FAQs on Domestic Violence for fathers
My partner is pregnant. A social worker is doing a pre-birth assessment because my partner told her GP about an incident at home. Will our baby will be taken away?
A pre-birth assessment is carried out in much the same way as any other social work assessment except that it is completed before a baby is born. Sometimes, children’s services receive a referral from professionals or families even before a baby is born if the unborn baby may be in need or at risk of harm in some way, including because of domestic violence. The assessment will consider whether your baby will be safe when they are born and, if not, what should happen after the birth to make sure your baby is safe. The social worker will want to speak to your partner’s midwife and other relevant health staff during the assessment.
It is very important that you, as the expectant father:
- Work with the social worker to find out what the concerns are and how these concerns may affect your child,
- Respond to those concerns, and
- Find out what you and your partner can do, or what help you can be offered to help keep your child safe within the family.
When the social worker is worried that there has been domestic violence in your current or a previous relationship it is important that you are willing to work with the social worker and specialist services. Domestic violence during pregnancy can put both your partner and your unborn baby at risk of harm. Domestic violence often begins or increases during pregnancy and so is taken very seriously.
There can be different outcomes to a pre-birth assessment depending on whether your unborn baby is assessed to require additional help as a child in need or if they are at risk of harm or have been harmed and so their situation will be considered under child protection procedures. If there are concerns that your baby may suffer significant harm when they are born then an initial (pre-birth) child protection conference may be held to decide how to keep your baby safe when they are born.
If the concerns about your unborn baby are so great that children’s services think your baby will not be safe when they are born they may consider going to court to seek an order to remove the baby. Where possible, you and your partner should be informed of this, by a letter before proceedings, by the time your partner is 24 weeks pregnant. You can get free advice from a specialist childcare lawyer who can also come with you to a pre-proceedings meeting (sometimes known as a Public Law Outline meeting) where you can also find out if there is anything that you or your partner can do to stop court proceedings from happening. The social worker should send you a letter of issue if they are proceeding to court.
You and your partner should involve your support networks and wider family as soon as you can. They may be able to support you or your partner to care for your baby safely after the birth or they may be able to care for the baby if you are not allowed to. You can ask the social worker to refer you for a family group conference to bring your network together to make a safe plan for your baby.
You can find more information about where to get further help including domestic violence interventions and legal advice here.