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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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by Cynthia who is a valued member of FRG’s parents’ panel.

I have three children who I love and had always wanted to care for. But it became hard to do so when I was drinking. Feeling that I could not cope made me drink which made me depressed and low so I drank more.​

Social workers from children’s services were regularly involved with my children. But they said I was a loving parent and had a good bond with my children. I would go to rehab centres and detox organisations to sort myself out. Each time I was convinced that I was going to be the mother that my children deserved and for a while I was sober but would always go back to drinking.

Finally the local authority issued care proceedings, part of me thought it was a scare tactic, that if I sorted myself out they would not go through with it. But they did and got their care orders. I remember feeling that they had given me a reason to keep drinking when they took my two youngest children into long term foster care.

I literally spent the next three years drinking and sleeping as children’s services refused to talk to me or tell me anything about my children. I refused to look at my own behaviour as being the reason my children were taken. I hated children’s services. I thought it was all their fault.​

I honestly don’t know why it happened but I am so grateful that one day I realised that I was the only person who was responsible for what had happened to my children. No one else was responsible, only me. Once I had accepted this I went to a drug and alcohol service who sent me to a detox for two weeks.

The day before I was going to complete my detox my youngest child ran away from their foster carers and stayed with us for two days before agreeing to return to their foster carers. She told me that she and her sibling had wanted to see me and were told they could not.

Knowing that my children did still want a relationship with me encouraged me to engage with a community based rehab service. I later trained to be a volunteer for that drug and alcohol service. By meeting people on the same journey as mine I was able to see some of the pitfalls but also to appreciate how much I had changed and what I had to offer to my children. I was still not having contact with them as children’s services had said that it was not in the children’s best interests which I accepted at that time. Then they allowed me to have contact four times a year to see my youngest child.​

I decided to attend an eight week parenting course for mothers who had lost their children. One day some advisers from Family Rights Group came in to give a talk about their charity. I had never heard of it before but was interested to hear that they provided support to families working with children’s services, including through their free advice line.

A few weeks later I phoned the advice line and spoke to one of advisers that had visited our group. She advised me to contact children’s services in writing, letting them know about the positive changes I’d made in my life and my wish to be assessed to resume contact with both my children. I did this but got no response. I contacted the advice line again and received more advice.​

With FRG’s help and support I was able to send a formal letter to children’s services stating that I was prepared to make an application to court if they were not willing to work with me.

When the children’s social worker received my letter she decided to meet me and discuss the matter. Following that meeting the local authority spoke to the children who confirmed they wished to see me and slowly the local authority started to accept that the children should be having contact with me. Once regular contact started and I was able to show I had changed the social worker set out a plan for the children to return to my care.

My middle child is now an adult and lives in semi-independent housing provided by the local authority and my youngest child is at home with me. They are both happy to be out of foster care and to be able to spend time with me and the rest of their family. I have since become a grandmother and am pleased to have joined FRG’s parents’ panel as I am passionate about helping other families working with children’s services.

Life’s not perfect, I still have my ups and downs but meeting the adviser from FRG and following it up with phone calls to their advice line gave me the help and support I needed to get my children back home. I will always be grateful.​

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