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Don't take my children

Press release issued: 14 March 2005

Parents with learning difficulties are at greater risk of having their children taken into care.

Parents with learning difficulties are at greater risk of having their children taken into care.  The support that parents with learning difficulties might need to fulfil their parenting responsibilities is often not readily available via local adult support services, while children and family services may be over-quick to act on perceived or potential child protection concerns. 

A new research project that aims to help parents with learning difficulties to find the right support has launched a new website – – to find individuals and services/agencies who work with such parents. 

A consultative group of parents with learning difficulties is advising the project.  The group met to discuss their own experiences as parents, and the support available to them.  They also offered guidance on the development of easy information for parents involved in the project.

These discussions highlighted many of the challenges facing parents with learning difficulties.  For example, one mother said: “It’s great being a parent, but a lot of things are hard.  All I wanted was help and support so that they didn’t take my children away, but I lost them anyway.” 

One of the fathers said: “They’ve already taken two of my kids away.  We really want to keep this little one.  We love her so much, just like any other parent does.  We are doing everything they tell us so that she can stay with us."

Another couple described the help they were receiving: “The community learning difficulties team are helpful.  We have a meeting once a month with everyone working with us (7 or 8 people). The child protection social worker comes to this.  We find him very helpful and not threatening.  He asks what worries us and helps us with it.  He doesn’t use it against us.”

The research project is being undertaken by the Norah Fry Research Centre at the University of Bristol and has been funded by the Baring Foundation

Responses to the web-based questionnaire will be used to develop a far better understanding of what services exist and where, and the issues and barriers faced by people who work with parents with learning difficulties.  It will also provide an opportunity to share positive practice and find out how things need to change so that families do better in the future.    Professionals working with parents in mainstream and specialist services are urged to visit the site – - and register their views. 

The web survey is part of the Finding the Right Support project, which also aims to address these issues by exploring examples of positive practice in the UK, reviewing literature around parents with learning difficulties and studying the role of the family court system.

Examples of positive practice indicated by questionnaire respondents will be explored further via telephone discussions to gain a deeper insight into the way helpful services and supports are provided.  Case study visits will also be made to six services in different parts of the UK. 

An exploration of the workings of the family court system in England will be undertaken via discussions with the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS), district judges and family law solicitors as well as parents with learning difficulties, advocates and relevant professionals. 

Beth Tarleton, Research Fellow at the Norah Fry Centre said: “The Human Rights Act gives everyone the right to a family life.  Valuing People, the Government White Paper on support for people with learning difficulties, stresses that parents with learning difficulties should be supported to care for their children.  This research aims to find individual professionals and services across the UK providing support for parents with learning difficulties, so that good practice can be recognised and shared.”

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