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Good Mother Lost Baby
March 4, 2013 permalink
Britain's Mirror tells the story of a woman whose real life story mimics that of Lola on the BBC series EastEnders.
Social workers took my baby girl 13 years ago.. I haven’t seen her since
Just like Lola in EastEnders, teen mum Hayley Rainbow's baby girl was taken from her by social services. Now she is fighting for the rights of other young mums and their stolen babies
When Hayley Rainbow watched teen mum Lola Pearce desperately fighting to win back her baby girl Lexi in EastEnders, she felt an overwhelming sense of loss.
Hayley was just 15 when social workers deemed her newborn baby was at risk of emotional abuse or neglect in the future.
Her daughter Carly* [ * CARLY’S NAME HAS BEEN CHANGED ] was put up for adoption aged 10 months and Hayley has never seen her since.
But what makes this story so extraordinary is that Hayley became pregnant again shortly after her daughter was taken away – and this time she was allowed to keep the baby. She has since gone on to have three more children with no further intervention from the authorities.
Today, Hayley, now 29, is campaigning for other young mums who believe they’ve had babies removed without justifiable cause to be given back their children – just as Lola has been battling for Lexi’s return.
Hayley says: “Words can’t describe the pain I felt when Lola’s storyline first broke. It was as if I was watching my teenage self on screen. Within minutes, my friends and family were texting and ringing to ask if I was watching EastEnders and to make sure that I was OK.
“My mind flashed back to the last time I held Carly and the unbearable sense of loss I felt then and still feel today. I have had to live with the stigma that people presume I did something wrong to have my baby taken away but EastEnders portrayed just how easy it is for a young mum to lose her child based on a prediction of neglect.
“Just like Lola, I was a volatile and mouthy teenager. But that didn’t mean I’d harm my child. Finally, after 13 years, I finally feel vindicated thanks to Lola’s storyline.”
Hayley had a troubled upbringing and was just 14 when she became pregnant in August 1998 by her then boyfriend. Because of her childhood and the fact she was in and out of care when growing up, her unborn baby was automatically put on the at risk protection register.
After the arrival of Carly in May 1999, social services deemed Hayley’s living arrangements unsatisfactory.
She had been staying with her mother in London, but was forced to move into a mother and baby unit where her parenting skills were monitored and assessed. “Like Lola I was a stroppy, difficult teen from a troubled background,” admits Hayley. “And, yes, sometimes I’d fly off the handle and I admit I had an attitude problem.”
One evening in January 2000, when Carly was asleep upstairs, Hayley had a heated argument with her boyfriend on the telephone and knocked some empty bottles off the kitchen counter in a temper.
“I didn’t think much of it at the time and just went to bed,” says Hayley. “But the following morning two police officers arrived to escort me off the premises.
“I didn’t understand what was happening and felt scared.
“Suddenly, the penny dropped. I’d seen this happen to other mums on the unit.
“I darted for the door to get Carly – but they wrestled me to the floor and handcuffed me. I started to shout, ‘You can’t take my baby away from me’.
“But they wouldn’t listen and I was taken to the police station.
“There, they told me that my baby daughter was being taken into foster care as I’d smashed up the kitchen and wasn’t a fit mother. I just couldn’t believe it.
“I’d behaved like an immature, angry teenager but I hadn’t smashed up the kitchen and I had not hurt Carly.
“It was soul destroying.
“I went back to my mum’s house and didn’t eat for days.” In the months that followed, Hayley was allowed three supervised visits a week with Carly in a contact centre.
She received a glowing report from her contact supervisor and was confident she’d be given back full custody of Carly.
But in March 2000, her local magistrates court ruled Hayley was an unfit mother and that Carly was to be put up for adoption on the grounds of being at risk of emotional abuse or neglect.
Hayley recalls: “I’ll never forget that moment. I was crying uncontrollably. It was my worst nightmare. I might have only been a teenager, but I loved my baby as much as any mother.”
Afterwards, Hayley was allowed twice-weekly visits with her daughter. But, in May 2000, social services found Carly adoptive parents and Hayley was forbidden from ever seeing her again.
“The last time I saw her was in the contact centre,” recalls Hayley.
“Tears were streaming down my face as I held her and told her everything was going to be OK. I promised her that I’d do my upmost to get her home where she belonged. I took a lock of her soft hair and carefully placed it in my locket. I still have it today.”
Hayley tried to appeal against the court’s order but was rejected every time. She says: “It was hopeless. As a teenager from a troubled background, I had no voice.” Incredibly, around this time, Hayley found out she was four weeks pregnant. She admits: “I panicked and kept it quiet. I was terrified they would take this child away, too.”
In an effort to stop history repeating itself, Hayley moved boroughs.
“At this point I didn’t trust anyone in my local authority. I couldn’t risk staying under the same social workers in case they took my second baby away from me.”
At six months pregnant, she moved to Watford and into the house of her former partner’s parents.
“During an antenatal class, it emerged my first baby had been taken away,” she says.
“The next time I arrived at a class a social worker was waiting for me and my unborn baby was again put back on the protection register.
“Initially, I was terrified. But this social worker listened to me and seemed kind, so I began to trust her.”
This time, social services housed Hayley and helped her to prepare for motherhood.
She says: “Their attitude was in stark contrast. Instead of criticising my every move, they congratulated me when I did something well – no matter how small.”
Six months after daughter Morgan was born, the tot was taken off the register. In the meantime, Hayley learnt to drive and took a job as a cleaner.
“When I received a letter saying Morgan was no longer on the protection register, I thought, ‘This is it – I’ve shown I’m a capable, loving mother. Now I’ll get my first baby back’.
In November 2001, she went to the Royal Courts of Justice, but Hayley’s case was rejected.
The judge said it would be detrimental to uproot Carly from her adoptive family.
“I cried my heart out. I really thought they’d give my daughter back to me because I’d proved I was a good parent,” says Hayley. “She was only two and a half then – she wouldn’t have remembered anything and we could have made a fresh start.”
Instead, Hayley had to settle for a letter and a photograph once a year from Carly’s adoptive parents.
“It’s any mother’s worst nightmare,” says Hayley. “It was so frustrating, unjust and totally heartbreaking. Even now, I don’t even know if my daughter knows about me or the truth of the situation.” In 2003, Hayley met Scott, 27, a carpenter, and the couple married in August 2010. They raise Hayley’s two children Morgan 12, Aston, nine, from her previous relationship and their two children, Alexus, five, and Logan, three.
“Scott and I push our children to put 110% into everything they do,” says Hayley. “Just last week, Morgan’s science teacher called to say how exceptionally well my daughter is doing in her lessons.
“We’re so proud of them. It hurts that I’ll never hear what Carly’s doing – or go to her parents’ evening or help her to buy her first dress for her school disco.”
In December 2012, Hayley requested her files from social services under the Freedom of Information Act. She was aghast.
“There was no evidence of neglect – only the risk of neglect based on my stroppy behaviour towards social workers,” she says. “There are four pages that summarise my physical and emotional care for Carly and every single thing is positive.
“But there were incidents, as they like to call them. In one, it described how I called Carly a ‘greedy little piggy’ when I was feeding her, but I know I did this in a jokey manner in a baby voice. Another was me using my phone at 12am – nothing to do with my parenting skills.”
Today, Hayley is fighting for the rights of young mums who believe their babies were ‘stolen’ by social services, with the campaign Stolen Children of the UK.
And Birmingham Lib Dem MP John Hemming hopes to raise the issue of forced adoption at next week’s party conference.
“I want to give young mums a voice,” says Hayley. “How can social services take your child away purely on the basis of possible future harm? You wouldn’t go to jail because there’s a chance you might kill or harm someone in the future.
“I have since proved that I am a caring and responsible mother – but losing my first-born will haunt me forever. But I pray Carly knows the truth and tries to find me. That way I can give her all the answers she needs.”
Source: Mirror (UK)