Speak out: Family Courts On Trial

On the centenary of (some) women’s suffrage, mothers, grandmothers and women’s organisations will expose and protest the devaluing of mothers and the unwarranted rise in children being taken into care and adopted against the wishes of birth families.

Celebrations of the centenary have centered mainly on women’s access to the boardroom, parliament, etc., and the salaries of the few at the top. Little has been said about women as primary carers in 90% of households.

Eighty per cent of UK women are mothers. The unpaid caring work women do within the family which leads to part-time employment and ‘career breaks’ is a major reason for the 19% pay gap[1] between women and men (much greater if we consider incomes over a lifetime)[2]. On top of this, 86% of austerity cuts have fallen on women,[3] especially mothers. Single mother families are 47% of the statutory homeless[4] and nearly three-quarters of families affected by the benefit cap. The majority of the nearly 1.2 million people who relied on food banks last year were women and children.[5]

Devaluing and impoverishing mothers has led to a growing number of children taken into care, especially from poorer single mother families.

More and more children are being put up for adoption – 22,580 children were adopted over the last five years, the highest number in Europe; 96% without the consent of the birth family. The policy of adoption from care has led to an increase in children separated from their parents.[6] The number of children in care in England is now 72,670. In some working class areas, 50% of children are referred to social services – families of colour, immigrant, disabled are disproportionately affected. In Scotland and Wales the proportion of children taken into care is even greater.

Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act instructs local authorities to ‘promote the upbringing of children by their families’ by ‘giving assistance [including housing] in kind or in cash’. And the Care Act 2014 entitles disabled mothers to extra help. The coalition Support not Separation highlights that neither is being prioritised. Instead £400 and £3,000 a week is spent to keep a child in foster or residential care deprived of their mother and siblings and other family.

This is due not only to cuts but also to an ideology of devaluing the child-mother relationship, blaming mothers for the results of poverty and domestic violence, bypassing kinship carers, promoting forced adoptions, and the increasing privatisation of children services. Only 9% of ‘looked after’ children in England are placed with kinship carers compared to nearly half in Spain. With 40% of foster care and 80% of children’s homes privatised, children’s and mothers’ misery is profitable for some.

The powers of social services and the family courts are shrouded in secrecy, so there is little public awareness and scrutiny of what is happening to children and their families in the name of ‘safeguarding’. Victims of domestic violence are most likely to have their children removed following accusations that they ‘failed to protect’ their children while the same authorities insist on violent fathers having contact with them. Another common accusation is that of putting children at risk of ‘future emotional harm or neglect’. The charges are vague and unproven, while the real pain inflicted by separation is dismissed.

The government recently apologised for the 130,000 children trafficked to Australia and Canada between 1920s and 1970s, where they were enslaved, including sexually. What is happening today is not so different. Working class mothers are being treated as surrogates for wealthier families ready to adopt infants and small children against the mother’s wishes – a form of social engineering and child trafficking.

On 8 March, mothers, grandmothers, men who support women and children, and professionals who oppose this abuse of power by state agencies will hold a speak out before Parliament.


  • Abusing the law to snatch children from their mothers
  • Traumatising children through separation
  • Depriving children of breastfeeding
  • Denying mothers and children their legal right to support
  • Impoverishing mothers and children with austerity
  • Discriminating against single mothers & vulnerable families
  • Punishing victims of rape and domestic violence by taking the children we’ve tried to protect
  • Handing children to violent fathers
  • Valuing ‘experts’ over mothers
  • Holding secret hearings without public scrutiny
  • Gagging us so we can’t get community support
  • Deporting mothers, keeping their children
  • Taking children for profit

gws@globalwomenstrike.net  Part of International Women’s Strike events

8 March 2018: International Women’s Day

12-2pm, Old Palace Yard, Westminster  All Welcome

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