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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). 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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Katherine Gieve

We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Katherine Gieve, our staff lawyer at Family Rights Group during 1988 whilst Mary Ryan was on maternity leave.

She came to Family Rights Group at the height of the Cleveland Inquiry into allegations of child sexual abuse in NE England. Her first task was to develop our written submission to the Inquiry. Writing that with her taught me so much. I was impressed by her knowledge and clear thinking. She was quick and precise. Never a word too many, never an avenue left unexplored. She was a great colleague to us all, witty and wise, clever and modest.

It was such a privilege having Katherine working with us at Family Rights Group. She was the perfect locum for our then-small staff team: she slipped quietly into Mary’s chair, did an amazing job, and slipped quietly out again, job done and done so well. She provided seamless cover, ensuring that every aspect of the job was maintained at the same degree of excellence.

Katherine had a rich and varied career before and after working with us as a locum solicitor. She had started off in publishing and was actively engaged in the women’s movement from the early ‘70s. She played the family lawyer in Ken Loach’s film “Ladybird, Ladybird”, based on the true story of a mother’s determined fight for custody of her young children. She wrote the Virago publication “Balancing Acts: Being A Mother”, editing the experiences of 13 women exploring the fascination and ambivalences of having children in our society. She was a brilliant lawyer, and a brilliant advocate for children and their families.

– Jo Tunnard, former Chief Executive, Family Rights Group

I joined Family Rights Group after Katherine had completed her locum time which Jo Tunnard recalls with such clarity. Her legacy was profound both in the way we approached submissions and worked across the sector during the passage of the Children Act 1989 and thereafter. Jo rightly acknowledges her precision, both for words and for crisp content. Katherine, whom I later worked with in practice, gave Family Rights Group and its small team continuing support becoming a trustee. She was a rare combination of a woman and a lawyer who listened carefully, paused, then questioned gently and reflected, always willing to share her knowledge. And evident always, but in a quiet way, bringing to every task and conversation a widely respected intellectual rigor. Most of all, I was struck by her compassion: she cared deeply about fairness and justice for those not listened to. Her death is a great loss for practitioners in children and family law and policy work. Many former Family Rights Group colleagues will, I know, be saddened to hear of her untimely passing and we offer our condolences to her family, John her husband, her much loved sons, Daniel and Matthew and their families.

– Leonie Jordan, former legal adviser, Family Rights Group

I first heard of Katherine and her work not long after joining Family Rights Group. It was 2016 and we were drawing up a list of the best child welfare legal and practice brains to bring together for reflection and innovation as part of the Care Crisis Review. Katherine’s name was amongst the first to be uttered. To that forum she brought insights reflecting her experiences of the genesis of the Children Act 1989, of representing families and children, and her work as a Trustee for Pause. Katherine brought that same insight, together with such warm conversation, to regular curry evenings. Part of a small but merry group of us who make time to meet, exchange questions and reflections about the family justice system. Her presence will be very much missed when we next gather.

– Caroline Lynch, Family Rights Group’s Principal Legal Adviser

I first met Katherine when I interviewed for role as a paralegal at Bindmans LLP at the very beginning of my legal career. Katherine always valued my opinions and encouraged me to stand up for my beliefs, regardless of role or rank. As a very young and inexperienced lawyer, she trusted me to work on high profile and complex cases, and empowered me to aspire to do great things. Her ability to navigate the difficult family circumstances in her cases as a children lawyer, tirelessly advocating for better lives for those children and families, demonstrated the importance and value that our work can have.

The biggest impact Katherine had on my life and career was to encourage me to become involved with Family Rights Group. At each juncture Katherine offered her advice and help, even after she had retired, and her support never waivered.

Katherine was a role model not only as a lawyer, but as a person. She was passionate about supporting working mothers, and led by example in balancing her family and her incredible career. She was caring and compassionate, but also staunchly determined and a force to be reckoned with. Katherine has had a profound impact on my life, yet I am only one of many young lawyers that she influenced and encouraged. Her legacy will continue not only through the doors that she opened for our generation, but the leadership values she instilled in us to make a difference ourselves. I will miss her and remember her always.

– Elizabeth Cape Cowens, Family Rights Group’s Advice and Advocacy Service Director

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