The Children Act 1989, https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1989/41 is the relevant legislation regarding the unborn child. Currently the law in Wales provides limited recognition of the foetus and a woman has the right to refuse to engage with statutory interventions whilst pregnant. Nevertheless, it is important that any concerns during a pregnancy are reported as soon as they come to the attention of practitioners to ensure that:
any necessary support is provided to the parents during pregnancy;
meaningful pre-birth assessments can be completed over a specified time frame;
time is available to the parent/s to effect and sustain change to parenting capacity.1
Moreover, social workers and other practitioners should be making plans for care and support, protection or court proceedings relating to the child once born.
It is important, therefore, that health professionals and practitioners in contact with the mother and her partner:
work with pregnant mothers and partners;
are alert to safeguarding concerns;
report their concerns to social services at the earliest opportunity.
These concerns may centre on:
use of drugs and alcohol;
mental health issues;
health conditions which untreated may put the unborn child at risk;
the parent/s ability to care for a baby;
children having been removed previously through care proceedings from the parent/s care;
other children in the family on the child protection register.
N.B. This is not an exhaustive list.
Please refer to your Regional Safeguarding Board Protocols in relation to unborn children.
1 Assessing parental capacity when there are concerns about an unborn child: pre-birth assessment guidance and practice in England. Lushey et al., (2018) Child Abuse Review vol 27 pp97-107.