— The ones that get away —

It's a sad fact that only a small minority of the families into whose lives social workers intervene in an aggressive way, or by stealth, succeed in keeping their children.

To fully understand this one must make a distinction between bad or inadequate parents and those who, while not being bad parents and perhaps even good and loving, can not be described as particularly competent or endowed with financial means and life skills. 'On benefits' is also a label which could be used to describe many of the latter.

Leaving competence aside, there is a very vulnerable category of parent which is the lone or abandoned pregnant girl, especially one still in her teens. She cannot be expected to be powerful or competent, especially if, under pressure from social workers, she is abandoned by her male partner.

It is the experience of the help network that most bad or inadequate parents do not seek help or attempt to flee when faced with the seizure of their children. This assumption is based on the fact that the network insists on seeing the social services file before taking on a family. There may be a rare case of previous neglect, but a parent who appears to be bad for, or dangerous to, a child looking for help to save that child is rare indeed. It also needs to be realized that only a small proportion of the families into whose lives the child protection system has intervened looks for help.

However small the proportion, the numbers which do look for help or attempt to flee still run into the hundreds each year. The ones that flee do so either with existing children or pregnant, in the second case usually where a first or more than one previous baby has been taken. The trigger for a pregnant woman fleeing is often the social worker saying, "We will take the baby at birth."

So the help network does not face a significant issue of deciding if parents are bad or inadequate. It does however face the significant issue of whether a parent or couple are competent and have the financial means and life skills to succeed in fleeing.

As this material is intended for journalists and filmmakers adding further information could ruin the plot.

Suffice it to say that when a baby is born successfully in Ireland, its new Irish hosts say to it, "You are another one that got away."

Key moments in the flight to safety

The warning signals from the social workers
The decision and planning
Packing the bags
Who to tell
The journey
The arrival
On or off the radar
The missing persons alert

Contact us at ed-ectopia@live.ie

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