Baby taken from mother with learning difficulties

// 25 January 2010

Kerry Robertson, a 17-year-old with learning difficulties who was prevented from marrying her boyfriend of one year back in September because social workers believed she was unable to understand the meaning of the contract, has now been forced to give up her baby. (Apologies for the Mail link, I couldn’t find the story elsewhere.) The couple had fled to Ireland in November after being told that their baby could be taken from them, and social services caught up with them four days after their son, Ben, was born:

Last night Miss Robertson said: ‘When the Irish social workers said I had to give the baby to them, I felt sick.

‘I didn’t want to hand him over and I started crying because I couldn’t believe what they were saying. I thought I had misunderstood.

‘I had just been breastfeeding him.

Just before they took him away, I told Ben I loved him and gave him a kiss.’

Mr McDougall added: ‘Kerry let out a dreadful cry when she realised what was happening – it was terrible. She is just in pieces.

This is just appalling. Kerry’s learning difficulties do not automatically mean she will be unable to cope with motherhood, yet there appears to be no other motivation for social services’ actions. The whole affair reeks of ablism.

The failure to consider the possibility that her clearly committed boyfriend and father of the child could be the primary care-giver if necessary also smacks of sexist assumptions about men and women’s parental responsibilities and roles.

Everyone has the right to a family life, and social services should be enabling the family to stay together (if they actually even need any support), not ripping them apart.

Comments From You

Jo // Posted 25 January 2010 at 10:31 pm

I agree, the Mail being the main basis of knowledge, it’s impossible to know what is really going on here. I do appreciate that there may be some truth in a misplaced assumption that someone with learning difficulties = can’t cope with child. However, the Mail (and most of the media) do love a bit of Social Worker bashing. I am not a Social Worker, but have worked alongside them, and generally putting a child on the ‘at risk’ register is not a decision taken lightly, or without good reason. I remain convinced that the DM have conveniently ‘forgotten’ to mention the *real* reason why this child was removed, and instead choose to cloud the issue with the learning difficulty issue, because it’ll give them a chance to point out what bastards those Social Workers are. Ripping families apart – how dare they.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 25 January 2010 at 10:33 pm

It is an appalling situation. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that she’s ‘incapable’, if any.

And even if she would struggle (and who doesn’t with a new baby?!), she and her boyfriend and the baby should get appropriate support to cope, not have the baby taken away.

FOS // Posted 25 January 2010 at 11:04 pm

I have to stay really anonymous for this one because I have a confession to make… I’m a social worker.

It takes days and months to actually reach a point where a child will be removed from a family. I read the Daily Mail story with the disbelief that every social worker would have done – that they failed to mention the exhaustive assessment process which precedes the removal of a child.

Contrary to popular belief we can’t just remove children because we feel like it, on a whimsy. We have to go to court and justify our reasons. We have to apply for a care order. We have to carry out assessment after assessment until everybody in the case is satisfied that it is the right decision. We do this because we need to prevent another Victoria Climbié/Baby P case from happening again the future. Prevention, not promises for a better future after the tragedy has already happened.

It is /highly unlikely/ that the only issue here is going to be that the mother has learning difficulties. There will be many other reasons because we cannot remove a child on the basis that the mother has learning difficulties. There are usually a collection of factors which will go forth to provide a justification for pre-birth removal.

There are around 29,000 children on the “child-in-need” register at the moment, all receiving support from social services whilst remaining in their families. Removing a child is the last resort when all other avenues have been exhausted.

It is very possible that what will happen is that the parents will be subject to a section 8 parenting order requiring them to comply with social services (attend support meetings, receive support) until social workers are satisfied enough that the parents can cope. I doubt this baby will have been removed permanently and whilst sad, it is not unusual for this to happen in cases where social workers believe the parents need additional support which cannot be provided whilst the child is still within the family.

We don’t know the other issues going on here – the parents felt they had enough to run from to escape to Ireland so I couldn’t even try to guess what else is happening. Drugs? Prostitution? Exploitation? I don’t know and conveniently the Daily Mail don’t make any mention of the other reasons why social workers may have intervened.

I couldn’t find anywhere else but the Daily Mail which picked up on this story, but then they do so love to pull social workers apart.

Niamh // Posted 25 January 2010 at 11:05 pm

Absolutely appalling case. There’s an Irish Times article on it here:

earwicga // Posted 25 January 2010 at 11:38 pm

I read this at the weekend and think it seems very vile from what we know. Apparently the midwives left the room as they were so upset.

rox // Posted 26 January 2010 at 12:54 am

I’ve been following this story for a while in the family preservation advocacy blogs I follow.

I’m delighted to see this story picked up by feminists! This is a feminist issue, and we do NOT want to wind up in a world where people are having their children involuntarily removed because they have concentration problems.


cb // Posted 26 January 2010 at 6:48 am

I had expected more than social work bashing here to be honest – since when has the Mail been seen as a reliable news source? Social Workers do not make these decisions in isolation and a court needs to rule on the evidence in front of them – not just a decision to ‘remove a child’ randomly. I can assure you that learning disabilities are NEVER enough (quite rightly) to justify removing a child from parents and there is much more to this story that has been published – perhaps the reason that the only link found has been in the Daily Mail.

I am truly saddened that the knee-jerk ‘social workers rip families apart’ line has been taken.

Laura // Posted 26 January 2010 at 9:26 am

@ cb and FOS – I’m not suggesting social workers are all bad or repeatedly try to rip families apart, and I too am sick of them being blamed for everything and never being given any credit. However, the original story on Kerry being prevented from marrying was reported widely and the only justification given was her learning difficulties. Disability rights blogs and organisations have been discussing the story as an example of how disabled people are often assumed by the able-bodied to be incapable; and I’ve seen at least one broadsheet columnist use the story to argue that people with learning difficulties should not be allowed to have children. I agree that the DM isn’t the best source and does have an agenda, but given the high levels of discrimination against disabled and learning disabled people in this country I don’t think it’s impossible that Kerry’s learning difficulties were indeed the main reason for these particular professionals’ actions.

Kez // Posted 26 January 2010 at 10:02 am

I agree this does sound like a very distressing case, however my immediate reaction, like others above, is “more social worker bashing from the Daily Mail”. Thing is, local authorities are prevented for confidentiality reasons from discussing any specifics related to individual cases, so nobody is likely to come out and say “these are the specific reasons why this decision has been taken”. I am not claiming the decision in this case was correct – I don’t know. It does sound very upsetting. But having learning difficulties is not generally a reason, in itself, for a child to be removed – I personally have known several women with learning difficulties who have been well supported in their parenting. I’m not saying there is no prejudice against parents with learning difficulties. But that is not, legally (or of course morally), a sufficient reason for this action to be taken.

It’s not as easy as the papers often seem to suggest for social workers just to whisk in and remove a child based on prejudice or over-zealousness. As pointed out above it takes time and compelling evidence for that stage to be reached.

gadgetgal // Posted 26 January 2010 at 10:23 am

I can’t find any decent info anywhere, and most of the articles are either in crappy salacious publications or they’re full of only one the side of the story. I’m reluctant to believe that social services would just step in and take a baby away for no reason. Even if there IS a reason they’re still extremely reluctant to do so. I also think that the local council would be reluctant to back the move unless the circumstances were more than what the papers have indicated, especially after all the bad publicity over her not being allowed to marry.

Basically it sounds unfair (taking a baby away because of learning difficulties) and sexist (not considering there is a father who can be the primary caregiver), but we don’t KNOW that these things haven’t already been taken into consideration. Maybe he’s not capable of looking after the baby either, but, not being the mother and having no known disability, he just doesn’t make as a good a headline. We don’t know. I found a quote from the council which said this had “followed full consideration of the evidence by police, social services and health professionals.” So just the fact that the police were involved, which hasn’t been mentioned in the articles so far, shows we don’t have all the information, so we don’t have enough to really make a judgement call.

I just hope it all works out for them, whoever is right or wrong, because it’s still a very sad thing to happen to anyone.

polly // Posted 26 January 2010 at 11:11 am

Can I point out that we can’t find any detailed info for the reason that it’s confidential, and the social services won’t be able to give a statement on WHY this child is being taken into care.

If it is simply because the mother has learning difficulties, I agree that’s horrendously ablist, however I do believe there may be more to this than meets the eye.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 26 January 2010 at 11:35 am

This story has been about for a while and as I recall the details- she did go to court and was ordered to hand over the baby by the judge. She argued however that she wasn’t properly represented as despite the fact she explicitly and repeatedly said she wanted to keep the baby, HER lawyer [who was provided by the state rather] never contested the issue and instead agreed to the giving up of the child against her wishes. Of course, we don’t know the lawyer’s side of this story, but her representation of what happened to her is very distressing. The father’s rights in this case have never been discussed, which I find strange as he would be the obvious guardian, unless there is more to this story.

This case was discussed a few months back on another blog and a social worker commented there to say that while in the past a huge effort was made to keep babies with their mothers; now if it is thought that the child will end up in care, there is pressure to have the baby adopted asap. This is because there are now adoption targets for children in care, and it is easier to adopt out a newborn than a toddler. However, I am not a social worker and this is just hearsay and may be a regional or individual experience.

Claire // Posted 26 January 2010 at 12:58 pm

Obvious implication of this is that if a man is widowed at the birth of his child, the child will be taken away by Social Services. It is the mother’s competence alone apparently that matters for parenting. The father here was perfectly capable of being a carer and has been deprived of that chore/right.

polly // Posted 26 January 2010 at 1:06 pm

I don’t know if one reason the father’s rights weren’t discussed pre the birth Feminist Avatar is because they weren’t married. An unmarried father can acquire parental responsibility by jointly registering the birth of a child, by agreement with the mother, or by order of a court, but that obviously isn’t possible pre birth. However there’s nothing to stop him applying now.

It does seem that the legal process in this case is lacking from your description of what went on however. But we don’t know what will happen now.

Kez // Posted 26 January 2010 at 2:24 pm

@Claire – “The father here was perfectly capable of being a carer”.

How do you know this? Because the Daily Mail said so? It’s completely untrue that the mother’s competence is seen by social workers as the only relevant matter – the whole family situation will always be taken into consideration in making this incredibly difficult decision.

Kate // Posted 26 January 2010 at 2:37 pm

Claire, Polly’s post answers this, but no that’s not the obvious implication. A widower has very differnt rights.

At first glance I’m extremely uncomfortable with the assumption that the father couldn’t raise the child, but I’m aware that there is probably a tonne of information that the Daily Mail hasn’t conveyed so I’m not commenting. I’m also aware that there is a presumption in the UK that children should stay with their natural parents so I’m always sceptical when people claim there’s been a rush to take a child into care.

Kit // Posted 26 January 2010 at 2:39 pm

This is the second story like this I’ve seen in the DM. The other one was a couple who both had learning difficulties had their children taken away from them. Not sure what to make of it, it seems like a small reason on it’s own to take children away from their parent(s), when there have been I’m sure other cases children were more obviously better off taken away from their parents but social workers couldn’t in time (for reasons as per FOS’s comment).

Still, even if there is more to this case than is being reported, I don’t think that should be a reason to not talk about the idea at all or shut down outrage at the concept (though social worker bashing is unhelpful). It’s certainly not unbelievable that people with learning difficulties have had other rights taken away from them by supposedly well meaning people without those difficulties, because they’ve assumed they know what’s better.

Laura // Posted 26 January 2010 at 4:13 pm

Can I just say, I do agree that there could be other issues going on here that haven’t been reported anywhere, and I do wish I had taken a more thoughtful approach in my post.Having worked with the families of children with disabilities and learning difficulties over the past few months, it’s been a real shock to see how often and badly they are let down by statutory services and I’ve been very angry about it – clearly my anger at this case clouded my ability to question what else could be going on.

earwicga // Posted 26 January 2010 at 4:43 pm

“clearly my anger at this case clouded my ability to question what else could be going on.”

Or perhaps it has allowed you to see straight through the bullshit.

Redheadinred // Posted 26 January 2010 at 4:53 pm

But would this be happening if it was the father who had learning difficulties? There was a woman on a TV documentary about deaf people who was deaf and partially sighted, and she had had to fight to keep her child, when social workers said they were going to take it away. Her husband wasn’t disabled, and there was no indication she was going to be a bad mother, or that he couldn’t be a good father. But since she was officially deafblind, they told her she had to give it up.

Ruth Moss // Posted 26 January 2010 at 5:29 pm

I’ve had my ex sister-in-law Social Worker stand in my living room on the instruction of my ex-husband and make veiled threats about how she could get my child taken from me because I dared to write smutty emails to a woman (that my ex had found). (My ex sister-in-law breached confidentiality often, by the way, to tell us the “hilarious” tales of her clients and their “chavviness”).

I’ve seen (in my capacity as a breastfeeding peer counsellor) Health Visitors make referrals to Social Services for babies that are breastfed and gain weight slowly and whose mothers refuse to “put them on the bottle” like the HVs suggest. And I’ve seen Social Workers take it seriously. And no, there hasn’t been “more to it” – in one case, the mother (a working class woman living on a housing estate with an unemployed partner and two kids under two, funny that they picked on her, eh) was forced to take her baby for blood tests even though she didn’t want to put him through that and guess what? He was absolutely fine. As she, I and the Infant Feeding Advisor at the local hospital tried to tell them.

I have sat through “Safeguarding Training” taught by a Social Worker and learning that in her opinion Full Term breastfeeding (that is, breastfeeding beyond infancy) is “not enough reason to be suspicious as such but do just keep an eye on the situation”.

I’ve had some pretty piss-poor dealings with social workers (I worked for a charity and although, yes, I know there are some good ones out there, and yes, yes, we never hear about the “good stories”, and yes, apparently there is this huge lengthy procedure they have to go through (but think about it, once there’s a CAF in place, don’t you think the other agencies involved are going to think “hmm, if the social worker / Home-Start or SureStart Professional / Doctor / etc. has concerns then there probably is something going on” and approach that family with suspicion and everything that could be perfectly innocent will be looked on with suspicion?) but the thing that always stops things being done is that people always say:

“There must be more to it than this.”

And yes, maybe there is, but you don’t know. Let’s just say, what if there isn’t more to it? What if, like the stopped clock, the Fail is right every now and again?

And here’s the thing, you don’t have to write a Disgusted of Merseyside letter to Fife Social Services along the lines of “why oh why oh why down with this sort of thing”. In fact, there’s an example of what you can do here:

And if the Fail is wrong, and the mother or father has done some godawful thing that the Fail aren’t telling / can’t tell us, then you’ve lost ten minutes composing an email, and you’ll feel a bit duped. But if the Fail is right, and you don’t do anything?

What then?

Shea // Posted 26 January 2010 at 5:36 pm

The court have a statutory duty to act in the best interests of the child. Thats it. I agree on the face of it this story is horrific (it sounds like those unmarried mothers homes of the olden days). But it doesn’t really seem to add up.

I’ve seen the children of heroin addicts remain in their parent’s care in a broken, unheated, dog shit covered house, purely because there was food in the cupboards. The process the police and social services (and the courts) have to follow with regards to removing a child is extremely rigid. They simply cannot take the child into care, unless there is a serious risk of harm posed. So I seriously struggle to see why/how the child has been taken into care, purely on the basis that the mother has learning difficulties.

I suspect that there is in fact alot more to this. But those details cannot be disclosed because of the need to protect the child.

Kez // Posted 26 January 2010 at 6:15 pm

Must admit I’m a little surprised at how many people here are apparently ready to believe what they read in the notoriously unreliable and frequently toxic Daily Mail, apparently because it happens, on this occasion, to fit with their preconceived ideas.

Whichever way you look at it, this is a distressing case. A baby being separated from its mother is never going to be anything other than very upsetting. I’m not saying the right decision has been made here, because I don’t know whether it has or not. But either way you’re only going to hear one side of this story, because the local authority can’t, and shouldn’t, comment on its reasons.

@ Ruth – if a HV makes a referral about a baby, however misguided, then of course it has to be investigated, or at least considered. I’m only too well aware that many health visitors are absolutely crap when it comes to breastfeeding and it’s ridiculous if referrals are genuinely being made to social work purely because of “slow” weight gain. (I’ve never seen one of these referrals myself, but most of the HVs I work with are actually pretty good.) However failure to thrive does exist and nobody would want to be the person responsible for missing something potentially serious.

FWIW, I’d have complained about the idiot who did the safeguarding training. And your ex-sister in law should be struck off. But making veiled threats to a member of your family is not the same as following through, and she’d have looked pretty stupid standing up in court to argue her case…

GHC // Posted 26 January 2010 at 6:25 pm

The mother is still being permitted to breastfeed her baby, despite the baby being in care. This happens in cases where there has been drug addiction (heroin etc.) and the infant needs weaning off the drug at the same time as the mother is receiving treatment (they become addicted in-uterine).

The father automatically has parental rights provided he is on the birth certificate (as of December 2003). If he is not on the birth certificate then he has no parental rights. Given the child is only in foster care (parental responsibility still rests with the birth parents) he would have parental responsibility. It is possible he is also not considered to be an adequate father, for whatever reasons not given. It’s not sexist if you are not going to be a good enough parent, no matter what your gender. Kinship care is being rallied right now in social work as a very viable alternative. Their families have also not been considered as “good enough” parents which is why the baby is now in private foster care.

In child protection you have to weigh the bad with the good. There is a term we use called “good enough parenting”. Are they “good enough”? Can they meet “reasonable expectations”? You can have animal faeces across the walls and hardly any food in the cupboards and for /today/ you would be considered “good enough” provided your kid was clothed, fed and clean.

There have got to be extenuating circumstances afoot here (such as drug addiction and an unwillingness to undergo treatment etc.) for social workers to be able to remove a child so soon after birth. Their little escapade to Ireland shows they have something they consider worth running from and it’s unlikely to be the people who want to help them raise their baby.

FOS // Posted 26 January 2010 at 6:28 pm

Ruth – you need to report your ex-sister-in-law to the General Social Care Council for gross misconduct if she is regularly breaking confidentiality and making threats.

It is NOT easy to remove a child from it’s family no matter what the Daily Mail would have you believe. It costs the local authority £4000 (!!) every time they apply for a care order (to remove a child, or consideration to remove a child) and that is not something they do without a lot of justification and many meetings.

Ruth Moss // Posted 26 January 2010 at 6:44 pm

@Kez “failure to thrive” as it used to be called, now called “faltering growth” exists, yes, but it’s much rarer than HVs/SS believe. Glad you have nice Health Visitors. I think I’ve met two in my entire time working with them. Maybe it’s the postcode lottery.

By the way:

“it’s ridiculous if referrals are genuinely being made to social work” (my italics)

I’m not particularly happy about the disbelieving tone of that… are you suggesting I’m making it up? Or is this just the usual “I can’t believe someone suggested a social worker would do such a thing”?

Yeah, right, my ex SIL should be struck off – she’s now actually managing a team of social workers. Wonder what their attitudes are like? (And, yeah, I could complain about her, yeah, sure, ‘cos that wouldn’t land me in deep shit and put me and my kid at risk). But I bet people who don’t believe the story in the OP also believe people like her are one offs.

And yeah, she’d have looked pretty stupid. But let’s see… newly single mother, breastfeeding her two year old (in an area where about three weeks is the average), co-sleeping on a mattress on the floor, doesn’t take child to development check ups (because she thinks they’re a crock of shit), doesn’t own a pram, baby has been in hospital twice in the last two years for accidents… you don’t think she could have passed that on to someone who could have made a case of it?

Why is it that if we hear a story which is an example of how the police are institutionally sexist, for example, we believe it, we never say “but there must be more to it”, but if someone suggests social services is institutionally biased towards certain families, it needs to be backed up ten to the dozen?

Is it perhaps because the police is male dominated and social work tends to be a more female dominated profession and women can do no wrong ever? Or is it because this is in the Mail (although it also appears to be in the Irish Times don’t know how reliable a source that is?) and we can’t believe what they say?

I don’t know if it is that or not, which is why I’m asking, but it does seem to me that a lot of people here are asking for a *lot* more proof than they would of a similar story that showed another institution up for bigotry…

polly // Posted 26 January 2010 at 7:55 pm

It’s worth pointing out that the child here is currently in foster care, and is being visited by his parents. So no final decision has been made on his care.

There’s already media pressure being brought to bear, and the couple are being supported by an MP and also financially. So I don’t know what help it would be to e-mail the social services. And I speak as someone who works somewhere where we’re sometimes on the receiving end of this type of campaign. Basically all you’re doing is making life a misery for some poor soul who’s got to answer them. Which is hardly going to help the cause of child protection, since they’ll be spending their time answering e-mails. Either that or they’ll just be diverted straight to the recycle bin.

Ally M // Posted 26 January 2010 at 11:44 pm

I have volunteered working with young people with learning difficulties in the past. Some of them had very successful marriages and long-term relationships; one of those I worked with was a mother and as far as I could see, provided with extra support, was an excellent parent.

I therefore find this case concerning, but also have my doubts about the way it has been reported. I suspect FOS is right in thinking that there is more to this case than the newspapers are reporting. The fact it has been carried in more than one newspaper does not imply that all of the articles are not based solely on the work of one Daily Mail reporter.

Ruth (not the one above) // Posted 27 January 2010 at 12:33 am


how on earth do you know that any explanation than “vile” social workers and prejudice must be “bullshit”? Unless you personally know the family, it seems unlikely.

I too am quite surprised that so many people are happy to jump on the ‘social work bashing bandwagon’ here without a full idea of (or even much interest in, in some cases it appears)the facts.

Again, it is THE COURTS which make removal orders, and they require a mountain of evidence. Whilst everyone is anecdoting away, here’s one: workers very concerned about child’s safety: applied for court order with lots and lots of hard evidence; mum made emotional plea no, magistrate felt sorry for her and refused an order, child admitted DOA at hospital two days later.

But of course, do let’s just blame the SWs. Beats thinking, I guess. Or accepting that some children really are in need of protection from their parents.

Oh, and before all the “you heartless cow” comments start, I have worked with adults with LD for years and yes, some make excellent parents. And some are very incapable parents indeed- just like the rest of us, oddly enough.

JenniferRuth // Posted 27 January 2010 at 9:02 am

I know that a culture of criticising social workers has risen and that this is unfair. However, it is possible to to do it without implying that the whole social work system is “broken” and that all social workers are deserving of our suspicion and ire. I haven’t seen anyone imply that in this thread but a lot of the comments are really defensive.

Yes, it’s the Daily Mail and yes, we don’t have the full story (and probably will not get it) but the story is horrible enough to merit a discussion on what the hell these particular social workers were basing their decisions on. Particularly in regards in ableism.

As Kez says: Whichever way you look at it, this is a distressing case.

Claire // Posted 27 January 2010 at 12:31 pm

i have to take issue with Kez’s assertion, “the whole family situation will always be taken into consideration in making this incredibly difficult decision”. I know it isn’t like this from personal experience. Social Workers are human beings and thus fallible. They can be lazy like the rest of us, prejudiced like the rest of us and rely on information without properly investigating. They are capable of being unprofessional. Sometimes they make duff decisions. I’m not bashing them Daily Mail style to say that. All public servants have to be held to be accountable and this sounds like an odd case. It would help Social Services’ position if they had made a statement explaining that there were a variety of factors which all taken into consideration, and including the father’s parenting ability, justified their decision. If they can’t make that statement, their judgment is suspect. I don’t see why we should place any more faith in social workers than we do in any other professional.

Butterflywings // Posted 27 January 2010 at 7:31 pm

I don’t know. This is one of those frustrating ‘if only I was there’ cases. We don’t know what happened. If she wasn’t allowed to get married, I think that is in itself concerning. That they ran away, rather than try to prove their ability as parents, is another. You can’t leave a kid with someone who could just take off.

Fwiw, I don’t think the Daily Mail is exactly concerned with combating ableism, any more than it is with combating racism or sexism. I don’t trust it, any more than I do its nasty misogynist ‘woman cried rape’ stories.

For sure, more has gone on here than is being reported. Others have made the point about confidentiality.

Are all social workers perfect? No. Are they classist and ableist, just like, well, everyone? For sure.

I can see why some people react defensively, given the context of anti-social worker attitudes fuelled by the media – this week in the Daily Fail it’s ‘evil social workers take kid away from angel mother who DID NOTHING WRONG!’ but next week it’s ‘Baby P! Victoria Climbie! Social workers don’t take kids away enough and KIDS DIE!!!’ I blame the media for that (and a lot of things).

Should people get help and support to be parents, and should social services be understanding of differences? Of course. Sadly, some people are not fit to be parents, even with all the support in the world.

The truth is actually nuanced. Social workers have a really tough job, and like anyone, sometimes f*() up.

polly // Posted 27 January 2010 at 10:16 pm

“The truth is actually nuanced”

That’s why newspapers mainly tell simple, obvious half truths. Or actual lies.

Ruth Moss // Posted 28 January 2010 at 6:42 am

Gawd I loathe linking to the Daily Fail but you may be interested to learn there is if not a “happy” ending to the story at least a “better” one.

Kez // Posted 28 January 2010 at 10:59 am

Great news. Really hope they can make a go of things.

Butterflywings // Posted 28 January 2010 at 3:50 pm

Good news. Yes, good luck to them.

Much as I hate to admit it *grits teeth* this article in the Fail is not that bad.

It makes a good point, and that is that she is very shy. Now anyone who is/ has been shy knows how sometimes people misinterpret it as stupidity. (I once worked in an off-licence and although I *have a degree* for f*&*sake, people assumed I was thick as). Especially when you are young and female.

It is also appalling (if true) that she has never been tested for any kind of learning disability.

So I have to say, much as I still think the Fail is biased, I am somewhat modifying my views on this.

Kez // Posted 28 January 2010 at 5:14 pm

It’s only the Mail, though, AFAIK, who claim that social services’ decision was taken on the grounds of her learning disability. And even the Mail admits it is “not privy to all the information”…

I can’t see how Fife social work department could possibly have written to the registrar, or been taken seriously upon doing so, claiming she was “too dim to understand her vows” if no assessment of her cognitive capacity had ever been done. That would have been the first thing anyone would have asked for.

I’m delighted Kerry is being reunited with her baby and is receiving support (I don’t know why the option of supported mother and baby accommodation wasn’t taken sooner – perhaps there were no places available?). But this article still leaves me with some questions. For instance “they were told the baby would be taken into care at birth”. This could be a misleading statement, as “taken into care” does not, contrary to the common understanding of the term, necessarily mean removed from the parents’ care. It is just as likely to mean that the child remains with the parent/s but with compulsory measures of supervision in place. As appears, in fact, now to be the case.

There is certainly cause for speculation about why it was deemed necessary for the baby to be removed (and it’s very sad that this has interfered with breastfeeding and has obviously caused a lot of trauma and distress) but we’re never going to be privy to the reasons why that decision was taken. It may have been the wrong decision or it may have been a necessary one pending arrangements for a mother and baby placement. The Mail are making it sound like the authorities have done an about-turn (probably thanks to them) but that might not really be the case. Given that the couple ran off to Ireland, management of the case was obviously going to be a bit difficult.

gadgetgal // Posted 29 January 2010 at 7:57 am

@Kez – Or maybe the accommodation was available but she didn’t accept it. Stephen Moore, executive director of social work at Fife Council, said: ‘I would urge Kerry to use all the support that is being made available to her and her baby and to get appropriate help should she need it.’ The council haven’t said much but there’s an implication there that the kind of help they’re giving her now was already in place before they went to Ireland.

But, like everyone else, I think even if the situation isn’t ideal at least the family are on their way to being back together full-time, and hopefully happy, and that’s the thing we should be hoping for!

FOS // Posted 29 January 2010 at 10:02 am

A mother & baby unit is pretty much the first thing offered to a mother which social services have concerns about, especially if she is living in sub-standard accommodation or homeless. I’ve dealt with several “children in need” who were premature babies (much harder to care for properly) who were accommodated in mother & baby units as part of their care plans.

Since she ran away to Ireland this shows a degree of non-compliance with the services which had already been offered to her. I can near 100% assure you all that a mother & baby unit would have been one of the first things social services would have offered. Since she wants to be with the father it’s likely she refused this as fathers are not permitted to stay overnight in the majority of these units.

Personally, I’d snap up the chance to be in a mother & baby unit when I have a child! ALL of the units I’ve worked with in my local area have been lovely places to be & the staff are all so supportive of the mothers in them.

She should be able to stay in the unit until the child is 2 years old, should she so choose. If this is part of the child-in-need plan (likely) then she will have to stay at least 6 months or until she can “prove” she is capable of caring for her baby.

If she’s a good mother she won’t have any problems “proving” this and then she’ll be on her way.

A lot of contraversy has arisen over this case over very little. They shouldn’t have run away to Ireland, that really threw a spanner in the works. Did they really think they could escape a child-in-need plan? No way !

Laura // Posted 29 January 2010 at 11:30 am

@ FOS – You might be quite happy to stay in a mother and baby unit, but I can imagine some women might be upset, angry or afraid at being forced to against their will. It might be considered to be in her best interests and the order could be based on the best of intentions, but being told that someone else knows better than you what’s best for your baby can’t be nice. (Hence any ‘non-compliance’.) Anyway, I’m glad the situation seems to have improved.

gadgetgal // Posted 29 January 2010 at 11:56 am

I think you’re right Laura – if someone said that to me, even if it was the best option to take, I’d probably be very scared. Imagine someone using “taken into care” to a parent, whose only experience of the phrase would be from tv or the news about kids actually being physically taken away from the home – it would be terrifying. But fingers crossed there’ll be a happy outcome to this.

And I have to end my additions to this on a good anecdote of optimism: I know one girl whose son was briefly taken into care many years ago because of a few things I won’t mention here (it’s horrible and I don’t like to think of her like that, especially since she’s a lot different now) and it actually helped her get her life sorted – they have a fantastic relationship, and it turns out she’s a great mum, she just needed some help to get there. It wasn’t her fault, but she did her best in a bad situation, and I hope that happens here too.

FIONA // Posted 25 May 2010 at 12:31 pm


jaas12444 // Posted 13 December 2015 at 4:24 am

Kez. N reply to your post
Kez // Posted 26 January 2010 at 2:24 pm

You stated that ” the whole family situation will always be taken into consideration in making this incredibly difficult decision.”
Why wasnt i taken into consideration? Im a father, and all social services have done is dismiss me and ignore any complaints about things they legally and imorally tey have been doing. And whats more, is that i am “clean” ( for the lack of a better word). No police ect, able to care for my child without suport. In september me and my partner were sent to a parent unit, well away from our support network ( not to mention our own home), for 3 months. We were then told when we had a week left there that our child would be taken from us and place in a foster placement. There reasons were that my partner is slow ( there words) meaning she is slow at learning things. They also used her past against her, the fact that she was moved around 3 foster homes and 42 respite ( i think thats the right word) homes by SW didnt come into play. They also are saying that our support network is not suitable yet they only have past info about everyone, not careing about the now. And coz one of my freinds ( knew them for about 2 years before) had a questionable past against a minor. So natruly i look into it., was told it was that one offence. Turned out that information was witheld and there were more offences. The fact that it was witheld didnt matter. SW said to me and i quote ” you should have known there were more offences” Well sorry but dont assume that you know every little detail about a freinds life. Oh blimy, sorry. Went of on a bit of a rant there. What i a trying to get at is that ss/sw have been playing us from the start. And all the way through it, they have barley looked at me. They just see all of my partners past and think this will be easy. What i am trying to say is that 99.9% of the time dads are either swept under the rug. Or they are suspected. ( sorry about the rant. I just get worked up about it all)

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds