The impact on parents when their children are removed

This is a contribution from a mother who wishes to be anonymous.

What happens to the mother?

The first night I walked, literally just kept walking for hours. I wanted to die.

This is a personal story of instant removal of my children. It is a snapshot, with some details left out to protect the children’s identity. I wanted to write it mainly for other mothers to relate to, but also that professionals may increase their understanding of the effect of removal on a parent.


Initial impact

What you would expect, if you have ever seen a distraught mother wailing waiting to see if their child gets pulled out of the rubble of a collapsed building, it was the same level of emotion. The first night I walked, literally just kept walking for hours. I wanted to die.


When a baby grows within you , you develop a relationship with him or her before they are born. You talk to them, you touch them as a they wriggle around, you get to know them.

When my children were born I was blessed enough to have instant love for them alongside with the need to nurture. For me, it had to be give birth then feed, it was what came naturally. I could not take my eyes off the baby.

When my children were taken this need I had to nurture was disregarded, the bond between myself and my children was hacked through and I could not keep them safe. Apart from the devastation it actually appears so surreal that you can not think straight and get the necessary help, for instance I did not contact a solicitor. My sleep was disturbed, I either did not get to sleep or woke in the middle of the night. I had the most horrrendous nightmares mainly about the children being in danger and not being able to help. I struggled to eat or concentrate. Privately I cried ,screamed, swore. I walked around with my head down. Nobody in my local small community talked to me for months , so I was also isolated. I received no support in the first six weeks then I had a weekly, which soon went to fortnightly talking therapy from the NHS for three months.

I know this is a generalisation but men talk about their jobs and woman talk about their children. If I ever went on a course and had to do one of those dreadful ice breaking exercises I would say I was a mum first. When your children are taken your identity is stolen also. I have discussed this with mums who have been bereaved and it is the same experience, some people who knew that you had children will cross the road rather than speak to you, others will not mention it.

What is different, is that some people tried to be helpful and said that you may have a relationship when the children are adults. It is not helpful.

It is unnatural not to be able to care for your children if they are ill, I had an instance when one of my children needed hospital treatment, I struggled to get anyone to take them and eventually when they went I was proved right.

A mum has that sixth sense about their child. It is abnormal to be unable to wish your child a happy birthday or know their shoe size and to only see your children for an hour or two supervised by strangers.

Practically speaking I was left in a mess, I obviously lived in a family sized house, I had all the children’s belongings including pets and because like many I had a special needs child, due to lack of support (another article!) I did not have a full time job. So in the midst of care proceedings I had to weed out the children’s belongings and pack to move to a smaller property. It is also of course expensive to move. So stress on top of stress. As care proceedings were on going every slightest moment I put a foot wrong and quite of number of times I didn’t was recorded and used against me in court.

I believe each family effectively has a template for bringing up children. Good or bad you will bring something from your own childhood and you have your own ideas. I had a mum myself who had encouraged me to have interests, she attended school functions and encouraged me to broaden my mind. I carried that on with my children, I had been involved with the school, I encouraged interests,I tried to create memories for them with high days and holidays.

These values have been obliterated and a different template imposed on my children’s lives. It goes against every instinct.


Long Term

I think to some extent I have used denial as a tool. I cannot comprehend not living again with my children so I don’t face it as a possibility. I do not think about my children’s futures as it is too bleak. The childhood they are having will not prepare them for a functional adulthood. As a parent it is usual to want the very best for your child, not a backwards step. I am well aware that someone whose child has been adopted does not have this strategy to use.

I have rebuilt my life but it is very different, none of my new friends have children at home. I live a false life, I cannot do the normal motherly stuff like worry about whether they have done their homework or if they are being bullied, bake or even buy clothes for them. I have nothing to do with children and it has affected my employability as well as previously I worked with children.

Some days I feel old before my time, I’m sure this amount of stress will later on come out in physical illness . Most days I cope well, I am kind to myself on the bad days. I can not talk about my children except to those who know me well. Sometimes I think I have spotted my child on the street and there is an incredible sadness when I realise it is a child that looks like mine. I can no longer say I am a mum if I meet someone new, that major part of me has been taken.

27 thoughts on “The impact on parents when their children are removed

  1. Barbara

    My eldest son was murdered when he was age 21
    i was made NRPF (no recourse to public funds) because home office couldnt find no records of me although i have lived here since 1966 came from Jamaica age 6 to live with parents brought up in care myself so how they couldnt find me is a joke
    SS used these facts to take my other children away from me also taking my life identity home leaving me homeless and claim this is in the best interest of the children …..
    im going to hurt someone believe me!!
    piss takers!!
    this aint never going to be over
    theres more than one way to kill someone and trust me they are murderers

    Stay strong! dont fool yourself that you will get your children back take it that you wont makes it a little easier and you wont get help from anyone solicitors doctors ect has they all work together and never say sorry or they are wrong

  2. C

    Thanks for your bravery in sharing your story.

    People like Andrew Webb (who so callously claimed that there are no negatives to adoption from the point of view of the children) need to be able to read the stories of the mothers, even if they can’t be bothered to investigate the absences left in the hearts of the adopted children

    1. Dawn

      I divorced a man that was emotionally and mentally abusing me which I held on as long as possible and he would never believe me. We had two amazing children together and during the divorce I still never figured out he truly had a personality disorder. I thought the way he handled things was callous and also how he didn’t handle things or he drank the last couple years of our marriage which we had a sober marriage and he was taken a lot of pills. What I didn’t realize that after we finally divorced his threats about ruining my life would become true. We ended up having joint custody of our kids and I had primary residence. I took the court mandated parenting classes seriously and I also put both kids in therapy cause of the divorce and the impact it has on kids. He undermined me the entire next 5 years and I was amicable, i Believed in co-parenting and I included him in the children’s parent teacher conferences as well as all other major events at school and we had a parenting schedule which worked for both of us and kids I thought. He turned into a liar and I guess always lied I just didn’t know it he slandered and smeared me through the town I resided in with the kids and my life became a living hell. 3 dcf cases on him and I never instigated one and it was the kids telling their therapist cause they were scared. He projected everything on me and I was slowly weakening and financially crippled after lending him a lot of money and dcf was harassing me. My ex ended up with primary residence of our kings and I lost them through his lies gaslighting denial threatening the kids lives to lie to dcf im in trauma therapy and diagnosed with C-ptsd and I’m healing but the pain I’ve been through cause he was able to do these horrible things and dcf did not investigate him nor me and those people made up lies about me by listening to my ex and I suffered and so do the kids the brainwashing he’s done on them is sickening but once again dcf always believes my ex who’s a sociopath. Life is very hard these days and he likes so tweak me out to weaken me and it’s painful using the kids as pawns.

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I don’t think you can ever stop the pain. I think all you can do is get better at living along side it. For that you need kindness and support in real life. If you don’t have friends or family to support you – or even if you do – somewhere like MATCH Mothers may be able to help

  3. Pingback: Article 3 ECHR and Care Proceedings | Child Protection Resource

  4. Illegalcopy

    Why are men completed negated and discriminated against in ALL of situations ??
    I attempted suicide, in 2014, and, that was premise to throw me in jail, while my sick one year old was living in an alcohol, drug, and violence fueled, environment. Even twelve moths on, after his mother was bashed and raped, because of DVO’s I’m unallowed to get welfare checks preformed, obtain school or medical records, and, yes, I did follow the Relationships Australia steps. Until, police decided to make me an enemy, the state of Queensland, and Commonwealth, all, turned their backs, and left me removed on a permanent basis from my my children, and, unable to them. Leaving the tax payer, have to pay me a wage, and find me somewhere to live.

    I’m guessing, its going to be one of the largest, expensive coverups, on the Commonwealth and State Treasury Books.

    Its a good think for the PRO drugs, PRO anarchy, PRO rape, and PRO state syndicated child abduction stance, which, the Commonwealth and State, just think disappears, and goes away.

    Having my one year old torn from me, and subsequently my other kids, and their welfare and educational status, with held, has sure done irreversible damage in my life. But, its human nature, not to give a thought, to paternal rights, I have to lobby PRO abduction, PRO drugs, PRO rape, PRO alcohol, PRO assault, PRO extortion, PRO abuse, because I was sent to prison, to correct my former thoughts about those issues.

    And subsequently, taught, this, is normal and justified behavior. O_O … I’m working towards leaving AU, this country has done and allowed more damage than is wishes to accept.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am sorry to hear you have had such an awful time; your children also.
      But I don’t agree that this is because men are routinely discriminated against. some women raise exactly the same complaints, saying the system is biased in favour of men. You can’t both be right.
      But I hope you can get some resolution and peace of mind.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Can you say, Sarah, that in a civil Family Court there does exist a POSSIBILITY of bias due partly to the extent of discretion granted to the one Judge who controls each case?

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Of course there is. Judges are not some kind of robot. They are humans and subject to the same frailties as other humans. But hopefully with more training and support that they lapse into bias less often. But they are clearly capable of it and there are a lot of reported cases dealing with what happens when Judges do display bias.

          1. Christelle

            Judges ARE robots at least in the way they operate in the family courts. They just take whatever the social worker has to say and that is it. They do no test any, if at all, evidence that the parent will be a god parent or not. This minority report way of handling families by way of taking children fro risk of future harm is scandalous and the hypocrisy surrounding this method, knows no bounds. So Mrs Phillimore, until you have a baby ripped from your arms at birth, or murder, or stillbirth, miscarriage, etc. keep your demonic, sanctimonious comments in another forum, how DARE you.

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            How dare I? I dare after 20 years of work in this field. I have seen plenty of judges tear into evidence from social workers. There are plenty of reported cases to back this up. Your comment is wrong, it is scaremongering and it is abusive. I will leave it up for now so others can judge it for themselves. But I shall delete any other comments from you that use such vile and inappropriate language.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am sorry to hear this. But if there are care proceedings you will get non means non merit tested legal aid. You will have a legal team who can help you. Please talk to them.

  5. sb

    If your case is public law, Ask your legal have they ever won a case, the answer will tell you what to expect,
    As a family member involved I asked, the answer was NO, the case ended exactly as expected from the answer to this one question

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      If that is the one test you apply to a decision about whether or not you want to engage with a lawyer, you are a fool.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I have successfully argued against final care orders in many cases. One such case, I got the children back after finding documents that showed the LA hadn’t assessed the parents fairly. Six months later the children were removed again on an EPO.

      So when you ask what is meant by ‘winning’ – it’s not always clear cut. Those children certainly weren’t ‘winners’.

      However, just because a final care order isn’t made doesn’t always mean children go home. Sometimes there are Special Guardian orders made or Child Arrangements Order.

  6. darkriver

    I resonate with this experience. I felt supported when After adoption was in place but, now that the charity has closed I am left alone. Luckily, I am in a financial position to pay for therapy but the grief cuts deep.

  7. s calm

    One more question
    How many non ethnic family cases have you handled?
    Are the indigenous of this country the only child abusers, or is it easier knowing that the indigenous are terrified to speak out or get involved knowing the power the state holds over them

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      When I was in London I dealt with families from a very wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. Now I am in Wiltshire its mainly White British.

  8. K Banned

    Which Lawyer do you suggest (that is going to be foolish enough to bite the hand that feeds them?)
    At least QC Focke quit, when he was presented with hospital birth neglect evidence and birth certificate that informed him the childs’ name had been illegally changed by Redcar & Cleveland Social Services legal team, and the supposed independent guardian and Solicitor Kathy Webb were party in allowing it to go on?

  9. K Banned

    Which Lawyer do you suggest (that is going to be foolish enough to bite the hand that feeds them?)
    At least QC Focke quit, when he was presented with hospital birth neglect evidence and birth certificate that informed him the childs’ name had been illegally changed by Redcar & Cleveland Social Services legal team, and the supposed independent guardian and Solicitor Kathy Webb were party in allowing it to go on?
    If the bible that is relied on in court and what it stands for no child would be in state care, the population of this country would have never changed, to what our young are faced up against

  10. Reform Advocates - Laura Baxter

    In regard to the representation available to parents in public law cases, should those who have been accused of neglect and/or emotional abuse, be represented by a law firm that has no connection to the local authority making the application?

    In the course of my research, I have found that solicitors who are located within the same local authority area that made the application will have generally represented the LA in other cases. This has been said to cause the solicitors to have a sense of loyalty and therefore bias towards the LA. Subsequently when representing a parent against the LA, the solicitor is less impartial, is not acting in the best interests of the client. This can, for example, lead to the parents being advised to “go along” with the LA’s recommendations and to not contest the allegations against them. They can be encouraged not to argue in their defence, but to be seen to ‘engage’ with the LA. This is despite it being obvious that the parents have not caused any harm to their children.
    It is also argued that the solicitors do not encourage the submission of evidence which disproves accusations made against them.

    Should there be a change of legislation, wherein parents being represented in public law cases are not permitted to use the same law firm that is/has been used by the LA who brings the application against them?

  11. Mary Ellis

    My children were placed in the system due to homelessness. Not a day went by that I didn’t have a minor (mostly secret) meltdown. Especially seeing any child anywhere interacting with their parent. Unfortunatelymy spouse and I were always in a catch 22 situation. We were homeless but in order to get any kind of assistance to get a home the children had to be with us and of course the children couldnt be with us unless we had a home. It took me nearly 2 years of trying as hard as I could until I was able to have my babies come back home forever. My children and I have all developed mental health issues (unrational fears, nightmares) from having gone through everything. The one thing I do wonder still today is why wouldn’t social services help my spouse and I? We were left to find our own help such as counseling, us having to call meetings because they werent making sure our children were getting the correct care. They only cared about the fact we were homeless. They never tried to help us. I find out now after the fact there were apparently housing case managers and other supports but our case workers never put a referral in for us to see them. It really brings me down thinking maybe all that time someone could have been trying to help us instead of just feeling like we were forgotten half the time.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am sorry you were not helped. If the ‘system’ has any point at all, it should be to help people when they need it. Not create dependency but to help people out of a hole. It’s then up to them, but sometimes we do need help out of a hole.

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