Newcastle mother's 17 children taken into care after birth

Letter by child
Image caption Researchers say many women who have multiple children taken into care are victims of domestic violence

A mother from Newcastle had 17 children removed from her care by the local authority, the BBC has learned.

Children's and women's charities believe it to be the highest number reported in England and Wales.

Pause - a project for women trapped in a cycle of having child after child taken - is being extended to the city by the council and Barnardo's.

The charity said the women's "absolutely chaotic lives" made it hard for them to seek help.

Many are victims of domestic abuse and have been in care, while some are sex workers, use drugs or alcohol or have mental health issues, Barnardo's assistant director of children's services Sian Bufton said.

"They're women who've experienced a lot of loss, a lot of trauma, a lot of difficulty in their lives and need some help to live a different life," she said.

One woman who sought help from Newcastle Women's Aid said she "felt judged by social services".

"They said I was too upset to look after my child but, of course, I was upset they were going to remove him," she said.

The largest number of children taken from a single mother in each area up until 2016
Location Number
Cumbria 9
Darlington Refused to respond
Durham 9
Gateshead 10
Hartlepool 3
Middlesbrough 8
Newcastle 17
Northumberland 8
North Tyneside 5-10
South Tyneside Refused to respond
Stockton Refused to respond due to "low numbers" risking identification
Sunderland 9

The Newcastle woman had her children removed over a 30-year period from the mid-1980s.

The Pause project pioneered a model in Hackney to help women caught in a cycle of "repeat removals", who had lost an average of four - and up to 10 - children.

It has extended to six other areas - Doncaster, Greenwich, Hull, Islington, Newham and Southwark - and will launch in Newcastle in September.

Research looking at family court records found that, in 2013, 2,018 babies were taken into care at birth or soon afterwards, up from 802 in 2008.

The study Vulnerable Birth Mothers and Recurrent Care Proceedings, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found that between 2007 and 2014 a total of 13,248 babies were removed by the authorities.

When I was 15 I got into a relationship with a man really older than me, he was 40. I met him and got pregnant straight away. He used deliberately to mentally torture me."

Vulnerable Birth Mothers and Recurrent Care Proceedings study

Newcastle Women's Aid service director Elaine Langshaw said they were seeing women who had previously attended as children with their mothers.

"There hasn't been appropriate intervention and therefore they're back with us now as young mums, adults themselves," she said.

Newcastle City Council said it had taken a "robust approach to gathering and analysing data" and studied good practice from other parts of the country.

The project will be funded by a private donor to Barnardo's and a contribution from the council until March 2018.

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