Plight of thousands of kids trapped in 'cycle of neglect' [Western Morning News (England)]
(Western Morning News (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Hundreds of young mothers and their babies are trapped in a damaging 'cycle of neglect' across the West.
Over the past seven years thousands of mothers in England have been dragged into the courts time and time again to have successive children taken into the care of local authorities.
Child psychologist Dr Ben Laskey, who acts as an expert witness in family courts, said he would be surprised if the figure for the South West over that period was less than 400.
Social workers and foster parents told the WMN on Sunday that the mothers often came from troubled backgrounds themselves and had never learned to give the love and attention their babies need. In many cases drink, drugs and domestic abuse - sometimes combined with mental health problems - lay behind the neglect and maltreatment of children, Jack Cordery, head of Cornwall Council's children's early help, psychology and social care services said.
In a groundbreaking piece of research, academics have used Court Service data to uncover the fact that 7,143 mothers have been involved in "re-current" care cases over the past seven years. The cases involved 22,790 children.
Lead researcher Dr Karen Broadhurst from the University of Manchester said she had not yet broken down the figures into local authority areas. Over the seven years of the study, Devon County Council took a total of 430 children into care, not all repeat cases.
'Janey', a retired social worker, said the parents and their babies were caught up in a cycle of neglect.
"Some of these are girls who have been neglected by their own mothers and have never learned the skills needed to care for a baby."
She said it was a long-standing problem which had been around since she started in social work 40 years ago - and probably much longer.
Dr Laskey, a director with the psychological services company Pactt, said: "It's normally parents who themselves have had pretty awful childhoods. They don't understand what they are doing wrong.
"Often they honestly feel they are doing a good job. Many desperately want to be a parent and provide the care they did not get themselves."
Mr Cordery from Cornwall Council said: "There are a number of parents who appear to be trapped in a cycle of pregnancies and care proceedings. They either do not accept that their poor parenting presents an unacceptable risk to their child, or they are unable to make the necessary changes to their lifestyle or parenting," he said.
The research, carried out by the Universities of Brunel and Manchester and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found that half of the birth mothers involved were very young, aged 24 and under at the first care application, and 19per cent were just 14 to 19.
Most misused drink or drugs - or both.
CASE STUDY A Devon couple who have regularly looked after families - mother, father and baby - who were struggling said many young parents did not know how to cope.
The Js took in one mother and baby. She had already had two children taken into care and social workers were battling to help her to cope with the latest baby. Mr J said the 19-year-old did not know about simple things such as the need to attend to a crying baby. "If a phone call came in she would see that as more important and leave the baby crying for half an hour." Mrs J said that some young mothers from deprived backgrounds lacked support which might help them cope.
WELFARE CASE STUDY A Somerset couple, the Ms, who have been regular foster parents, took in Liam (not his real name) for a year and a half. He was the last of 12 children who are now all in care. Liam's mother was in her early 40s when he was born, and he was taken away from her when he was less than a year old.
"We can see how neglected he was compared to other children we have had," Mrs M said. "His mother just wanted to have babies and he wasn't thriving. "She had not had a particularly good childhood herself. We were more parents to him than she ever was.
"You would think that if you didn't have a particularly good childhood, you would try to do better for your own children. "The little boy was very happy with us. It was heartbreaking. But the experts like them to form an attachment to the foster parents because that can be transferred to an adoptive family. They need to be upset when they leave you." She supported children's services in removing children from their families when necessary. The sooner a child is taken from a problem family the better because the damage can be done by the time it reaches as young as two, Mrs M said.
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