Mothers' experiences of compulsory removal of babies at birth: a review of the evidence. Part 1.

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Abstract

The number of babies removed from mothers at birth in the United Kingdom (UK) is on the increase (Powell 2007). This is a worrying fact, especially in light of the latest research in neuroscience and imaging which suggests that childhood neglect and trauma can significantly affect a baby's brain development (Allen 2011). There is also a growing body of evidence to show that the environment plays a major role in shaping the behavioural, social and cognitive development of an infant's brain (Underdown & Barlow 2012), and that the relationship infants have with their primary caregiver will have an impact upon their ability to develop and sustain trusting attachments (Schore 2003). Without positive and nurturing attachments to caregivers part of a baby's brain will fail to develop, which for some babies will be permanent (Allen 2011).

Where problems within families are so entrenched and complex, the decision to remove a baby is often made much more quickly, due to the evidence base suggesting that the longer babies remain in potentially neglectful and abusive environments, the less likely they are to ever recover (van den Drieset al2009). It is further known that if a baby is adopted before 12 months of age they have a better chance of total recovery (Ward et al 2012). Whilst it is acknowledged that the protection of babies from abuse and neglect is of paramount priority, the impact of removing them at birth from their birth mothers remains unknown. This, the first of two papers, reports on the findings from a literature review relating to the experiences of mothers who have had their baby compulsorily removed at birth.

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