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What rights do I have if my child is taken into care?

View profile for Graeme Barclay
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Having your child placed into the care of the Local Authority will be life changing, and we understand that you will have a whole variety of questions.  Graeme Barclay, Family Law Partner, explains here in more detail the rights you have as a parent should your child or children be taken into care.

What is a care order?

A care order is made by the Courts when the Local Authority has raised concerns about the safety of a child. For the Court to make a care order they have to be satisfied that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm due to the care being provided to them by the parent. There are several orders that can be made at the conclusion of the care proceedings and all steps are taken to ensure that wherever possible the child can remain living with their family. 

Two orders that can be made at the conclusion of care proceedings are a care order or a supervision order.

A supervision order allows the child to remain with you with the Local Authority advising, assisting and supporting you in the upbringing of your child. This type of order will last for a fixed period of time, usually 6 or 12 months after which it simply comes to an end unless the Local Authority apply to extend the length of the order.

A care order can often, but not always, result in the child being removed from your care, and placed either with another relative, foster carers or where no other option is available can lead to the child being adopted.

Under a care order, the Local Authority would share parental responsibility with you, and have over-riding input on key decisions about your children.  Any plans would be detailed in a care plan and would include arrangements such as:

  • where they will live,
  • where they will go to school,
  • any medical requirements and health plans,
  • the level of contact with parents or those with parental responsibility.

A care order will normally last until the child is 18 or the Court discharges the order after an application has been made. 

Am I allowed to see my child when they are in care?

If your child has been the subject of a care order and they have been removed from your care, you would normally still be able to see them, unless there are reasons why the Court has refused contact or the Court has subsequently made an adoption order.  The Local Authority must allow children in their care to have reasonable contact with their parents, those with parental responsibility or a guardian, or any other person who was permitted to see the child under a Residence or Child Arrangements Order.

Any contact with your child will need to be arranged fully with the Local Authority with agreements in place as to when this is to take place, how regularly and where.  While it is unlikely that any contact will take place in the new home of your child, you and other persons with parental responsibility can be informed as to where they are now living, unless there are concerns for their safety.  However, no attempt should be made to be in touch with your child outside of the agreed arrangements with the Local Authority. 

If you are not able to afford transport to visit your child at the agreed place, the Local Authority may be able to make a contribution or pay fully for this, depending on your circumstances, so we would always recommend you speak to the Local Authority.

The care plan will confirm the level of involvement you can have with your child regarding their education, providing details about their school reports and any information from the school about their progress, should you wish to receive this.

Can I complain if I am not happy with the arrangement?

Every decision that a Court makes will be done with the child’s best interests in mind, however if you feel that the contact arrangements agreed with the Local Authority are too restrictive, we would recommend you discuss this with the social worker in question first of all.  Keeping written records where possible of conversations you have had in the past will assist, and it would be useful for your case to have a proposed alternative in mind when raising any concerns. 

In the situation where they do not address your concerns, you can apply to the Court for an order to allow you additional contact with your child in care.  The Court will normally wish for contact between a parent and their child to continue while they are in care, unless there are concerns for the child’s welfare and will take into consideration a number of different factors when deciding whether to agree to additional contact or a variation of the existing care order, such as:

  • The wider long terms plans for the child;
  • Whether there has been any change in the behaviour of the parent which addresses the initial reasons why the care order was put in place;
  • The impact on the child’s welfare should additional contact be approved or refused.

Is Legal Aid available?

In the majority of cases of this nature, Legal Aid is available regardless of your income, meaning you can receive free legal support from a Solicitor to provide you with legal advice as to your rights and the next steps when faced with these proceedings.

We know that you will be finding this time challenging and we are here to help.  If you have received a letter from the Local Authority setting out an intention to begin Court proceedings, you can contact Graeme or a member of the Family Law team on 023 8071 7431 or email familyenquiries@warnergoodman.co.uk to discuss how we can help.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.