Improving support for social care
Naomi Delap, director of Birth Companions, emphasises the need for a better approach to working with women who have contact with social care teams during pregnancy and early motherhood
The number of babies and infants subject to care proceedings is growing (Broadhurst and Mason, 2017). At the same time, outcomes for mothers with social care involvement are getting worse, as they fall between gaps in fragmented and overstretched services (Alrouh et al, 2021). As a result, and often in spite of the best efforts of midwives, vulnerable women and their babies are being let down by the systems that are meant to be supporting them.
Mothers separated from their babies are often left to cope with their grief alone, with no support to address the trauma of separation and the issues that may have contributed. This can lead to the rapid escalation of mental health issues, substance use, domestic abuse and criminalisation, and women in these situations are at risk of death by suicide or substance misuse (Knight et al, 2022). In the latest maternal mortality report, 20% of women who died in pregnancy, birth or the year after birth were known to social services, up from 12% in 2012-2014 and 17% in 2017-2019 (Knight et al, 2022). More than one in 10 (11%) of those who died by suicide and 59% of those who died through substance misuse had had an infant removed into care and/or ongoing care proceedings. We urgently need to do better for them and their children.
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