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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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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.

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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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by Catherine

I never thought of myself as a hero, it’s just not something I’d do. But I’m constantly hearing it during this pandemic.

I live with my partner and two children. I’ve worked for thirty years as a NHS nurse, currently in research, which is challenging but rewarding,

I became a special guardian four years ago to “E”, who is now five. We all love her so much. She has ‘developmental trauma’ and emotional issues which means she has problems controlling her anger and finds it difficult to self-regulate.​

I am currently doing research on covid-19 wards three days a week. I saw myself as a key worker and expected “E” to be able to attend school on those days. But the school said both parents/carers had to be key workers so “E” had to stay at home. I challenged this through the virtual school who agreed with the school. I felt completely lost.

For “E” routine is essential and her feelings of isolation and bewilderment as to why her whole life had changed completely changed her.

“E” was having regular and more extended meltdowns. My partner worked and cared for her when he could. We had to rely on our eldest to look after her. At 18 years old she was trying, with some assistance from her 15 year old sibling, to home school an emotional five year old. She was also having online university classes with assessment deadlines. It was extremely difficult and I cannot thank them enough for trying so hard to keep our family going.​

The screaming meltdowns continued and lasted for hours. It felt impossible to think straight sometimes. I worried about the effects on my girls who were brilliant but had not chosen this.​

I came home one day to find my 18 year old really upset, as “E” had been physically violent to her. Both my partner and I had been subject to this violence in the past but never our girls. It broke my heart. However, she didn’t do it at school.

I had regularly experienced being emotionally drained though my work but had never felt frightened to go to work before. Now I am. The fear and anxiety of caring for patients with Covid -19 and the risk of bringing it home is at times overwhelming. At work I feel constantly under threat. At home my life was emotionally exhausting.​

“E” is waiting for adoption support funding for further therapy. But I was at breaking point now! Something had to change.

I rang a social worker and was crying on the phone. They gave me helpful advice and reminded me of the special guardianship service run by Leicestershire County Council. When I rang I spoke to Sheryl who was an absolute lifeline. She was the first person during lockdown who really ‘got it’.

Sheryl absolutely understood my situation and difficulties, gave me really good advice and support including chasing up the funding which hopefully won’t be much longer now. She also agreed that “E” would benefit from attending school saying that I was an applicable key worker despite what I had been told.

She told me to go back to the school and, if necessary, she would speak to them on my behalf. They agreed that “E” could attend school on the days I worked. I wasn’t asking for special treatment I just needed the help I was told was available.

“E” started school last week. She is a changed child and my home life has become manageable again.​

Special guardians need a supportive, understanding, non-judgemental, empathetic and experienced person to talk to at times of crisis.

I will be forever grateful for the support and encouragement that Sheryl gave me. I really felt that I may have ‘gone under’. This excellent service is an essential lifeline.

It really goes to show that everybody can be a hero.​

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