Understanding the mental health needs of mothers who have experienced, or are at risk of experiencing, repetitive court proceedings.

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Epidemiology and Public Health


Over the past 10 years in England there has been a rise in the number of children placed in custody of the state, with numbers reaching over 75,000 as of March 2018. Such child removal procedures cause untold distress to parents, children and extended networks, and place exceptional demands on services. Research investigating care orders tends to focus on effected children and often fails to explore experiences and outcomes of birth parents, particularly mothers. Understanding the lifecourse health needs of birth mothers is essential for bettering infant/mother outcomes and preventing recurrent care proceedings. Women who lose their children to custody of the state have often experienced significant and multiple adverse life events, including domestic violence, substance misuse and mental health problems. The needs of this population are complex, and the additional impact of losing a child to the care system generates further concern. After proceedings, Children's Social Care support systems often fall away, making it harder for women to address the issues that lead to a removal. This feeds into a negative cycle, with 22% of mothers returning to court with a subsequent child within 5 years of an initial care order. This project will use administrative family court and health data alongside interviews with birth parents, to describe and better understand the health profile of this population. We aim to identify health factors associated with recurrent care proceedings and better understand the role of healthcare in supporting this group of women.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000592/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2395700 Studentship ES/P000592/1 27/09/2020 29/09/2023 Claire Ellen Grant