14/08/2014 16:56 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Council Defends Move To Take Italian Mum's C-Section Baby Into Care

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Pregnant Woman

A council has been applauded for defending its actions to take an Italian mother's baby into care after she was forced to undergo a Caesarean birth.

Essex County Council spoke out to clarify the procedures it followed after widespread criticism of its decision to put the baby up for adoption.

It said it acted purely out of concern for both the mother's and the baby's health.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Essex social services obtained a High Court order for the woman – who had bipolar disorder - to be sedated and her baby daughter to be taken from her womb and put up for adoption.

Now in a rare move, the council has explained the lengths it had gone to to try to avoid having to take the chlid into care - an initiative that has been praised as 'brave' by one senior social work consultant who said it was important to prevent social workers being 'villified' for their actions.

Defending its actions to take the baby into care, Essex council
said it had 'exhausted all other options', such as liaising with the mother's extended family, before pursuing an adoption.

The council said an Essex health trust had been looking after the mother since 13 June 2012, when she was detained under the Mental Health Act.

In August, the health trust gained permission from the courts to deliver her unborn baby by Caesarean.

The council said social services had taken the baby into care because 'the mother was too unwell to care for her child'.

"Historically, the mother has two other children, who she is unable to care for due to orders made by the Italian authorities," the council said.

"In accordance with Essex County Council's Social Services practice, social workers liaised extensively with the extended family before and after the birth of the baby, to establish if anyone could care for the child."

The spokesman added: "The long term safety and well-being of children is always Essex County Council's priority.

"Adoption is never considered until we have exhausted all other options and is never pursued lightly."

The case illustrates the extraordinary challenges social workers face when dealing with such complex and emotive cases, and sometimes their reporting in the media can lead to social workers being 'villified', according to Joanna Nicolas, a social worker and child protection consultant.

In an article for the website Community Care about the Caesarean section case – and specifically the headline, 'Baby taken from womb by social services'
- she wrote: "In the words of some spewing venom on social media sites: 'Social workers do the work of the devil'."

But she said to prevent this happening it was time for local authorities to be more open about explaining their decisions so that the public are aware of the full facts, not just the headlines.

She explained: "Those of us working in this field know there is always much more to a story than has been reported, but irresponsible reporting is not going to end.

"Therefore we need to be more robust in our response and not wait until we have been vilified to give a little reality to a situation.

"In this case, one would hope that now we know the mother has two other children she was unable to care for, and Italian courts ruled this child should remain in England, there might be a slightly different reaction to the case.

"It is time for local authorities to reconsider their position of not commenting on individual cases. Information such as Essex has given identifies no one but may increase understanding of how and why local authorities act.

"It is honourable that local authorities put the right of the service user to privacy first, but if that service user then speaks to the media they relinquish their right to complete privacy.

"If we really value our most vulnerable children and we want good people to come into child protection we need to protect those professionals too and speak out about what they do and why decisions are made.

"So, I commend Essex council for their braveness and hope that others will follow suit. Let us hear more often why local authorities and courts have made the decisions they have."

She concluded: "Generally, councils do not comment on individual cases. The predicament they have is that if they do not they are usually left looking as though their actions have been draconian, or lax."