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Why this case file? The number of children in care is at record levels. Are parents getting more dangerous and neglectful? Or is the state less confident in some families’ ability to parent – or in its own ability to help them? Are we separating too many children from their parents?

This case file is currently open.

Polly Curtis

Polly Curtis

Editor and partner at Tortoise, Polly is leading this case file. Previously a reporter at the Guardian, she wrote about education, social affairs and politics before moving into editing. More recently, she edited HuffPost in the UK.

Can you help?

What is a case file? Case files are Tortoise’s extended investigations. What makes them different to other journalism is that we are doing this with you, our members. Get in touch if you want to get involved.

Part one: ‘You never lose the fear of the knock on the door’

09 April 2019

Why the rate of children going into care has increased so dramatically, the breakdown in trust that causes and the worrying rise of dangerous vigilantism.

Part two: The poor parents

27 April 2019

One in five children are referred to social workers by their fifth birthday – and the vast majority are from the poorest homes in the country.

Part three: We need to talk

16 May 2019

There is a postcode lottery in the rates of kids going into care: academics, senior judges and even the minister responsible all admit it’s not fair.

Part four: ‘I refused to say goodbye’

04 June 2019

One extraordinary and unconventional family tells their story of how they beat the system when an adoption threatened to breakdown.

Part five: ‘We are operating in the dark’

16 June 2019

Senior judge warns that courts are making decisions to separate families without evidence

Part six: The long shadow of Baby P

06 July 2019

Twelve years ago, a young boy died. The repercussions are still being felt by families and social workers.

Part seven: What we’ve learned so far

14 August 2019

Our case file has taken us across England, interviewing hundreds of people and holding four ThinkIns. This is what we’ve found out.

Part eight: Lost boy

31 August 2019

New York City has cut the number of children in care. But there is a legacy for the children it raised, but failed to teach to grow up.

The story of a Tortoise case file

16 June 2019

From a ThinkIn in the Bronx to the launch of a new “members’ panel”, this is how a case file works


Our members are at the heart of our journalism. The member panel for this project all have expertise in this subject and are helping shape how we pursue this story.

Lucy Butler

Lucy Butler

Director of Oxfordshire Children’s Services

David Holmes

David Holmes

Chief Executive of Family Action

Victoria Scott

Victoria Scott

Family mediator



Journalist and campaigner on transparency in the courts

Lynsey Blas

Lynsey Blas

Former Analyst for Thames Valley Police

Belinda Harding

Belinda Harding

Former family court judge