Recurrent Care Resource: Section 4
Workforce development: Understanding complex grief and the impact on mothers of removal at birth
This section covers:
- Data on removal at birth, process and legal issues
- The impact on vulnerable women of removal of their babies at birth
- The nature of complex grief and the longer-term impact on mothers of their children’s removal
- Different ways of planning for and dealing with removal at birth, so that the level of trauma experienced by mothers might be reduced
- Barriers to improving practice
- How an improved understanding of these issues can influence the development of your service.
This section includes three suggested learning modules comprising a series of film presentations and exercises. You can use these locally to build and enhance learning and understanding across your workforce on the issues of complex grief and the impact on mothers of removal at birth.
Each learning module is designed to be flexible for you to adapt into a programme of shared learning for your team or workforce.
Learning Module 4: An overview of research, policy and law in relation to removal at birth
This module covers:
- The national context of removal at birth
- Relevant legislation and some case decisions
- Research findings on removal at birth and its impact from the Vulnerable Birth Mothers and Recurrent Care Proceedings study.
Allow 35 minutes to watch Films 8, 9 and 10, then move straight on to Exercise 11.
Film 8: ‘Removal at birth: Women’s perspectives from the Vulnerable Birth Mothers and Recurrent Care Proceedings study’ Speaker: Claire Mason, Senior Research Associate, Centre for Child and Family Justice Research, Lancaster University. Claire shares messages from the study and, in particular, from her interviews with 72 birth mothers, nearly half of whom had experienced the removal of a newborn infant within hours or days of their child’s birth. (7 minutes and 12 seconds).
Film 9: ‘Removal of infants at birth’ Speaker: Mary Ryan, lawyer and Senior Associate at Research in Practice. Mary introduces the legal context and significant case law in relation to the removal of an infant at birth. (8 minutes and 10 seconds).
Film 10: ‘Understanding loss and grief in the context of recurrent care proceedings’ Speaker: Claire Mason, Senior Research Associate, Centre for Child and Family Justice Research, Lancaster University. Claire talks about how to apply messages from the wider research literature on loss and grief when working with women who have experienced court-ordered removal of children. (19 minutes and 41 seconds).
Learning module 5: The experiences of birth mothers whose babies are removed at birth
Film 11 relays the experiences of mothers through their own words and photographs. These are the words and images the women chose to describe their experience of having a baby removed at birth. The presentation is based on the PhD research conducted by midwife Dr Wendy Marsh.
Allow 27 minutes to watch Film 11. After the presentation, move directly on to Exercise 12.
FILM 11: ‘What can midwives learn from ‘women like me?’ Stories from mothers whose babies have been removed at birth’ Speaker: Dr Wendy Marsh. Wendy shares findings from her doctoral research and experience as a specialist midwife for safeguarding. Her narrative inquiry gathered the stories from five women over three years in order to develop tools and resources to build improved midwifery practice with women. (26 minutes and 16 seconds)
Learning module 6: Supporting isolated women in the perinatal period
In Film 12, Denise Marshall describes the work of Birth Companions (www.birthcompanions.org.uk), a voluntary organisation that provides support to women who are having a baby in prison or who live in the community and are experiencing severe disadvantage. The presentation provides information about the different sorts of support mothers may need, the ways in which they cope with separation, and the importance of listening to what women want.
Allow 22 minutes for the presentation. Then move straight on to Exercise 13.
FILM 12: ‘Supporting mothers having babies removed at birth’ Speaker: Denise Marshall of Birth Companions (www.birthcompanions.org.uk). Denise’s presentation focuses on working with women experiencing severe disadvantage during pregnancy, birth and early parenting. This includes women both in prison and in the community. (21 minutes and 50 seconds)
Tips from practice: Key messages for developing your service
Here are a series of tips drawn from the work of the various presenters in this section and from participants in the Change Project. The tips can be used to prompt discussion after watching the presentations above and completing the exercises. The tips are also intended to help with the planning and development of a recurrent care service.
Think about developing local training:
- … that includes these messages about the impact of removal at birth. One senior practitioner participant in the Change Project has begun to run sessions on removal at birth for social work teams, Cafcass, and multi-agency groups locally.
- … for foster carers on the impact of removal at birth and on the impact of complex trauma on parents’ behaviour
- … on the impact of removal on parents and on professionals to be delivered to social workers and midwives together.
When running training on these issues, bring in the perspectives of mothers and fathers. Make sure social workers in their assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) receive this training.
- In one area involved in the Change Project, the recurrent care service facilitates joint sessions between midwives and social workers to provide an opportunity to discuss the impact of this work and ways in which the process can be improved for the mothers and the professionals involved.
- Bear in mind that parents are ‘parents for life’. A parent may not be caring for their child and may no longer have parental responsibility, but they will always be the child’s parent. For some women, their desire to have a family becomes all-consuming.
- Contact with children who have been removed is a major issue for birth parents, so it will be important to think about how your service is going to help them with this.
- Think about how to support your staff, because removal at birth is often a trauma for them too. Think about ways to help practitioners develop resilience – through training, supervision and support.
- Think about ways you might contribute to better planning in early pregnancy and to an improved pre-birth assessment and support process.
- If there is no pre-birth and removal at birth protocol in your area, raise this as an issue that needs attention.