Child removal

Child removal

Losing custody of a child has far-reaching psychological and emotional impacts. Mothers who have had a child taken into care have significantly higher rates of suicide and suicide attempts (148), and interviews with women who had been through repeat care proceedings found that (149):

  • Many women went through an ‘acute phase of grief’ after their child was removed, which could exacerbate difficulties with mental health and substance use. The majority reported suicidal thoughts and self-harming.
  • Women described that, following child removal, other aspects of their lives became worse, including their housing situation and interpersonal violence.
  • Having their child removed at birth was a particularly traumatic experience.

Local population

Chapter 2 of this report covers the number of children entering care each year in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Risk factors for poor mental health

Many women who have had a child taken into care have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs): one study of women who had been through repeat care proceedings found that 56% had experienced 4+ ACEs and over half had experienced sexual abuse in childhood (149).


National research involving women whose children who had been removed from their care reported they found it ‘very difficult’ to access help from mental health services; which could be highly frustrating as mental health therapies were often recommended in care proceedings (148).


  1. Morriss L, Broadhurst K. Understanding the mental health needs of mothers who have had children removed through the family court: A call for action. Vol. 21, Qualitative Social Work. SAGE Publications Inc.; 2022. p. 803–8.
  2. Broadhurst K, Mason C, Bedston S, Alrouh B, Morriss L, Mcquarrie T, et al. Vulnerable Birth Mothers and Recurrent Care Proceedings [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Mar 6]. Available from: