My child has been taken into care - What can I do?
If your child has been taken into care, you will be feeling upset and frustrated especially if you feel that your child should be with you. It is important that you understand your legal rights.
Make an appointment to meet with a solicitor.
Why has my child been taken into care?
A child may be taken into care for a variety of reasons, for example if the child’s parents are not meeting the child’s needs, the family are having difficulties or the child is suffering from neglect. As much as your child may be loved, it is important that all of their other physical and emotional needs are met also. If the local authority believes that your child is suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm, then they can apply to a court for a care order.
However, before a child is taken into care social workers will assess the situation carefully. They recognise that children are best cared for by their family, but that sometimes alternative care might be the most suitable option.
If you have parental responsibility then you will need to give your consent for your child to be taken into care without a court order. This is called voluntary accommodation. You should take legal advice before agreeing to this and before signing any agreement with social services.
If you are not willing to agree to your child being taken into care a Local Authority can apply to the court for a care order and permission to remove your child from your care. If the court agrees that your child should be taken into care, this is not the court’s final decision about your child’s future and only the beginning of the court process.
If you are a parent of a child involved in care proceedings you are entitled to free legal advice and representation at court.
What is an 'unfit' parent?
An ‘unfit’ parent is one who ignores or neglects the welfare of a child. This could include endangering the child, failing to care for the child or being unable to control the child due to neglect.
Some of the reasons a parent may be deemed unfit include failure to provide day to day parental care, substance abuse or addiction, domestic violence in a relationship, injuries to a child or unsafe living conditions.
Sometimes the concerns that social services have may be about your partner.
What is a care order?
A care order gives a local authority parental responsibility for your child. This means that they share parental responsibility with you and are responsible for looking after your child just as you would as a parent. They will still consult you on important matters and ask the child how they feel, but ultimately they will have the power to do what is in the best interests of your child.
If your child is taken into care, it is important that arrangements are made for you to see your child regularly.
An emergency protection order (EPO) allows the child to be taken to a safe place or kept where they can be provided with immediate short-term protection. An EPO is usually not put in place unless the court believes the child is in 'imminent danger' and the action is deemed necessary. These orders are made when a child requires urgent protection.
I want my child back. What can I do?
It is important to find out what concerns social services have about your care of your child so that you can take positive steps to address those concerns and work hard with social services so that your child can be returned to your care.
If your child is placed in care under a court order you would need to apply to the court to discharge that order.
If there are no court orders in place you can notify social services that you no longer agree to your child being in care and that you want your child to be returned to your care.
You should always speak to a solicitor about your options.
How can a Solicitor help you?
We can meet with you to talk about your concerns, speak with your social worker, attend meetings with social services with you and represent your interests in court.
We understand that being a parent can be difficult at the best of times and that when social services become involved parents can often feel alone and unsupported. We work in partnership with other professional organisations to ensure that parents are supported and listened to in their time of need.
We recognise that every parent has a fundamental role to play in their child's life. Parents often feel unheard within the Court process - we give every parent a voice.