Couple fight council to keep baby

A pregnant woman with what have been described as mild learning difficulties has been told her child could be taken into care when it is born.

October 19, 2009 / BBC News

Kerry Robertson, 17, has already been prevented from getting married after social workers said she lacked the capacity to consent to the wedding.

Miss Robertson, of Dunfermline, Fife, is due to have her baby in January.

Fife council said "no decision" had yet been made on the baby's future and Miss Robertson would be given every support.

She is now involved in an ongoing legal dispute to determine whether she has sufficient mental capacity to marry her fiance Mark McDougall.

The couple have been together for almost a year and had been due to get married in September.

Mr McDougall, 25, told BBC Scotland: "No matter what their disability or background, you should have the chance to be a family, to have a family life. That's actually a European law as well."

Miss Robertson has already named her child Ben and the couple plan to fight the decision.

Mr McDougall said: "I know this is all that Kerry wants and it's been upsetting her terribly and she's been crying herself to sleep every night since she's been told.

"I'm not going to stand by and let it happen. I'm not going to stand by and let them destroy my fiancee's life because she's a lovely girl with a heart of gold and she doesn't deserve this."

Stephen Moore, the executive director of Fife Council social work service, said "no decision" had yet been made on the baby's future.

He added: "People, including the family, will make a judgment about the welfare of the baby after the baby is born.

"It will be decided then whether she has the capacity to look after the baby. People will work with the young mother to look after the baby. She will be given every support.

"But someone needs to make the judgment about whether she can care for the baby, and that decision will be taken when the baby has been born.

"Much of the work we do is governed by legislation. Complex decisions are made that balance risk and welfare while supporting people at times of personal or family need."

'Facing disadvantages'

Norman Dunning, chief executive of Enable Scotland, said: "We would be very concerned if her learning disability was perceived as a barrier itself to her marrying and bringing up her child.

"People with learning disabilities do not have loving disabilities.

"There is both research and practice evidence that people with learning disabilities are no worse at bringing up children than other families facing disadvantages - what is crucial is that they get the right level of support from the start."

Mencap's chief executive Mark Goldring said there were about 250,000 parents with a learning disability in the UK and argued all of them should have the same opportunities as anyone else to be a parent.

He said: "With the right support people with a learning disability can be - and are - excellent parents, yet many fear that asking for help may be seen as an admission of failure which would result in their children being taken away."


Link between learning disabilities, stress, and future abuse

It's unfortunate how those in social work fail to see the effects stress has on anatomy and physiology, and fetal development.  It's unfortunate how one "remedy" used by social services, may in fact, be causing another problem that is seen frequently within foster/adoptive families.  [See:  ADHD.]

If one is to look at the many ways in which stress, neglect, and abuse affect a child's future, one MUST look at the relationship between cause and effect, especially as it relates to a mother's body during prolonged periods of profound stress.  In 2006, scientists discovered stress experienced by a pregnant female can alter the structure of her offspring's brain, particularly regions vital for emotional development.

In some, this "alteration in structure" can lead to a learning disability: 

Boys are more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than girls - a disorder that seems to be related to the brain's prefrontal attention systems, while women are more likely to develop depression, which is known to be related to shrinkage in the hippocampus

So here's the ironic twist to this story.... Ben, the unborn child, may develop a learning disability not because his mother neglected or abused him, but because she was so overly stressed during pregnancy!  Now, what if Ben is removed at birth, and placed in a pre-screened foster/adoptive home where neglect and abuse take place?   What sort of future will Ben have, then?

There seems to be a critical step missing within many child protective services -- that step is early intervention and long-term support.  Rather than threaten infant removal, social services should be offering parenting classes to those who demonstrate a need, and social services should be providing on-going support networks so child abuse does NOT become a future issue.  Studies in America AND the UK prove early intervention and support WORKS.... the only problem is, this approach (family preservation practices) is not advocated or promoted nearly as much as adoption is.  The reason?  Adoption generates an enormous amount of money.

Sad, isn't it?  In many cases, all that is really needed is frequent checks on the family... to make sure parent(s) and child(ren) are doing fine.  Seems many social services agencies keep failing those they are paid to help and save.

Pound Pup Legacy