The majority of pregnant women and their babies have the supports they need from their own family networks, and through the universal services provided by health and therefore do not come to the attention of statutory agencies such as social work.
Babies, are by nature, entirely dependent on others for all their care. This makes them most vulnerable to harm if paretns or cares are not able to meet all of their needs. Most babies are well protected and have their needs met. For some, concerns about their wellbeing may emerge during pregnancy. For most of these babies their families will just need additional support and advice to address concerns. There will be others however, where there are heightened concerns that a baby might be at risk of significant harm, there may be a need for more intervention to keep unborn and new born babies safe.
In Dundee all pregnant women are allocated a named midwife who will maintain contact throughout the pregnancy. The frequency of this will depend on individual circumstances. Young first time mums under 19 years will be offered supports through Family Nurse Partnership. This service provides additional supports and is tailored to the needs of young, first time mums and will work with the family until the baby is 2 years old. It is a voluntary service and highly recommended. If however this is declined, a named midwife and health visitor will be allocated.
If your midwife or GP have concerns about your unborn baby they will discuss these with you. These concerns may be about your life style, such as issues with addictions, that you live with domestic abuse or experience significant mental ill health or learning disabilities. It is known that each of these issues may make it more difficult to parent without additional supports.
In Dundee, there is a clear expectation that midwives or health visitors will share with social work and other health colleagues, any information that comes to their attention that suggests a pregnant mum is experiencing any of these issues. If it is agreed that there is some cause for concern then consideration will be given to what needs to happen next.
It may be that some additional support will be offered through a specialist midwife, an addiction worker, or a mental health nurse, without the need for direct social work interventions. In many circumstances it won’t be possible to arrive at a decision about what needs to happen, without more information and a better understanding of what life is like for the family the baby will be born into. In this case, a social worker will be allocated to undertake what is called an unborn baby assessment. They will discuss in detail what is involved. The social worker may be part of the dedicated New Beginning Service that includes the specialist midwife, addiction worker and mental health nurse.
If this assessment concludes that there are significant concerns that could place the baby at risk, a Child Protection Case Conference will be arranged to discuss these concerns in more detail. You will be invited to attend the Case Conference and will be given copies of all assessment reports. These, together with the discussion at the Conference, will inform a decision about what needs to happen to reduce risk and keep your baby safe. You can see more information in section Child Protection Investigations.
If the Case Conference decides that your baby’s name will be placed on the Child Protection Register this will be noted in health records. Any plans about care of the baby will be detailed in a Child Protection Plan. You will be involved in developing the Plan and aware of what is expected. The Plan will be included in your maternity notes.
Agreed procedures in Dundee require that an unborn baby Case Conference takes place by 28th week of pregnancy. As a Review Conference always takes places within three months of the Initial Case Conference, it may be that there will be a Review before your baby is born. In these circumstances the Conference will discuss anything that has changed in your life, but will not be able to change the decision made previously about registration and the baby’s name will remain on the Register. There will be regular meetings of the Core Group to review and update the Child Protection Plan and a Review Case Conference will take place three months after the birth of your baby.