‘I hid my baby from social services in case they took it away’

It’s every mother’s worst nightmare – that someone might take away their baby.

That the bond they are gently making will be severed by some act of God or force of circumstance.

But for Betty (not her real name) that threat was not just a bad dream, it was real – because of her disability.

And it hung over her first few months with her baby girl like a dark shadow.

Betty has a chronic condition that limits her mobility and strength.

‘Not uncommon’

Before the birth of her daughter, Sally, she had carers coming in from social services daily to help her live an independent life.

“Care from social services enabled me to have a relationship and a job,” she says.

“But when I was pregnant I didn’t tell social services because I was terrified of the threat of what children’s services might do.”

She says she did not even need to tell her carers, with whom she got on very well, to be discreet with their bosses. They already understood.

And it seems Betty’s experience, though shocking perhaps, is not uncommon.

Recent research, funded by Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (Drill), found adult social services too often ignored the needs of disabled people who became parents.

The research, by the Tilda Goldberg centre for social work and social care, found children’s social services too often saw the parent’s impairment as a potential risk to their children.

And they often prioritised “monitoring” over meaningful support that would keep families together and avoid interventions in a crisis.

To be on the end of this mismatch could be terrifying for parents, the research found.

Betty was no exception.

She says: “The fear you carry with you, which other [non-disabled] parents don’t experience, cannot be understated.

“If you are non-disabled, for the vast majority of people, the thought of social services involvement does not even feature.

“But every disabled person I spoke to, when I was pregnant, had a concern.

“There is always some implication because you have an impairment, that you may not be a fantastically good parent.”

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