When you’re in care, having a baby is seen as a problem – a big problem

Jenny Molloy, author of 'Hackney Child' and the new book 'Neglected' reflects on her experience of having a baby in care

Photo: John Birdsall/REX (Posed by models)

by Jenny Molloy

Having a baby, as a young person in care or as a care leaver, is not a time of joy.

Your baby is not seen as a beautiful gift of life. It’s seen as a problem – a big problem.

I got pregnant while still in care, aged 17. I knew that once social services found out, I would move from being the looked-after-child to a pregnant woman who was a potential risk to my baby. Why? Because I was in care.

Automatically, a risk assessment is ordered.

‘Attachment issues’

I knew that I was considered to be unable to love my baby ‘right’ due to my childhood trauma and because of, what I later found out when reading my files, ‘attachment issues’.

‘Jenny over identifies with adults from a middle class background and seems unable to identify with people from her own, working class, background. As a result, Jenny struggles to build attachments with like-minded people.’

What does this mean?

Damn right I didn’t want to identify with people who reminded me of my own parents’ impoverished life, devoid of aspiration and dreams. I looked up to and aspired to be like some of the adults who worked with me, who were, as many social workers are, middle class.

Of course, I understand class with the barriers and judgements that can go alongside it far better now, and don’t always associate poverty with class any longer. But, surely, it was far more positive that I found identification with people who did not remind me of my childhood?

‘Girls in care have their babies adopted. Right?’

So, I find myself pregnant, and know from many of the other girls in my kids homes, that girls in care have their babies adopted. Right?

This wasn’t going to happen to my baby, I was determined.

I hatched a plan, I became invisible to anyone who was professional, avoided any discussion about my history and stayed off radar.

My sadness at having to give birth alone, scared and in desperate pain, was deep. The memory of deep loneliness and fear is what I remember from my baby’s birth.

I had avoided antenatal classes, I was not prepared, I had no idea. However, this was, I thought, a small price to pay to keep my baby.

‘If you get told often enough that you are bad, you begin to believe it’

My daughter got pregnant at 16. The saddest thing about this for me was that I carried that judgement through to her. I judged her ability to be a loving and nurturing mum on the basis that I believed that I hadn’t been that. If you get told often enough that you are bad, you begin to believe it.

Luckily, my husband didn’t share the same views and he showed me how we could wrap ourselves around our daughter like a comfort blanket and to stay right by her side, lovingly, until she was ready to go it alone.

Lily, my granddaughter, is five years old, a beautiful, confident and cheeky little five year old, with a mum who is just about to embark on her degree in social work.

Funny what can happen when love is the main component in the relationship, isn’t it?

Jenny Molloy writes more about this and other experiences about her journey through the care system in her new book ‘Neglected:

True Stories of Children’s Search for Love in and out of the Care System’, which is available on Amazon. She is the co-author of Hackney Child and Tainted Love, and tweets @HackneyChild

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5 Responses to When you’re in care, having a baby is seen as a problem – a big problem

  1. J September 4, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    I would completelty agree with this.. if a mother is in care or a care leaver (no matter what age they are now) it is seen as an immediate potential risk. I say this as an ex child in care, parent and social worker!

  2. C September 7, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    Gosh, I really hope the class judgement comment would not be seen in any assessment these days!

  3. Carol Floris September 9, 2015 at 8:19 pm #

    I’ve seen this so many times up until this present day. Young parents who are looked after or care leavers are not given support but are taken through the child protection system, their Social Worker and others desert them and they are put under imaginable stress.

  4. Carol Floris September 10, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    Yes I agree. In situations like this mothers are taken down the child protection route too quickly, without being given support first. Their Social Workers desert them and there is unimaginable stress on these young people.

  5. s September 10, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

    As a former looked after child who is now an adult and qualified social worker, I was told by my asye assessor 3 years ago that if I had a baby now ( aged 35+), I would automatically be assessed by social care to consider if I was safe to parent my unborn. What an absolute joke and so discriminatory! !!