EXCLUSIVE by Alison Smith-Squire
Kerry Robertson, 17, who has mild learning difficulties, was this week told during a meeting with social workers they believe she is also not ëintelligent enoughí to look after her baby, due in January.
She will be allowed just a few hours with her baby, whom she has already named Ben. But she and fiance Mark McDougall, 25, will not be allowed to leave the hospital with Ben and he will then be placed with foster parents.
She said yesterday: “I couldn’t believe it when they told me I wouldnít be allowed to bring my baby home. I feel sick all the time.
“I am so upset I donít know what to do with myself. I know I am having a little boy and so I have already started buying baby clothes and am getting a nursery ready for him. But now I can’t take it in. I don’t want to think about January and I canít stop crying.”
Last month Kerry, who is 26 weeks pregnant, was told her wedding was being halted just 48 hours before she was due to walk up the aisle because, according to social services, she ‘did not understand the implications of getting married’.
Her fiance Mark, an artist, added: “Seeing Kerry so upset is absolutely heartbreaking and I am very worried that all this stress she is under will affect our unborn baby’s health.
“We’re just devastated by this and at the moment we just don’t know how we are going to cope in January. We have both already bonded with Ben and I can’t even begin to think what it will be like coming home without him.
“It seems unbelievably cruel but social workers told us that after an hour or two with Ben, he will be placed into the care system. They added neither Kerry nor myself will be allowed to remove him from the hospital.
“Social services are ruining our lives. They say they don’t believe Kerry has the mental capacity to look after a baby but this is nonsense. Kerry isn’t even being given a chance to prove herself as a parent. Yet, she is enjoying her pregnancy and would be a great mum.”
Mark said he would be happy to take on full responsibility for his son.
He added: “However, social workers just told me at the meeting to be quiet. As we are not married – because social workers would not let us marry – it seems I have no rights as a dad at all.
“Kerry’s grandmother is trying to apply for custody of Ben but social services have already told us it is unlikely she will be successful.
“It seems social services have their hearts set on taking him away from all of us for good. It looks like Ben will eventually be put up for adoption. We feel totally helpless as there seems to be no way of stopping them.”
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Kerry, from Dunfermline, Fife, has been in the care of her grandmother since she was nine months old after her parents were unable to look after her, with welfare overseen by social services at Fife Council.
In January, she met Mark, from Arbroath and when she became pregnant, they planned to marry.
But their plans were dramatically halted when in September, two days before their church wedding, two social workers arrived at the flat they had shared for four months and told them because of Kerry’s learning difficulties, their forthcoming marriage was illegal.
Under Scottish law, a registrar may refuse to marry a couple if he believes one or both the parties lack the mental capacity to understand what the institution of marriage is about.
In a highly unusual step, the registrar at Dunfermline Register Office refused to sanction the marriage after Fife Council wrote a letter of objection.
Mark said: “Everything was organised, from the church to Kerry’s wedding dress.
“Yet, despite arguing with the social workers that we loved one another and didn’t want our baby to be born to unmarried parents, they wouldn’t budge and we were forced to cancel our 40 guests.”
However, Kerry, who is still waiting to undergo an official psychological assessment, says her learning difficulties are not as severe as Fife Council make out.
“Last year I volunteered to help disabled children at my local primary school,” she says, “I have friends, a family who supports me and a fiance who loves me. I do everything for myself.”
Meanwhile, Mark points out that whilst his fiance ‘is not terribly academic’, she can read and write.
“She is a loving caring person, who is enjoying being pregnant and would be a good mum,” he says, “I didn’t even know she had learning difficulties until we’d been dating for two months and anyone who meets Kerry can see for themselves she is just a normal girl.
“For the first time in her life Kerry was truly happy. We were both looking forward to having out baby. But now our lives have been totally turned upside down and we are living a nightmare.”
Stephen Moore, Executive Director, Social Work Service said: “Much of the work we do is governed by legislation. Complex decisions are made that balance risk and welfare while supporting people at times of personal or family need.
“We cannot discuss details of individual cases for reasons of confidentiality but give assurance that we will always work with people for the best outcome for all involved.”