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Vulnerable unborn baby - Pre-birth protocol

Young babies are particularly vulnerable to abuse and work carried out in the antenatal period can help minimise harm if there is early assessment, intervention and support.

When to be concerned

Identification

In partnership with midwifery services and the Guernsey Parenting Partnership (GPP) and as a part of hospital liaison roles and responsibilities, efforts will be made to identify vulnerable women who become pregnant as early into pregnancy as possible.

Midwifery services will then discuss such individual cases on a case by case basis with the hospital liaison child protection social worker located in the Assessment and Intervention Team. This may occur as a part of planned fortnightly liaison appointments.

Starting assessments and sharing information early gives the best chance to children and parents. It means services can be put in place, parents have a chance to reach their potential, and we have a chance to see progress made, minimising the need for child protection intervention.

Should the referral be received within appropriate timescales, efforts will be made to commence the pre-birth process prior to 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. This is to allow enquiries to be made which will inform whether a pre-birth assessment is warranted. If such an assessment is required, efforts will be made to commence the assessment between 15-20 weeks into the pregnancy.

When should pre-birth assessments be considered

Pre-birth assessments must always be considered in line with departmental child protection procedures if there is reasonable cause to suspect that the unborn baby is likely to suffer serious harm before, during or after birth in terms of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or neglect.

This could include the following reasons:

  • there are concerns in respect of the mother, father, potential carer or partner of the mother, in terms of psychiatric illness (including depression, psychosis and schizophrenia), or personality disorder;
  • there are concerns in respect of the mother, father, potential carer or partner of the mother, in terms of substance misuse (including alcohol and misuse of illegal and legal drugs and medications);
  • the mother's behaviour or lifestyle is likely to cause significant harm to the baby, before or after it is born;
  • when there are issues of significant learning disability;
  • mother, father, potential carer or mother's partner has a relevant criminal conviction or caution which could place a child at risk of serious harm or that adult is subject to Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA);
  • there are concerns regarding either parent or mother's partner in terms of their ability to behave safely in respect of the baby, or to adequately ensure the wellbeing of the baby by making appropriate decisions;
  • any child of either the mother, father, potential carer or mother's partner is or has been subject to a child care order (i.e. fit person order, supervision order, current community parenting order) or if legal proceedings are ongoing and the
    child is subject to an interim community parenting order;
  • any child of mother, father, potential carer or mother's partner has been placed on a child protection register or has been the subject of a protection plan at any time in the past;
  • there are concerns in regards to violence or threats of violence towards the mother, or by the mother, father, potential carer or mother's partner to anyone else. This includes those adults who are subject to Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA);
  • there are persistent and serious concerns about issues of domestic abuse or matters have been referred to a Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) during the pregnancy;
  • if the current pregnancy has been concealed, or the mother has a history of not accessing appropriate services;
  • if mother, father, potential carer or mother's partner is a child who is looked after by the department;
  • where the mother, father, potential carer or mother's partner, is also a child (or young adolescent) and there are likely to be circumstances of continuing adversity;
  • or when the history of parenting raises concerns regarding the ability of the mother, father, potential carer or mother's partner, to meet the needs of or safely care for a child.

It is appropriate to consider not only the ability of a mother, father, potential carer and mother's partner to safely care for a new-born baby, but also to consider their likely ability to parent satisfactorily throughout childhood.

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