Protecting Unborn and Newborn Babies

Judith Masson, Jonathan Dickens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
1065 Downloads (Pure)


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 6 local authorities, 30% of 120 cases where the pre-proceedings process was used related to unborn babies; a pre-proceedings letter was sent in 75% of unborn baby cases where care proceedings were considered, compared with 57% of cases overall. The process could help to secure parental co-operation for pre-birth assessments and short-term protective arrangements at birth, thus avoiding emergency intervention. Families were diverted from care proceedings in 30% 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 date13 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


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

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