Get access

‘Normal people can have a child but disability can't’: the experiences of mothers with mild learning disabilities who have had their children removed



Accessible summary

  • People with learning disabilities might have their children taken from their care. If they do, what then happens to the parents?
  • I talked to nine mums who had their children taken away from their care. They told me about what this was like and how they felt.
  • This research gives advice to people (particularly professional people) about how to work better with mums who have had their children removed. It also shows that sometimes it is difficult for people with learning disabilities to know their rights and say what they think.


There is a recognised risk of parents with learning disabilities having their children removed. Little research has investigated the impact of this on these parents. This article looks at the perceptions of nine mothers with mild learning disabilities and their experiences having had their children removed. Interview data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Findings reveal the struggles mothers with learning disabilities faced being ‘suitable mother’ – including presumed incompetence and scrutiny of parenting. Participants' responses to having had their children removed are looked at and support reviewed. Finally issues of power were highlighted throughout Participants' accounts and the impact of this is discussed. Clinical implications indicate areas for service improvement.