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Threat to Pregnant Woman
August 19, 2007 permalink
We have received dozens of personal reports of threats made privately by child protectors. So far, all of them have been the unsubstantiated word of the aggrieved parent. Now in England two parents, Vanessa and Martin Brookes, have secretly recorded a session in which they were threatened with child removal even before the birth of their child. There can be no possible basis for these threats, since it is impossible to commit child abuse before a child legally exists. In a desperate attempt to save her baby the mother has posted the recording of the threats (audio only) on YouTube. The child protectors have responded with legal threats against the parents and YouTube for secretly recording them. Since no child legally exists before birth, the Sunday Telegraph felt safe in publishing the story with real names.
YouTube row over social services baby threat
Ben Leapman, Home Affairs Correspondent, Sunday Telegraph, Last Updated: 12:57am BST 19/08/2007
A heavily pregnant woman is at the centre of an extraordinary legal battle with social workers after she secretly recorded them threatening to take away her newborn baby.
Vanessa Brookes, 34, who is due to give birth early next month, smuggled taping equipment into a meeting with social services officials, fearing they would try to take her baby for forced adoption.
She recorded a social worker telling her and her husband Martin, 41, that even though there was "no immediate risk to your child from yourselves", the council would seek a court order to place the child in foster care.
Mother and baby would be allowed "two or three days" in hospital together, but should not leave the premises until social workers came to remove the infant. In a desperate attempt to keep their baby, the couple have published the recorded conversation on the internet.
Calderdale council, in West Yorkshire, last night accused them of breaching the Data Protection Act by recording its staff without their knowledge or consent. The council said it had begun legal action to have the recording removed from the YouTube website. Mrs Brookes said: "Even puppies and kittens aren't removed from their mothers at birth. Social workers always record everything, so why shouldn't we record them?"
John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of campaign group Justice for Families, said: "I find it very odd that a newborn baby would be removed when there is not any allegation by the authorities that the child is at risk. Yet this case is not unique. There are many cases in which newborns are removed because of allegations that their mothers may at some later stage 'emotionally abuse' the child."
The case returns the spotlight to claims that social services are being heavy-handed in removing children from their parents, in order to meet Government adoption targets.
The Sunday Telegraph has previously revealed cases of mothers who were not told why their children were taken away, and cases of families whose children were not returned even after the parents had been cleared of wrongdoing. More than 2,000 babies aged under a year were taken for adoption last year, almost triple the level of a decade ago.
Social services took an interest in the Brookes family after Mrs Brookes, who is partially-sighted, was diagnosed with depression and a personality disorder, leading to concerns that her baby might be subjected to "emotional abuse". Neighbours have complained that the couple's household was disorderly, but neither has been accused of abusing or harming a child.
In the recorded meeting, the social worker tells the couple: "It's our intention as a local authority that when your baby is born, we go into court on that same day and ask for an interim court order because we would wish to place your baby with foster carers."
He tells Mrs Brookes: "I would like you and your baby to stay in hospital until the courts have made a decision."
The social worker says the two or three days the mother has with her baby in hospital will allow her to begin breast-feeding and that once the infant is taken away, social services will pick up expressed breast milk from her home and deliver it to the foster carers for bottle-feeding.
The social worker admits to the couple that a back-up plan is being drawn up in case the judge refuses the application for a care order. He says: "What we also have to think about is a child protection plan that looks at you, at home, with your baby. There is no immediate risk to your child from yourselves, that's my understanding from reading documents."
A spokesman for Calderdale council said officials would seek a meeting with Mr and Mrs Brookes "to understand how this information came into the public domain. We are taking action to have this item removed from YouTube. This recording was made without the knowledge or consent of our member of staff.
"The council does not take lightly any recommendation to the court for a child or a baby to be brought into care. The decision whether or not to institute care proceedings is made by social workers who have to consider the best interests of the child."
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
Addendum: The video was removed from YouTube in about a day. We have obtained a copy (13 megabytes, wmv format) from a user who copied it while it was still online.
Addendum: The baby was born a month later. There is no public word on its fate.
Published Date: 21 September 2007
Source: Evening Courier
Mother gives birth to care-threat case baby
By Megan Featherstone
A MUM who has been fighting plans to take away her unborn baby has given birth. Vanessa Brookes of Bradley View, Holywell Green, gave birth at 7.21pm on Wednesday.
But Mrs Brookes and husband Martin could lose their newborn when a court hearing decides the baby's fate today.
In August the couple hit the headlines when they taped a conversation with Calderdale Council staff, who said they would apply for care of their baby as soon as it was born. It is claimed the baby will be at risk of emotional abuse.
The recording was then posted on the video internet site YouTube.
Dad Martin, 41, witnessed the birth. He said: "It was great, really emotional."
But he said his and his wife's happiness had been overshadowed by their worries about having the baby taken from them.
He said the battle had been particularly stressful for his wife who is registered blind. They plan to continue to contest any decision to take the baby into care.
A council spokesman said an interim care order had been applied for and a court hearing was being held today.
Last Updated: 21 September 2007 9:20 AM
Source: recovered from Google cache
Addendum: Once the baby is born, newspapers fear to mention names. There is no way to be certain, but the enclosed article on flight from the hospital seems to be about the same family. Scanning the web years later suggests, without any authoritative source, that the baby was adopted but the courts later ruled there were no grounds for child removal. Too bad. The parents don't get their child back.
Couple flee with baby - fifth person arrested
A FIFTH person has been arrested after a couple fled Calderdale Royal Hospital with their new-born baby, fearing she would be taken into care.
The man was arrested on Friday evening in Cheshire and is in custody with four others.
The baby was taken from the hospital on Thursday night, against the wishes of medical staff.
Social services bosses and police were alerted and a major investigation was launched to trace the baby and her parents.
Sources have revealed police subsequently visited a farmhouse in the quiet rural village of Flyford, in Worcester, where they discovered the baby.
Four people were arrested, including a couple in their early 30s and 40s. One couple are believed to be the baby's parents.
Yesterday, a court in Leeds agreed to grant Calderdale Council an interim care order – meaning the child has been placed in the care of the local authority while the family is assessed and until the court makes a final decision.
It is thought social services staff had been in touch with the parents of the baby before the birth, advising that the baby was likely to be taken into care.
Detectives are understood to be questioning the baby's father in Halifax while the mother is being interviewed in Worcester.
Police said: "A large police operation was launched to ensure the safe return of a missing baby. A man was arrested and is custody at a West Yorkshire police station.
"Just after 6.15am on Friday, officers recovered the baby from an address in Flyford. The baby is safe. Three people were arrested at the address."
Source: Halifax Courier