Care Proceedings can be very complex and stressful. We can guide you through.
It is a sad fact of life that Social Services have to become involved with families who cannot cope or who are not looking after their children properly. Sometimes children are taken away from their families which is very distressing for all concerned. The law says that courts and Social Workers should concentrate on keeping children with their families if possible. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem like this is happening. We can help.
At Baxter Harries, we have many years of experience of representing parents, other family members and children in Care Proceedings. We know how upsetting it can be and we will handle your case professionally and objectively whilst remaining empathetic and sensitive.
Care Proceedings can be very complicated, often involving expert opinion from medical experts, psychologists, psychiatrists and parenting experts. There is pressure to get everything resolved very quickly, when sometimes families need time to be able to make changes. We are able to guide you through this maze of complexity and to give you considered advice about your options and the way forward in the short and long terms.
We are not afraid of challenging Local Authorities or appealing court decisions that we think are wrong. We are here to represent your interests.
We also believe that it is important for our clients to have continuity of representation and wherever possible we try to ensure that one of us – usually the solicitor dealing with your case – will see you in the office and represent you at court. Fortunately, we are a team of very experienced advocates, often conducting lengthy and complex trials and we have achieved accreditation to appear in every level of court.
Free Legal Aid is automatically available to parents and children in care proceedings. Other family members may be entitled to Legal Aid following a merits and means test.
- The Social Worker has asked me to sign a “section 20 consent”. What does that mean?
- Section 20 is a section of the Children Act 1989. It says that a Local Authority can look after a child in certain situations (e.g. where there is nobody else to look after him or her) including where a parent agrees. Social Workers often ask parents to sign a section 20 consent to avoid having to issue care proceedings where they think a child is at risk of harm. Sometimes, Social Workers put pressure on parents to agree by telling them that if they don’t, the Local Authority will simply go to court and get an order to remove the child. This is not necessarily correct and it is unfair. Do not sign a section 20 consent without speaking to a solicitor first.
- The Social Worker says that the Local Authority is going to court to get an “EPO”. What does that mean?
- An Emergency Protection Order (“EPO”) is an order that the court can be asked to make where the Local Authority thinks that a child is likely to suffer significant harm if he or she is not removed from home or, if already away from home, is likely to suffer significant harm if he or she returns home. An example would be where a parent tries to take a child home from hospital after that child has suffered an unexplained injury. However, situations are often not as straightforward as Social Workers think and there may be safeguards that can be put in place so that a child can stay at or go home. Consult a solicitor immediately if anyone mentions obtaining an EPO. If you are a parent you will automatically get free Legal Aid.
- What is an “ICO”?
- An ICO or Interim Care Order is a court order that gives temporary parental responsibility for a child to Social Services. This means that Social Services can decide where the child should live and how often the child should see members of his or her family. The order usually lasts until the end of care proceedings when permanent decisions about the child are made. An ICO can only be made if the court considers that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm due to inadequate parenting. Always consult a solicitor if the Social Worker talks about care proceedings or an interim care order. If you are a parent you will automatically get free Legal Aid.
- Will I be able to see my child if he or she is in care?
- Unless there are very serious concerns you will usually be able to see your child while the care proceedings are ongoing. Sometimes this might be in the presence of a third party (e.g. Social Worker or trusted family member) if there are concerns that the child will not be safe on his or her own with you. You will not necessarily see your child every day, even if your child is a young baby. Whether you are able to carry on seeing your child depends on where he is she is going to live long term. Make sure you consult a solicitor to secure the best possible arrangements to see your child.
- What if I don’t agree with the Social Worker’s plans for my child?
- You can say that to the Judge and we can help you do it in the most effective way. Ultimately, it’s up to the Judge to decide and Judges don’t always agree with Social Workers about what is right for children. The Judge will always listen carefully to what you have to say about your own child.
- What is a “Children’s Guardian”?
- A Children’s Guardian (normally a CAFCASS officer) is an independent professional appointed by the Court to represent the interests of children in care proceedings. He or she usually has a social work background but does not work for the Local Authority. A Children’s Guardian’s job is to make recommendations to the court about what is best for the children in the case. He or she will have a solicitor and will play a part in each court hearing. The Guardian will also listen carefully to what you say before making a recommendation to the court.
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