“The Social Worker says she’s going to Court to get my kids taken into care.”
For parents, there can be few more frightening prospects than being told by the Local Authority that it intends to issue care proceedings. If you are a parent in that situation, you need legal advice. If the Local Authority is going to Court straight away, please visit our information on Emergency Protection Orders or contact us on 01924 332395.
Letter Before Proceedings
For most parents, if the Local Authority intends to issue care proceedings you will be notified in a “Letter Before Proceedings”. This should tell you what the Local Authority is worried about and explain that the Local Authority is so worried it is thinking about going to Court. The letter should explain to you, in a way that you can understand, the reasons for the Local Authority’s concern and the things they have done to try and help you.
If you are a parent who has received a letter before proceedings, you will automatically be entitled to free legal advice (legal aid).
Usually, the letter before proceedings will tell you that the Local Authority has arranged a meeting. It is very important to try and go to the meeting because the Local Authority will explain what they intend to do and why, and you should have the opportunity to put forward your thoughts and views. We can attend that meeting with you to represent your best interests and put forward your position. We can also advise you about whether the Local Authority is likely to be successful in the application it is making and help you negotiate with the Local Authority, setting out where you do not agree with their decisions and actions.
If the Local Authority does decide to go to Court, it might be applying for a care order or for a supervision order. To make a care or supervision order, the Court has to be satisfied:
a) that a child has suffered or been at risk of suffering significant harm as a result of the parenting which the child has received (this is often called the “threshold criteria”); and
b) that it is in the child’s best interests to make that order. In considering whether the order is in the child’s best interests, the child’s welfare is paramount and the Court has to consider a list of factors often referred to as the welfare checklist. These are:-
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child (in the light of their age and understanding)
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances
- The child’s age, sex and background and any particular characteristics which the child has.
- Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering (including emotional harm)
- How capable each of the child’s parents (and other relevant adults) is of meeting the child’s needs
At the end of proceedings, the Court will make decisions about the long term care of the children. The Court could make no order, or one of the following orders:
How Long Do Proceedings Take?
The Court will require decisions to be made about the long term arrangements for a child within 26 weeks of proceedings being issued. Proceedings can take longer, but the Court will require very good reasons (and exceptional circumstances) to agree to this. Interim care orders and interim supervision order can be made for the duration of the proceedings.
If you are a parent whose children are subject to care proceedings, you should still be able to see them. Visit our information about contact with children in care.
If you are a grandparent or relative caring for children as a result of care proceedings, visit our information for grandparents and family carers.
All the members of our child care team are specialists in care proceedings and experienced and effective advocates.
Contact our Care Solicitors in Wakefield on 01924 332395.