More babies taken into care after birth

Councils are increasingly removing babies from at-risk families following recent high-profile abuse cases

Increasing numbers of babies are being forcibly taken into care directly after birth, reports Nordjyske newspaper.

According to figures obtained through a freedom of information request, the number of babies forcibly removed by social services from parents directly after birth increased more than tenfold between 2007 and 2011, from three to 38.

The national social appeals board, Ankestyrelsen, recognised the significant increase and said it could be down to a new strategy that councils have adopted.

“I think that councils are trying to make more early interventions with regards to children and young people, meaning that parents are being assessed a lot earlier, in many cases before their child’s birth,” Henrik Horster, the head of Ankestyrelsen’s department for children’s appeals, told Nordjyske.

Lawyer Thomas Kaehne Ghiladi, a specialist in the field, argued that the development was worrying and a result of councils being overly cautious following several high-profile child abuse cases.

“[Councils] think it might be faster and safer to forcibly remove children,” Ghiladi said. “[But] are parents getting worse at looking after their children? No.”

Anne-Dorthe Hestbæk from the national welfare research organisation Det Nationale Forskningscenter for Velfærd argued that there were good reasons for taking children from parents at such a young age.

“A child’s mental and psychological condition is deeply dependent on whether they have a close connection to their caregivers in their early years,” Hestbæk said, adding that the children would only be removed if it was absolutely necessary.

“It is so expensive, and there are so many demands that need to be satisfied when forcibly removing children, that it isn’t something which is done [by councils] just to err on the side of caution,” Hestbæk said. “Typically one or both parents have a serious addiction problem or a psychological illness which in some way affects their ability to care for their child.”

Hestbæk agreed, however, that the increase in forced removals of young children was influenced by the high-profile abuse cases, but that the cases have only led councils to be more thorough after accusations that poor case work let children down.