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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). 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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Angela Frazer-Wicks headshot

Angela Frazer-Wicks is a birth mum whose youngest children were removed from her care and adopted in 2004. This Mental Health Awareness Week she talks about the impact of children’s services involvement on her mental health, and the support that could have made all the difference.

When I was involved with children’s services with my eldest two children, the term ‘mental health problems’ was used a lot to refer to me.

It was used as the reason to place, and then keep, my eldest son in foster care, as a reason to do a pre-birth assessment when I was pregnant with my second child, and in the end as a reason to permanently remove my children.

No one would ever tell me what ‘mental health problems’ I had. I was just told I had to sort myself out. The focus was only ever on the risk to my children and never on the support I needed to keep us safe.

Desperate lack of help, despite court order

I was expected to repeatedly talk about the years of trauma I had suffered with absolutely no support to deal with the impact this had on my mental health, which simply got worse and worse. No one tried to help me.

It took me years of fighting to get anyone to even carry out a psychiatric assessment, all anyone ever did was stick me on antidepressants. In the end it had to be court ordered for it to happen.

Even then the whole assessment process was rushed and tailored towards the court process. I never felt like it was being done to try and help me.

Sadly, it was all too late for me anyway as any treatment could not happen within the timescales put in place by the courts.

Mental health hit lowest point

In the end the diagnosis I received (which I would later discover was incorrect) was used as a reason to place my children for adoption. This only compounded the trauma and my mental health hit its lowest point.

Despite the psychological report stating that I was extremely high risk for suicide and would need intensive and urgent support, the report was filed and not shared with any other professionals who could have stepped in to help me.

Shortly after this I attempted to take my own life. It is a miracle I survived.

I said goodbye to my children in July 2004 and was then completely abandoned by the system and everyone in it.

I would spend the next seven years grieving for my children and desperately trying to get mental health support without success.

Trauma therapy

Finally, during pregnancy with my daughter in 2011, I was diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress disorder. Sadly, it would take another eleven years to access trauma therapy.

It was only after undergoing trauma therapy that I began to fully understand the harm done to me by children’s social care’s attitude to my mental health. By asking me to repeatedly discuss the lifetime of trauma I had suffered they actively increased the trauma, and therefore its impact on my mental health. I should have been supported to safely share my experiences and offered follow up care, but it was only used to assess risk.

Mental health care and support at the right time

Trauma informed work is crucial at all times but imperative when a parent has pre-existing mental health problems. When asking families to talk about their experiences, for the purpose of assessing safety and risk, we must ensure we minimise causing further harm and always offer follow up care.

If someone had just taken the time to listen to me and refer me to the right mental health support services when I first asked decades ago I could have accessed proper mental health care and support at the right time. Who knows how different my life, and the life of my children, could have been.”

Angela is now a tireless campaigner for the voices of families to be heard within the child welfare system, Chair of Family Rights Group, and received an MBE in the Kings Birthday Honours.

In England, an estimated one in four adults will experience a difficulty with their mental health each year. This will include many parents and carers.

On our adult mental ill-health page you can find information about getting support, mental ill-health and child protection, and fair treatment.

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