Kerry Robertson, a 17-year-old with learning difficulties who was prevented from marrying her boyfriend of one year back in September because social workers believed she was unable to understand the meaning of the contract, has now been forced to give up her baby. (Apologies for the Mail link, I couldn’t find the story elsewhere.) The couple had fled to Ireland in November after being told that their baby could be taken from them, and social services caught up with them four days after their son, Ben, was born:
Last night Miss Robertson said: ‘When the Irish social workers said I had to give the baby to them, I felt sick.
‘I didn’t want to hand him over and I started crying because I couldn’t believe what they were saying. I thought I had misunderstood.
‘I had just been breastfeeding him.
Just before they took him away, I told Ben I loved him and gave him a kiss.’
Mr McDougall added: ‘Kerry let out a dreadful cry when she realised what was happening – it was terrible. She is just in pieces.
This is just appalling. Kerry’s learning difficulties do not automatically mean she will be unable to cope with motherhood, yet there appears to be no other motivation for social services’ actions. The whole affair reeks of ablism.
The failure to consider the possibility that her clearly committed boyfriend and father of the child could be the primary care-giver if necessary also smacks of sexist assumptions about men and women’s parental responsibilities and roles.
Everyone has the right to a family life, and social services should be enabling the family to stay together (if they actually even need any support), not ripping them apart.