A Child Care Proceedings Case Study
Social workers were concerned about the welfare of four children aged from 9 months to 6 years old, as neighbours had heard shouting in the home and bottles smashing. The police attended the family home and found the father being drunk and abusive.
An anonymous referral to social services mentioned that the mother struggled with her mental health and described the children as “grubby and wild”. As a result, social services questioned whether or not she was using drugs.
Social workers visited the home and found the cupboards bare and no fresh food in the fridge, but the mother explained this by saying they visited on the day before she receives her benefit payments, which is therefore the day before she goes shopping.
They also believed the house was cluttered and warned that the youngest children wouldn’t be able to meet their developmental milestones if they weren’t able to safely move around to explore their home environment. The mother was trying to get a larger property for the family and she said she often cleaned obsessively as she felt she couldn’t keep a small house with four children tidy.
She was also stressed and suffering with depression, partly as a result of her own mother being gravely ill and unlikely to recover. This meant that on some days, she didn’t feel like getting out of bed, and failed to make school attendance a priority, leading to the two older children often being late.
The concerns led to the children being placed on a Child Protection Plan and deemed to be at risk from physical and emotional harm and neglect.
How We Helped
The mother contacted our Care Proceedings Solicitors to discuss the social workers’ involvement with her family. We advised her to try to find ways of addressing social workers’ concerns, and offered practical advice about the support she could receive to help her stay separate from her partner.
We also highlighted how she could access support such as parenting classes and help with her depression, and advised on the possible steps the social workers may take if they felt the circumstances for the children hadn’t improved.
The mother listened to and acted on our advice, and stopped allowing the father to live in the property. She accepted that the father had anger management problems and encouraged him to get help, but didn’t end the relationship as she didn’t believe it was in the children’s best interests for their parents to be estranged. Furthermore, she enrolled in parenting classes.
However, the social workers didn’t believe this was sufficient and suspected that the father was still visiting the property, as they could see curtains drawn during the day. The mother said this was because the children were either napping or couldn’t see the television when it was too sunny.
Social workers concluded that not enough improvements had been made and invited the mother to a Public Law Outline meeting to discuss what steps would be necessary to prevent them applying to Court to remove the children.
Our Care Proceedings Solicitors attended the meeting with the mother and helped her highlight the areas where support was required. We also asked the social workers to help with identifying nursery places for the youngest children and securing after-school activities for the older children to ease the burden on the mother. In addition, we advised her to offer to take a drug test if social workers believed she was using drugs.
The mother signed a written agreement promising to only allow the children to see their father if he was supervised by social workers. A date was set for a review meeting several weeks later, but in the meantime, the father claimed that the mother was letting him see the children without social workers present.
At the review meeting, the social workers said they would be taking the matter to Court, on the grounds that the mother can’t prioritise the safety of the children over her relationship with the father. They also argued that her home conditions were still unacceptable and made an application for an Interim Care Order, seeking removal of the children. They applied for an Interim Care Order so they could share Parental Responsibility with the parents.
At the first hearing, our Care Proceedings Solicitors contested the application for the mother and persuaded the Court that the father had not been honest about having unsupervised contact, and that he said this because he was angry with the mother for not letting him live in the home any longer.
We also argued that the mother had been open about how she had been struggling to cope, and that social workers hadn’t put enough support in place to help her manage at a very difficult period of her life.
The Court agreed that removal of the children wouldn’t be in their best interests and ordered an Interim Supervision Order. This put a duty on the social workers to advise, assist and befriend the family, rather than allow them to share Parental Responsibility.
During the proceedings, the Court also ordered a psychological report on the mother, which helped to highlight how she can be supported to manage the future care of her children successfully.
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