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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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What is a pre-birth assessment and what may happen after one is completed?

When an assessment is carried out in relation to an unborn baby, it is called a pre-birth assessment.  It is carried out in much the same way as other social work assessments but is completed before the birth. It will include the social worker speaking with the mother’s midwife and other relevant health practitioners.

The assessment will aim to find out:

  • Whether the family need, or will need, extra support
  • Whether the baby will be safe when they are born.

After a pre-birth assessment

There can be different outcomes to a pre-birth assessment. The outcome will depend on whether the unborn baby is assessed as requiring additional help as a child in need. Or if there are concerns that the baby will be likely to suffer significant harm once they are born. Sometimes the assessment will decide that no additional help is needed by children’s services.

Click on the drop downs below for further information and advice about what may happen after a pre-birth assessment

Child in need meeting

After a pre-birth assessment the social worker may decide to arrange a child in need meeting if they think:

  • The baby is not like to suffer significant harm once born, but
  • The family will need some extra help and support from different practitioners and services.

See our Child in need page for more information about the type of support that families can receive where a child is assessed as in need.

Pre-birth child protection conference

If, after the pre-birth assessment, the social worker is worried the baby may be suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, an initial child protection conference should be held while the mother is still pregnant. This is so a plan can be made about what should happen when the baby is born.

When conference is arranged before a baby is born it is called a pre-birth child protection conference.

The child protection conference is:

  • Is organised by children’s services
  • For everyone present to look at all relevant information about the child’s situation
  • To decide whether if they think the baby is likely to suffer significant harm in the future.

Information available to the conference should include:

  • Information from existing social work records
  • Information from enquiries that have been made before the conference.

Midwives and other health practitioners working with the parent or carers should be invited to attend key meetings. This will include pre-birth child protection conferences.

If conference does think the baby is likely to suffer significant harm in the future they must:

  • Come up with plans to make sure the baby is safe and well cared for when they are born, and that the parents have the right support during the pregnancy
  • Decide whether there needs to be a child protection plan
  • Set a date for any future review conference.

Examples of situations when a pre-birth child protection conference may be held include:

  • Where alcohol or drug misuse is thought to be affecting the health of the unborn baby and is likely to affect them when they are born
  • If the parents have a child living with them who is already on a child protection plan
  • If the parents have had a previous child removed from their care due to child protection concerns

See our Child protection page for more information and advice about child protection conferences.

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