Frequently Asked Questions on care proceedings


Q. The local authority is applying for a care order, what is going to happen?

Q. What happens when care proceedings start?

Q. Can I see my children if the court makes a care order?

Q. I am not happy with my solicitor, what should I do?

Q. My child was removed under an EPO and no one will tell me where my child is or give me any information. What should I do?

Q. Can I appeal against the Emergency Protection Order?

Q. Can someone I know supervise contact between me and my child? ?

Q. Can I get help with the costs of contact, such as transport and activities, as these are expensive?

Q.  I am not happy with my child’s guardian. What can I do?

Q. I am not happy with the amount of contact I am having with my child, what can I do?

Q. The court has made an interim care order on our child. Can we appeal?

Q. Who will help me and my child in court?

Q. How should I prepare for going to court?

Q. What will the court think about when they are making a decision about my child’s future?

Q. A relative has just offered to look after my child. Is this possible?

Q. Can we appeal the Care Order made for our child?

Q. I believe my human rights have been ignored. What should I do?

Q. My child is being treated badly in foster care, what can I do?

Q. What can I do if I have been told my child is to remain in care?

Q. My child’s social worker has told me I am not allowed to see my child any more, what can I do?

Q. I am not happy where my child is living, what can I do?


The local authority is applying for a care order, what is going to happen?

Children's Services normally apply for a care order when they have ongoing concerns about a child's safety and well-being and the parents/carers have not been able to sort out the things that they are worried about.

If a care order is made on your child, whether this is temporary or long-term, Children's Services have the right to remove your child from your care even if you don't agree.

If the social worker plans to apply for a care order, they should tell you this and should confirm this in a letter to you. But if for any reason you don't know about it, you will find out when you receive a notice from the court saying they are applying for a care order.

  • If you are a parent/or someone else with parental responsibility for the child, you will be a 'party' to the proceedings. This means you have a right to go to court to argue against their application and say what you think is best for your child. You can also get free legal aid to pay for a solicitor to represent you.
  • If you are a relative, you can ask if you can join in the proceedings – this is called becoming a party. It gives you the right to speak in court and tell the judge what you think is best for the child and how you can help, for example if you can take on the care of the child if they cannot remain with their parents. Unfortunately, as a relative, you don't have a right to free legal aid to be represented by a solicitor in the case (unless you already have parental responsibility for the child). However, you can apply for legal aid but whether you get it will depend on how much money you have and whether you have a good case to argue in court.

Whatever your relationship to the child, this can be a very distressing time. You may be upset or angry or feel that nobody is listening to you, but you need to get involved in the court proceedings straight away and go to any court hearings, otherwise decisions may be made about your child without you knowing. Also it is essential that you get legal advice from a solicitor who specialises in children law immediately. They will help you to apply for legal aid. You can also contact FRG advice line.

For more information about care proceedings see FRG advice sheet:15 on Care (and related) proceedings here.


What happens when care proceedings start?

The case won't be decided as soon as it starts. This is because the court needs to make sure it has all the important evidence, reports and statements about the child before it makes a final decision. There will therefore be an initial hearing when the court will decide how the case will be prepared including:

  • Where the child will live until the final hearing and who they will see; and
  • What papers must be sent to court and the timetable of the case – it should normally be finished within 26 weeks.

This can be a very distressing time but it is very important you get involved in the court proceedings and see a children law solicitor straight away and attend any court hearings, otherwise decisions may be made about your child without you knowing.

Also, if you are a parent and Children's Services are saying you cannot care for your child, you should make sure that anyone in your child's family who is willing and suitable to care for your child gets involved in the court proceedings straight away. This includes relatives on both the mother and father's sides of the family. They should also ask the social worker to assess them as a potential carer for your child as soon as possible, whether they are offering to care for the child on a short or long term basis.

For more information about care proceedings see FRG advice sheet:15 on Care (and related) proceedings here.


Can I see my children if the court makes a care order?

In most cases you will be allowed to see your child, depending on what the court thinks is in your child's best interests.

The law says that if the court decides to make a care order, it must also decide on contact arrangements for you and other family members (eg: your child's brothers and sisters), to see your child if they are not returning to your care. You will be able to comment on the contact arrangements Children's Services suggest.

If you are unhappy about the plans for contact, make sure you discuss with your solicitor what you want so they can explain to the court why you disagree with what Children's Services are proposing.

If you remain unhappy about the contact arrangements, you can apply to court for a contact order setting out other different arrangements for contact, although the court will only order this if it thinks this is in your child's best interests.

For more information see FRG advice sheet:14 on contact for children in care.


I am not happy with my solicitor, what should I do?

If you have a concern about how your solicitor is handling your case you should usually start by telling them. This gives them a chance to put things right for you. Think about what positive steps they could take that might help, for example:

• meeting with you to answer questions about your case;
• updating you more regularly;
• putting their advice in writing to you with a summary of the case and the action they are taking for you;
• explaining whether you will get the chance to give evidence if you want to and if not why not;

If this doesn’t work, you may want to put your concern in writing. You can ask for it to be treated as a complaint. All solicitors firms must have a complaints procedure. They must give you information about it in their first meeting with you.

If you are still not satisfied with your solicitor’s conduct, You can also try to change solicitors, but be aware that this can take some time when you are receiving public funding. You can also complain to the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority.


My child was removed under an EPO and no one will tell me where my child is or give me any information. What should I do?

If the local authority was given an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) by the court without you knowing beforehand, you should be told:

• the reasons why the order was made and
• why it was made without you being told.

This information should be given to you as soon as your child is in a safe place.

Even if you don’t know where your child is living you should be given information about your child, including:

• a copy of the care plan and
• information about any contact arrangements.

It might be that you are not being told some things (like where your child is staying) because your child’s social worker feels it would not be in your child’s best interests.

If you can’t get the information you want from your child’s social worker you could ask to speak to the social worker’s manager. Your solicitor should also be able to help you.


Can I appeal against the Emergency Protection Order?

You cannot appeal against an Emergency Protection Order.

But if your child has an Emergency Protection Order and you were not in court when this happened and didn’t know of the hearing, you can apply to end the Emergency Protection Order. You should urgently speak to a solicitor about this.


Can someone I know supervise contact between me and my child?

Yes, contact may be supervised by a friend or family member, as long as they are approved by the social worker to do so.


Can I get help with the costs of contact, such as transport and activities, as these are expensive?

Your child’s social worker may be able to help with expenses, such as transport, meals and activities. You should get this help if your child’s social worker thinks that the visits can’t otherwise happen without causing you a lot of financial difficulty.

If the social worker doesn’t give you help with contact costs, you could make a complaint but it is usually best to try to negotiate with the social worker and the Independent Reviewing Officer first, explaining why you need this help.


I am not happy with my child’s guardian. What can I do?

solicitor for help. You can also make a complaint to CAFCASS, but you should discuss this first with your solicitor in case it makes things worse rather than better for you in the longer term.


I am not happy with the amount of contact I am having with my child, what can I do??

You should first talk to the social worker and ask if you can have more contact. You should explain why you think this would be helpful for your child. If you are not happy with what the social worker decides talk to your solicitor and ask if you can apply for a contact order.


The court has made an interim care order on our child. Can we appeal?

In theory, you can appeal against Interim Care Orders but they are rarely successful and you are only allowed to appeal for very limited reasons. If you want to appeal, there are very tight deadlines for making the appeal.

If you are thinking of appealing, discuss with your solicitor whether this is realistic and what the alternatives are, for example, whether a relative could care for your child until the final hearing.

For more information see FRG advice sheet 17: on Reuniting children in care with their families.


Who will help me and my child in court?

You and your child should have people to help you:

  • solicitor to go to court with you. It is important to find a solicitor who specialises in child care law. You will not have to pay for your solicitor.
  • guardian who works for CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Services). The guardian will talk to you and your child (if your child is old enough) and also to the rest of your child’s family, the social worker and everyone else who is involved in the court proceedings to find our about your child’s situation. They will then write a report for the court saying what they think is the best arrangement for your child in the future.
  • The guardian will also ask a solicitor to represent your child in court.

How should I prepare for going to court?

1. Make sure you have got a solicitor. You will not have to pay for your solicitor.

2. Try and keep all written documents together. It is a good idea to have a file for these.

3. Try to keep all appointments with your solicitor and other professionals – if there is an emergency and you can’t get to an appointment make sure you let the right people know.

4. It is also a good idea to keep a written note of conversations with the social worker or other professionals involved with your family.

5. It is also a good idea to wear smart comfortable clothes to court and to get there early so that you have time to talk to your solicitor before the hearing.


What will the court think about when they are making a decision about my child’s future?

The main things the court needs to think when making a decision about your child’s future and whether a legal order is needed for your child are:

  • your child’s wishes and feelings
  • your child’s physical, emotional and/or educational needs
  • your child’s age, sex and background
  • the likely effect of any proposed change on your child
  • any risk of harm to your child
  • how capable you (and your child’s other parent) are of meeting your child’s needs

This is called the welfare checklist.

The court should also always think about the impact of delay on your child and whether your child would be better off without a court order.


A relative has just offered to look after my child. Is this possible?

Whether or not your child can go to live with one of their relatives will depend on what is written in your child’s care plan and whether your child’s social worker and/or the court thinks it is not too late for them to be considered. Talk to your child’s social worker about it and ask for your child’s relative to speak to the social worker. Also it is really important that you discuss it with your solicitor and with your child’s Independent Reviewing Officer.

It is also a good idea for this relative to get their own legal advice about going to court to get care of your child. This will enable them to understand what is involved and the implications of different options such as for example by applying for a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order. They could get advice from our advice line.


Can we appeal the Care Order made for our child?

In theory, you can appeal against a care order but they are rarely successful and you are only allowed to appeal for very limited reasons, for example where the court has made a legal mistake. If you want to appeal, there are very tight deadlines for making the appeal.

If you want to appeal a decision which has been made, you should ask your solicitor to advise you about this immediately. If they tell you that you have no legal reason for appeal (which is quite likely), you, or another potential carer, can still consider going back to court at a future date to apply for an order that would end the care order, such as a discharge of the care order, a child arrangements order saying where the child will live) (previously known as a residence order) or a special guardianship order made in favour of someone who is not the child's parent. But you can't make any of these applications if your child has been placed with prospective adopters after a Placement Order was made.

For more information see FRG advice sheet 17: on Reuniting children in care with their families.


I believe my human rights have been ignored. What should I do

Both your and your child’s human rights should always be considered in family law cases, so talk to your solicitor about any human rights issues you are concerned about. Normally Human Rights issues must be raised at the time in the care proceedings.

In rare situations, where there has been a breach of your human rights, you may be able to apply to court for an injunction to stop something happening or to make something happen. In some cases you can also get damages. For this you will need advice from a specialist solicitor, or from a specialist human rights organisation such as Liberty or the Equality and Human Rights Commission.


My child is being treated badly in foster care, what can I do?

You should first raise any concerns you have about your child’s treatment with your child’s social worker. If you don’t feel happy with that you should contact the fostering team about making a formal complaint. You could also talk about your worries with the Independent Reviewing Officer. You do not need to wait until the next LAC Review meeting to do this.

Also, all children in care are entitled to speak to an advocate, so you should make sure your child (if old enough) knows this. It’s part of the job of the Independent Reviewing Officer and/or social worker to explain this to your child.


What can I do if I have been told my child is to remain in care?

If a full Care Order has been made for your child, you can discuss with your solicitor whether there is anything you can do. If not, it may be best to focus on two things:

• try to understand why your child was removed.

Even if you do not agree with the reasons for the Care Order, you should try to understand them. You might want to ask your solicitor and/ or your child’s social worker to write the reasons down for you and then it is easier to see whether there is anything you can do to change your situation.

• stay involved with the planning process by going to the Looked after Children review meetings for your child.

Even when a child is on a full Care Order, you may still be able to have regular contact with your child. Make sure you attend all contact sessions on time, and tell your child’s social worker if you can’t make it. Although it can be very hard, try to make sure contact is a positive experience for your child and that you don’t show the child if you are upset during contact.

Also, as a parent, you should still be told about plans for your child and have your opinions taken into consideration.

If things go very well, it is possible you may be able to get increased contact with your child or even go back to court in the future to ask if your child can return home, see How you may be able to get your child home.


My child’s social worker has told me I am not allowed to see my child any more, what can I do?

Your child’s social worker cannot stop contact without getting the court to agree. But Children’s Services do have the power to stop contact for up to seven days in an emergency, if they think contact with you will harm your child. If that happens, they must explain in writing why this decision was made, and how the decision can be challenged in court.

You may want to make a formal complaint and see a solicitor.


I am not happy where my child is living, what can I do?

If you are not happy about where your child is living or how they are being cared for, try to think about exactly what it is that you are worried about and explain this to your child’s social worker. Maybe a meeting between you, the carer and the social worker could clear things up. If your child is in a residential placement, such as a children’s home, then it might help if a staff member or manager of the residential unit was at the meeting.

If you think your child would be better living somewhere else, such as with a different foster carer or a relative or friend, you can also discuss this with the social worker.

If you are still not happy you should discuss where your child is living with the Independent Reviewing Officer.

 

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