When there are concerns that parents are not meeting the needs of their children, the Court recognises that grandparents and other family members often have a very important role to play. This could be in offering day-to-day practical support to a parent or taking on the temporary, or even long-term care of a child.
This is called Kinship Care.
If Social Services have started Care Proceedings or if they are involved in pre-proceedings meetings with a parent, then they are under a duty to consider whether there are any family members who could help.
If you could be considered for kinship care and take on either temporary or long-term care of a child, we can help you to navigate the assessments with Social Service and put all the necessary things in place.
Get in touch with one of our specialist Solicitors who can help you.
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Social Services will need to carry out Kinship Care Assessments of any family members. Kinship Care Assessments are usually done in stages:
Stage 1 - An initial “screening” assessment takes place to check that the relative does want to put themselves forward as a possible carer for the child. Social Services also check that there’s nothing immediately obvious, such as a serious criminal conviction, which would stop them caring for the child. This would usually take just a few days to complete.
Stage 2 - If the screening is positive, a more detailed “viability assessment” is carried out to consider in more depth what the relative could offer and whether there are any obstacles which weren’t immediately obvious.
Stage 3 - If the viability assessment is positive, a full “kinship assessment” takes place. This usually takes around 3 months to complete.
What Does a Kinship Assessment Involve?
You’ll be expected to commit to having several meetings with a social worker, often on a weekly basis. The meetings will cover a whole range of things such as:
- Your existing relationship with the child, and with the parents
- Your understanding of the concerns that social workers may have
- Your understanding of the particular needs of the child
- Your own history and experiences of being a parent
- Your financial circumstances
- Your accommodation
- Your mental and physical health
- Any criminal background
The social worker, with your permission, may also ask for references from people that know you.
Our experience is that many people consider this assessment process to be quite intrusive, and you should be aware that you may be asked searching personal questions about sensitive matters, which some people can find difficult to deal with. Remember though, social workers can be criticised if they haven’t looked deeply enough into an issue that might be a concern.
The social worker will keep notes of every meeting and will write up a report at the end of the assessment process and you should get a copy. You should be given the opportunity to comment on and have your comments included in the report before it’s finalised.
If there are Court proceedings, this report will go to the Judge and everyone else involved in the Court proceedings, including the parents.
If the Report is Positive
If the social worker assesses that you can provide long-term care for the child, then this will be one of the options that will be looked at by the Court when final decisions about the child’s longer term are being made.
A positive assessment does not mean that the child will automatically come to live with you as there may be other options which the Court feels better meet the child’s needs. The social worker will make a recommendation to the Court about what they feel should happen.
You may want further advice the social worker’s recommendation to the Court, so it’s important to get specialist legal advice from a Care Proceedings Solicitor at an early stage, to consider whether you should become involved in the Court proceedings in order to have your say.
If the Court decides that the child should live with you then there is a range of Court Orders that can be made to make sure that this happens:
- Special Guardianship Order – This Order places the child in your long-term care and gives you Parental Responsibility for the child. You would become a “special guardian”. This is usually considered to be a permanent arrangement and is not easily overturned
- Child Arrangements Order – This Order would also give you Parental Responsibility for the child, but might not be regarded as quite so permanent as a Special Guardianship Order
- Care Order – Social Services still have Parental Responsibility for the child, but they would place the child with you and you would become a foster carer. You would not have Parental Responsibility
It’s very important that the right Court Order is made to meet your needs and also the child’s. We can advise you about which Order would be best for you.
If the Report is Negative
If the social worker assesses that you cannot provide long-term care for the child you may choose reluctantly to accept this decision, or you may want to challenge it.
If Court proceedings are ongoing you will normally have been given a date by which you must let the Court know about any challenge that you wish to make. It’s really important not to miss this deadline because the Court will not always allow extra time, and decisions could be made without your involvement.
If you want to challenge a negative report, we strongly recommend that you get specialist legal advice from a Care Proceedings Solicitor as early as possible.
Can I Get Legal Aid?
If the child is already living with you and you have Parental Responsibility under a Child Arrangement Order or Residence Order, then if care proceedings have already been started you will automatically get legal aid to allow you to take part in the Court proceedings whatever your financial circumstances.
If you don’t have Parental Responsibility for the child, or if care proceedings have not been started, Legal Aid is not automatic. Access to it will depend on the strength of your case, and your financial circumstances. We can tell you if Legal Aid is available.
For free legal advice call our Care Proceedings Solicitors
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