by Jean Eveleigh
“My case started in 2002 when I found out I was pregnant after being told I wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally. I was disabled and alone and didn’t know how I would manage. At my very first midwifery appointment I was asked if I would like a social worker. Being diagnosed with mental health problems, having physical issues, finding out I was almost halfway through a pregnancy that I had no idea I could have, I said yes. Which was a big mistake. For the next 16 weeks that I was pregnant (because I delivered at 38 weeks), every Social Services appointment, every psychiatric appointment I attended, started with me being presented with a completed abortion form and being expected to sign it.
I refused, my daughter was born and they instantly wanted to remove her from me. It took them 12 weeks to find enough grounds to be able to take her from me and I spent the next two and a half years in court trying to keep her. Having two assessments where my physical needs were completely ignored and only my mental health was being assessed.
In one of the assessments: my daughter by this time, was a toddler and I was told that I wouldn’t be able to use my crutches to mobilise, because if I did I wouldn’t be able to hold her hand or run after her or in any way be able to look after her while she was walking. I had to choose between my daughter’s health and needs and my physical health. I didn’t use my crutches, I tried my best to manage without them.
My daughter, as I say, was adopted and then a year and a half later my physical health had progressed to the point that I was now wheelchair‑bound and had received a diagnosis of a progressive, degenerative genetic condition. I was able to appeal, as I had complained about my physical health [not being taken into account] through the case and Social Services had not been assessing this. Also the judge in my initial case had admonished Social Services several times for not conducting proper assessments. I won my appeal and was told that if Social Services had conducted all their assessments correctly, there is a possibility I would have been able to retain custody of my child, but we will never know for sure. This judgment was ruled to also be placed in my daughter’s file along with all the other court papers so that when she’s old enough, if she wishes to access her file she will be able to see this.
My daughter has just turned 18 and all the contact that was ordered by the court has been cut, because they said that she no longer wishes to have contact with me. I have no idea when I will ever see her again. I’ve never been able to have any more children, partly because of my genetic illness, which has a 50% inheritance rate, but partly because I was so frightened of having to go through Social Services proceedings again and losing another child. I decided that it wouldn’t be fair on any partner I was with and I was not mentally or physically strong enough to be able to live through that again.”
Support Not Separation webinar, July 2021: Protecting our children, Defending our rights – UK & US
Go to our Disabled Mothers’ Rights Campaign page here for more info and to get involved.