Mothers with Learning Disabilities: Experiences and Meanings of Losing Custody of their Children

Tizard Learning Disability Review

ISSN: 1359-5474

Publication date: 1 July 2007


Women with learning disabilities are at high risk of losing their children, yet their experience of this process remains under‐investigated. This study looks at the experiences of eight mothers with learning disabilities who lose custody of their children. In‐depth, semi‐structured interviews were conducted to explore their experiences. Findings suggest that concern about the women's parenting tend to be raised by other people, rather than the women themselves. Many of the women appeared not to understand the process of their children's removal, and said that they felt bullied and victimised by it. All blamed their violent partner or the social workers for what had happened, while some blamed their ‘learning disabilities’. All commented that they had received inadequate support from both services and their families before and after their children were removed. All described intense feelings of loss. The psychological impact seemed to reinforce their feelings of powerlessness and brought the salience of their learning disabilities into focus. Service and clinical implications are addressed.


Baum, S. and Burns, J. (2007), "Mothers with Learning Disabilities: Experiences and Meanings of Losing Custody of their Children", Tizard Learning Disability Review, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 3-14.

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