Young babies are particularly vulnerable to abuse and work carried out in the antenatal period can help minimise any potential harm through early assessment, intervention and support (Brandon et al 2016).
The antenatal period provides a window of opportunity for practitioners and families to work together to:
- Form relationships with a focus on the unborn baby.
- Identify risks and vulnerabilities at an early stage.
- Understand the impact of parental risk factors to the unborn baby when planning for their future.
- Explore and agree safety planning options.
- Assess the family’s ability to adequately protect the unborn baby and provide appropriate parenting once the baby is born.
- Identify if any assessments or referrals are required prior to birth.
- Ensure effective communication, liaison and joint working with any services working with the family.
- Agree plans for support which reduce the potential risk of harm to the unborn/new born
- Support families and children’s Social Care where a legal process is likely to be needed such as child protection planning or pre-proceedings.
- Avoid delay in care for the child where the Public Law Outline threshold is reached.
The National Maternity Review: Better Births (2016) identified that every person, every pregnancy, every baby and every family is different. Therefore, quality services must be personalised to meet the needs of the baby as well as the wider family by adopting a Think Family approach.
The vast majority of situations during pregnancy will have no safeguarding concerns. However in some cases, to ensure that the appropriate support is in place for the pregnant person and wider family members during the perinatal period, a co-ordinated response is required by agencies to best protect the baby, before and following birth.
The Unborn/ New Born Baby Protocol is a multi-agency protocol which provides a robust framework for responding to safeguarding concerns and safety planning by practitioners working together, with families, to safeguard the baby before, during and following birth. The protocol applies across Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton.