Beware of the lurking eyes of the social services *
By Alison Smith Squire
Couple flee to save their unborn baby from social workers after girl, 17, is told she is not clever enough to look after her child
A heavily pregnant woman and her fiance have gone on the run after social workers threatened to take away their baby at birth.
Kerry Robertson, 17, and Mark McDougall, 25, had been told that she was not bright enough to raise their child and that they would have to give him up.
It was another blow for the couple, whose wedding this year was halted just 48 hours before the ceremony in a row over whether Miss Robertson was intelligent enough to marry.
Miss Robertson, who is 29 weeks pregnant, has since been told the couple will be allowed only a few hours with their baby - a boy they have already named Ben - before he is taken into care and placed with foster parents.
Desperate to keep their family together, the pair fled their home yesterday for a secret safe house.
Last night, Miss Robertson, who has mild learning difficulties, said: ‘I have been out of my mind with worry about my unborn baby being taken away.
‘Although Ben isn’t born yet, I already love my baby and know I will be a good mum. Mark and I talk to him inside me every day and tell him we love him.
‘We’ve already bought him clothes and my cousin, who recently had a baby, has handed down a beautiful crib for him.
‘But social workers aren’t even giving me a chance to be a mum. It’s as if social workers are trying to rule my life and I just couldn’t take the pressure from them any more.’
Mr McDougall, an artist, said they had made their decision after seeing minutes of a meeting this week where social workers claimed their baby could suffer ‘emotional harm’ if left with Miss Robertson - an allegation they say is ‘ridiculous’.
‘She is pregnant with her first baby so we don’t see how, before he is even here, social workers can say she won’t be a good parent. The pressure that social workers have been putting both of us under is huge.
‘Not only am I extremely angry and upset about the way we’ve been treated, I have become worried for Kerry’s and our unborn baby’s health. I defy anyone to put up with what we’ve had to put up with.’
The couple, who left their home in Fife, Scotland, after a leaving party for friends and family, say they do not know how long it will be before they can return.
A family law expert said: ‘If Miss Robertson gave birth in Fife and then fled with the baby, after the local authority had got a care order, she would be liable for child abduction.
‘But by fleeing while pregnant, Miss Robertson has not broken any law, as far as I’m aware.
‘If she has her baby outside the jurisdiction of Fife council, they no longer have any power to take the child into care.
‘Rather, they would have to locate her and alert the relevant council who would have to apply for a removal order themselves.’
She and Mr McDougall decided to marry after she became pregnant. But in a highly unusual step, Dunfermline Register Office refused to sanction the marriage after Fife Council wrote a letter of objection.
Their case has been referred to the European Human Rights Commission, which is investigating whether Fife has broken human rights laws.
Mr McDougall said: ‘Kerry and I always wanted our baby to be born to married parents and we are still hoping to get married.
By Neil Sears
Mother trailed by policeman and warned by council for telling off son at checkout
A mother fears she has been ‘criminalised’ for giving her children a ticking-off in a supermarket.
She was secretly followed home by an off-duty policeman who overheard her threatening to smack them unless they behaved.
Six weeks later two officers came to her home and questioned her about disciplining the youngsters, a boy of 11 and a four-year-old girl. To her horror she then received a letter from the local council saying her ‘chastisement’ of the children had been ‘put on record’ for at least the next 14 years.
The shocked mother, a trainee manager in a Christian bookshop, said last night: ‘It was an amazing intrusion. I was doing what parents should do, and what thousands do every week - setting moral boundaries for how children should behave.’
The 34-year- old mother does not want to be named, to protect the identity of her children. But she is speaking out to avoid the same thing happening to another parent.
She said: ‘If no one stands up to this oppression, this political correctness, parents will lose responsibility for their kids and the state will take over.
‘The local authority have told me they’re keeping my family on record until my kids leave school, and my daughter is only four.
‘If she ever falls over and has to be taken to hospital I’m worried about what conclusions they might come to. I feel I’m being kept on record as an abuser, so I will always be looking over my shoulder.’
The mother says she occasionally smacks the children ‘as a last resort’, but only three times a year at most.
The supermarket incident happened in August at the Co- op in Woolston, Southampton, near where she and her 40-year-old husband live.
The youngsters had been behaving badly all day, because rain had kept them indoors, and she had earlier given her son a ‘mild smack’ for arguing with his sister.
In the supermarket they were rampaging around the aisles and fighting. She made them sit on a bench while she went through the checkout, but they began arguing yet again.
The mother said: ‘My words were something like, “How dare you behave like this. If you carry on like this you’re going to get another hiding like the one you had earlier”.’
The pair apologised and quietened down. Neither was smacked when they got home and she thought nothing more of it.
But more than a month later two policemen knocked on her door and told her a colleague had trailed her to find her address.
She said: ‘I couldn’t believe it. I have never been in trouble with the police and I have a great respect for them, so I was absolutely shocked. The officer must have seen only the end part of a long day.’
She was appalled when a letter arrived from Southampton council children’s services department. It said no further action would be taken ‘at this time’, but added: ‘We would like to advise you that we do keep the information on record.’
Southampton council said writing to parents who are brought to its attention was ’standard practice’, and that it was ‘very important’ to keep records of such incidents.
But the Reverend Mark Stocker, whose Spring Road Evangelical Church the mother attends, said: ‘She is very upset because she feels it’s criminalised her when she’s just a loving mother who would never hurt her children. She’s so shaken that someone actually followed her home.’
Mike Judge of the Christian Institute think-tank said: ‘This woman is a personal friend - and I know she’s a good mum. I don’t think it’s particularly a Christian issue, but we do believe in the family quite strongly, and get worried when the state tries to take over the role of parents.’