Care leaver mum who feels judged calls for change

Holly says her childhood in care was traumatic, and now she feels judged as a parent by social services.

She says being in care does not mean that you’ll be a bad parent, and that it should not be used as a reason for a social services referral.

A Senedd committee says it is time to “break the cycle'” of young people from care having their own children removed.

The Welsh government says it has set out an ambitious programme to radically reform children’s services.

Cardiff University research shows that more than a quarter of birth mothers and a fifth of birth fathers with children placed for adoption had been in care themselves.

Holly, who is in her mid-twenties, was taken into care as a baby and was eventually adopted, before later being removed from her adoptive parents for “her own safety” and placed with foster carers.

Many children have a positive time in care but Holly said there “weren’t any good experiences” for her.

“It should have been a safe space and it wasn’t,” she added.

When she became pregnant with her daughter she said she was “excited and felt ready for it”.

But she says she got upset when her doctor told her she would be referred to social services because she’d been in care.

“I got quite upset about that because no one wants social services involved and at the time we felt there was no need for them to be involved,” she said.

“Why does my experience have to shape what my daughter goes through?”

‘People think you’re a troublemaker’

She also said she felt they were a judgemental, rather than a supportive, presence, which would make her anxious with things such as changing nappies in case they thought she was not doing it right.

Her confidence has grown now and she gave evidence to the inquiry conducted by the Senedd’s petitions committee.

“What’s to say that someone is a better parent just because they’ve not been in care. Yes, traumatic things happen but that doesn’t necessarily define you,” she said.

“There’s a stigma, people think you’re a troublemaker. It’s not fair to judge because I’ve been through bad stuff.”

She hopes now that the “negativity and discrimination” will stop and that other care leavers who become parents won’t go through the same thing.

The report, by the Petitions Committee, outlines the stigma and emotional trauma felt by young people who have been in care who then become parents.

They made six recommendations, including that the Welsh government should ensure all care experienced parents have a statutory right to a preventative support service to keep families together.

Other recommendations include making sure suitable housing is available, and that data should be collected on how many young people in care or who have left care become pregnant and how many of their children remain with their parents.

Jack Sargeant MS, chair of the Petitions Committee, said they had heard “harrowing tales” of care-experienced parents struggling to build better lives from themselves.

“They are going through situations which are simply unfair. We’re calling on the Welsh government to put some fairness back into their lives,” he said.

A Welsh government spokesperson said they want to see fewer children and young people entering care, and for those who do enter the care system to remain as close to home as possible.

They added: “This means putting in place the right type of care for each child, reforming and joining up services for looked after children and care leavers, providing additional specialist support for children with complex needs, and better supporting those who care for children.”

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