Protecting unborn and newborn babies

Judith Masson, Jonathan Dickens

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16 Citations (Scopus)
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Legal action to separate newborn babies from their parents is regarded as ‘draconian’ by the courts and subject to intense scrutiny. This paper outlines current legal and social work issues relating to such intervention and discusses the potential benefits of the ‘pre-proceedings process’ to address them. This process enables parents to have legal representation in a discussion with children’s services when care proceedings are contemplated. The paper reports the findings of recent socio-legal research by the authors into the use of the process in England and Wales. In six local authorities, 30 per cent of 120 cases where the pre-proceedings process was used related to unborn babies; a pre-proceedings letter was sent in 75 per cent of unborn baby cases where care proceedings were considered, compared with 57 per cent of cases overall. The process could help to secure parental cooperation for pre-birth assessments and short-term protective arrangements at birth, thus avoiding emergency intervention. Families were diverted from care proceedings in 30 per cent of the cases where this was a possibility. Furthermore, the process was valued by social workers and lawyers as being fairer to parents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107–119
Number of pages13
JournalChild Abuse Review
Issue number2
Early online date1 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Care proceedings
  • babies
  • pre-birth assessment
  • parental engagement

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