Almost 130 newborn Derbyshire babies taken into care by court orders

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Almost 130 newborn babies have been taken into the care of local authorities in Derbyshire through court orders over the past decade.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that for the 10-year period from 2007, a total of 128 babies, each within a week of their birth, were the subjects of Section 31 care proceedings.

Section 31 care orders – under the Children Act 1989 – allow a court to place a child in the care of a designated local authority – such as Derbyshire County Council – with responsibility being shared between the public body and the baby’s parents.

These orders are only made if the court is satisfied that harm or potential harm could occur if the child remains in the sole custody of the parents.

Taking the average over the course of the past decade, the vast majority of babies – 1-7 – were placed in foster care via the county council while the rest were placed with an NHS or health trust, and a smaller number amount at a family centre or mother and baby unit, with a relative or friend, and with the parents.

A spokesman for Derbyshire County Council said: “The reasons that we would seek a court order are many and varied – and in some cases there may be multiple reasons.

“However it is well-documented that neglect of previous children, parents’ mental illness or drug and alcohol abuse are some of the reasons that children are taken in to care.”

“Keeping children safe is a key priority for us.

“We work with a range of agencies, including the police and the NHS, to make decisions which are in the best interests of the child.

“Ultimately it is up to a court to decide whether a care order is granted.”

Out of the total 128 babies, less than half – 60 – ended up being adopted.

The number of babies which have been the subject of Section 31 care proceedings per year has tripled over the last decade.

In 2007, six babies were the subject of these orders, with five being placed in foster care and one at an NHS/health trust.

However, for the last complete year – 2017 – the number of babies taken into the care of local authorities via this order has reached its highest for 10 years.

In 207, 18 babies were the subjects of Section 31 care orders, with 14 placed in foster care, two at a family centre or baby unit, and one each at an NHS trust/health trust and with the parents respectively.

The county council has a legal obligation to support all children in the county who do not have parental guardians – acting as corporate parent.

This has seen the authority take more than 750 children under its wing, largely through foster care placements, but also through adoption and residential children’s homes.

The authority also takes care of children through other measures such as protection plans, with more than 1,000 youngsters subject to further supervision.