Every birth mother shares a connection to their child; in the case of Laura Corkill, the system failed to recognize this. Sadly, because of the restrictions placed on her, she could not see her son before his untimely death resulting from a foster parent’s cruelty. But why?
Laura Corkill from Whitehaven, Cumbria County, became a mother to her son, Leiland-James Michael Corkill, in 2019. This was not her first time as a parent, but it led to the most traumatic experience.
Corkill, who already had two older kids taken from her, fought tooth and nail to have her third child in her custody, but it proved futile. Social security successfully alienated mother and child, but the consequence was the untimely death of baby Leiland-James.
This is the story of a mother who felt betrayed by the system that was supposed to protect her baby; a mother who felt neglected because of her history — one that she had very little control over.
Additionally, this piece calls for social security workers to intensify their research on adoptive parents and assessment of biological mothers, who should never be defined by their past struggles, especially when there is proof of improvement.
LAURA CORKILL WAS AN ABUSED WOMAN
Corkill was not new to motherhood. She already had two kids before her third pregnancy, but motherhood did not turn out as favorable as she expected. She suffered in the hands of an unloving partner who abused her physically and emotionally.
Corkill was always in and out of the hospital following the effects of the abuse— she also suffered miscarriages. Eventually, when Corkill summoned the courage to seek help, her kids were taken too. It took time to accept such a reality; she even had a mental breakdown. She said:
“What they didn’t realize was that I may have been the victim, but I was also the protector of my older children.”
But Corkill’s world shone with hope when she fell pregnant with her third baby, Leiland-James. It was going to be a new beginning, or so she thought.
LAURA CORKILL WAS READY TO WELCOME HER SON
Becoming pregnant with her third baby led the heartbroken mother to a happy place. She became obsessed with becoming the best parent to her third child and never wanted to be branded by her past troubles. In her words:
“I wanted to do anything and everything possible, to make sure social services didn’t get their hands on this one. I was on cloud nine. I heard nothing from social services until 22 weeks.”
Cumbria County Council has promised an independent review into how Laura Castle – the woman who murdered baby Leiland-James Corkill – was approved to adopt him. https://t.co/5aEHkSek4W
— ITV Granada Reports (@GranadaReports) May 26, 2022
The child services needed assurance that she was ready, so they sent a social service worker to follow up on Corkill’s improvement. According to Corkill, the first social worker was impressed by her progress; she meticulously checked the home and the then-expectant mother’s condition and was certain she had come a long way.
Her conversation with the social worker ignited a strong sense of hope, and Corkill became more prepared to welcome her baby home once he was delivered. She purchased a cot and designed a cute nursery—but it never happened.
A second social worker was employed to evaluate the expectant mother, and Corkill was placed on several parenting assessment courses. Although she passed her tests, the social services were determined to remove her son following his birth. Based on their confirmation, she was not in a good place to provide all the support and care that her child would need.
Laura Castle, from Barrow, has been jailed for life for the murder of 13-month-old Leiland-James Corkill.
She will serve a minimum term of 18 years.
Full details are available here: https://t.co/IOXIyJmjbg pic.twitter.com/N6igs05XgT
— Cumbria Police (@Cumbriapolice) May 25, 2022
LEILAND’S BIRTH AND DEPARTURE
While recounting the early hours after her delivery, Corkill confessed that she was in awe of the newborn. He had been born after an emergency Cesarean surgery and came just in time for the December holidays. According to her:
“I remember his big bright eyes. I was happy, full of joy. I was looking forward to bringing my baby home.”
Unfortunately, her joy was short-lived once she realized that the newborn had been taken away by social workers forty-eight hours after his birth at the West Cumberland Hospital.
Corkill’s world crumbled. It was devastating to accept defeat; that her son would not be coming home. Yet, she fought to redeem the possibilities.
Corkill confronted the social worker who removed the inf ant from her care but was met with a disappointing conclusion; she was told that the paperwork had been sent to her solicitor—but claimed it was false.
They alleged that paperwork was sent to Leiland-James’s biological mother, but she denied it. Corkill maintained that their assertions were false.
While it is uncertain which side is being truthful, Corkill’s story seems to possess some authenticity, as she struggled to get her child back and was vehemently opposed by the system.
According to some Women Out West team members, an organization that supported Corkill, Leiland-James’s departure was sudden and unexpected. They confirmed Corkill’s allegations that the social workers did not reach out to her, adding that they were not listened to when they tried to step in.
MOTHER AND CHILD ARE TORN APART
Despite the pleas and confrontation, Leiland-James remained apart from his mother. Instead, he was kept under the care of his foster parents. Corkill was grateful to her son’s caregiver, but she “was still expecting him to come home.” They scheduled a weekly routine at a council-run contact center to help mother and child connect.
Ultimately, this increased the joy in her heart, as she would hold him and play with him during the visits. Corkill tried to extend their time but was declined. In her words:
“The contact meant the world to me. I even asked for them to extend it to about two hours. They wouldn’t do it. I didn’t trust them [the social workers], but I was willing to co-operate to get Leiland back.”
THE MOST BRUTAL SEPARATION
The bond between mother and child was perfect, yet Corkill remained persistent in asking for her son back. However, Cumbria County Council had other plans; they listed him for adoption. Corkill was devastated when she found out. Although the Council claimed they informed her, she mentioned it was all false.
Despite the heartbreaking news, Leiland-James’s mom wanted to meet his foster parents, Laura and Scott Castle, before the formal adoption. But she explained that the social workers made it impossible following their truckload of excuses.
The Council upheld their innocence, insisting they wanted to arrange a meeting but needed the parties involved to be emotionally prepared. However, Corkill did not buy the explanation. “I thought there’s something seriously wrong. I automatically thought, ‘He’s getting abused,’” she said.
LOSING LEILAND-JAMES TO DEATH’S UNKIND CLAWS
In January 2021, Leiland-James, placed under temporary adoption with Laura Castle, was checked into a hospital. His adoptive mom called the emergency services, revealing that he was unresponsive.
Castle insisted the child had hit his head after falling from a sofa. Although Corkill was notified that her son had been hospitalized, they failed to reveal the location. It was not until twenty-four hours later that the biological mother was informed that her child had been moved to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.
Corkill waited for a supposedly arranged taxi sent by the Council, but it never came. Thankfully, her friends from Women Out West arranged transport.
When Corkill reached the hospital, her son had already died; still, she was denied contact with him. Nevertheless, Corkill’s motherly instincts knew Leiland-James’s death was not an accident. According to her:
“I said whoever had him had killed him. The surgeon told me ‘we had suspicions of this and it went into investigation as soon as Leiland-James went into the hospital.’”
Following investigations, it was believed that Castle was physically and emotionally abusive. Text messages between her and her husband showed the couple calling Leiland-James insulting names.
The Council alleged that a Child Looked After Review had taken place, and they intended to decline Castle’s adoption application. However, when Castle caught wind of it, she revealed that her extended family had fallen in love with the adorable toddler, and he was not going anywhere.
In May, Castle was sentenced to eighteen years in jail, while her husband was acquitted of allowing the death of the toddler.
Corkill blames both the murderer and the system. She referred to Castle as a “sadistic monster” and added, “Why did they place him there? Why did it take them so long to pick up on it? They should have canceled the adoption order.”
Corkill accused the Council of trying to control her life. According to her, they wanted the baby cremated and wrote his eulogy. However, she remained firm and refused to be defeated.
Leiland-James was buried near Corkill’s home, and she wrote his eulogy. “They tried to control me 100%, but it didn’t work. They tried to make me forget I was a mother, but no one can take that away from me,” she said.
Undoubtedly, Corkill’s past influenced her future in two ways. She was determined to protect her own following her older kids’ absence. But unfortunately, the social services felt that she was incapable.
Consequently, their conclusion led to a fatal ending, much worse than they feared would have happened to the toddler had he been with his birth mom.
This story proves that being a mother involves patience, love, and sensitivity. While social services are designed to cater to helpless kids, they should be willing to act fast, reasonably, and empathetically.