked after away from home as newborns (less than seven days old) was fairly stable at around a third. By comparison, in England and Wales the proportion of infants who entered care proceedings as newborns was higher, and showed an upward trend across the period – from 43% to 51% in England, and from 40% to 51% in Wales.
Professor Karen Broadhurst, also from Lancaster University, who led the work in England and Wales, said, “The proportion of infants who enter care as newborns in Scotland is lower than in England and Wales, where there is a trend over recent years towards issuing care proceedings closer to birth.
“Our findings raise questions about differences in policy and practice in the three countries in relation to compulsory removal of infants at or close to birth, and seem to suggest that Scotland may be less pre-emptive".