Many pregnant women and mothers who come into contact with the criminal justice system also have contact with children’s social care, in custody or in the community. This contact might start before, or at any point during, their contact with the criminal justice system. The type of children’s social care involvement can vary, including assessment for places on prison Mother and Baby Units (MBUs), kinship care arrangements, child protection proceedings, and/ or maintaining contact with children who are in local authority care.
Birth Companions has recently published a new Spotlight paper highlighting and examining the issues faced by women in dual contact with these systems during pregnancy and early motherhood. Acting as a bridge between their Birth Charter for women in prison and their Birth Charter for women with involvement from children’s social care, this new briefing outlines the criminal justice and children’s social care contexts, highlights key evidence, shares recommendations for improving women’s experiences and presents powerful first-person contributions from members of their Lived Experience Team.
Birth Companions believes that significant change is needed in order to improve the experiences and outcomes for these women, and to prevent contact with one of these systems leading to otherwise avoidable contact with the other. Crucially, those working with women across the criminal justice, healthcare, and children’s social care systems need to be better equipped to recognise and respond to the needs associated with dual contact in pregnancy and early motherhood.
This briefing also reiterates the call, originally made in the Birth Charter for women with involvement from children’s social care, for a joint national health and social care pathway for women who are pregnant or have given birth in the last two years, to ensure consistent, effective multi-agency working, and enable provision of the full range of care to which women and babies are entitled.
For more information on this publication, or Birth Companions’ wider work on children’s social care and the criminal justice system, contact Katherine Miller Brunton ([email protected]).