A 20-year old woman identified only as Michelle has made public the sad cases of separation from her children enforced by social services in Bexley, south-east London. Michelle had her first child aged 13, her second at 16 and a third before she turned 20. All three children were taken from her by Bexley social services and put up for adoption and she herself was put into foster care. She was allowed very little time with each child before they were taken from her, 17 days maximum for her second child while her third child was removed at birth while she was still in hospital. Now she has a fourth child by her partner who is father to all her children, this child has been taken from her too.
Social services were perhaps right to separate mother and child when Michelle was 13 and 16 - after all, a child cannot care for a child appropriately. However, she describes her fear of social services separating her from her third child, and how she gave another name at the hospital to avoid detection. It seems she was keen to keep this third child, but was found by Bexley social services and the child taken from her. Even having moved to a different borough to have her fourth child to escape Bexley social services, the authorities located her and put her fourth baby into care and now the case is in court, with this fourth child currently up for adoption. She was apparently told that any children she has will be removed from her care, at birth, which suggests she will be monitored and identified wherever she goes, at whatever age, as an unfit mother.
Michelle had more time with the fourth child, and claims to have felt more bonded and prepared for motherhood. After three previous children and leaving her teenage years behind her, this could be taken as a sign of maturity and responsibility; it is also indicative of what a difference it makes when mother and child are allowed to bond. When the mother is allowed to be a mother, it is surprising and impressive to see what instincts come to the fore - if only that opportunity is not denied.
Having unplanned babies aged 13, 16 and a third time before leaving one's teenage years is irresponsible behaviour, but these are not crimes and should not warrant indefinite persecution. A person's capacity for change is remarkable, if only given the chance to change. If this is a case of teaching Michelle a lesson, it seems an extreme and unfair one, with little to be gained except eternal condemnation as an unfit mother. It is sad that she might not be given any opportunities to prove herself otherwise. We hope that eventually mother and baby will be reunited and that faith in a mother's capacity to care is restored. The case continues.