A mother has been reunited with the baby who was taken away from her by social workers who turned up unannounced at her bedside while she was in labour after an administrative oversight.
The first Mrs McWilliams knew that Victoria was to be taken away was as she was in labour, she said Photo: Rossparry
Kelly McWilliams, 36, was about to give birth to her daughter Victoria in August 2011, when two social workers arrived with an emergency court order authorising them to take the baby into care.
The staff from the crisis-hit Doncaster Social Services waited while Mrs McWilliams gave birth, preparing to take Victoria away.
She was allowed only supervised contact with her daughter during the first four months of Victoria’s life until a court eventually overturned the previous order.
Mrs McWilliams, who is disabled after suffering a stroke, had already suffered the loss of a child only three years earlier when her 10-year-old son Cameron died.
It later emerged that the decision to take Victoria into care followed a succession of delays and oversights in dealing with the case.
A report by Cafcass, the agency which looks after children’s interests in the family courts, found that Mrs McWlliams’s case had been referred to social services by her midwife six months earlier, because of her health problems and other difficulties.
But no assessment was carried out and no one was assigned to the case until three days before Victoria was born.
Instead of contacting Mrs McWilliams at that point the department applied for emergency protection order which was granted by magistrates overnight, a few hours before the birth on August 23.
The first the expectant mother knew that her child was to be taken away was as she was in labour, she said.
Doncaster Social Services was in the midst of crisis at the time in the wake of the Edlington torture scandal and a string of other child protection problems.
In November last year an Ofsted report concluded that child protection standards in the borough had got worse rather than better.
Mrs McWilliams’s solicitor Sarah Young, of Ridley and Hall, said the decision to seek a care order for Victoria could easily have been avoided and appeared to be the result of the department acting in “panic mode.”
Mrs McWilliams said: “They just walked in very coldly and said as soon as I had delivered my baby two hours later she was going to get placed into foster care.
“I was being induced, went into labour and two social workers walked into my room and told me.
“To be honest I didn’t actually believe them at first I thought it was some kind of joke. I just asked why and she said ‘because you’re not well’.”
For several months she had only two hours a week of supervised contact while she fought to overturn the decision.
“I had people watching over my shoulder as if I was some kind of murderer,” she said.
“To me they have got more power than the police, they can do what they want when they want.
“Nobody can make up for what they have taken away from me.
“I missed her first smile I didn’t get to bring her home.
“I wanted the sleepless nights, I wanted the sick and the crying and I never got that.”
Mrs McWilliams’s case was made all the more painful coming just three and a half years after her son Cameron was found hanged after speaking about wanting to be a girl.
“For several years my husband and I had been trying for another child,” said Mrs McWilliams.
“Our son had tragically died aged 10 in 2008 and I had found it very difficult to cope.
“I have limited mobility following a stroke in 2001 and have in the past suffered from mental health problems – but they have been in remission for 5 years.
“I was confident that I would be able to cope with a new baby; I was physically and mentally in a good place and we were delighted when I became pregnant.”
Chris Pratt, Director of Doncaster’s Children and Young Peoples’ Services said: “It’s inappropriate for us to comment on cases involving individual children.
“However, when any matter of concern is raised with me I do ask for this to be examined and I have done that in this case.”
SOURCE: The Telegraph