“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 to seek legal advice. If the Local Authority is going ahead with Court proceedings straightaway, please visit our information on Emergency Protection Orders or contact us urgently on 01924 332395.

Our expert team of Child Care Proceedings Solicitors in Wakefield understand that this is a scary and confusing time and will treat your case with sensitivity while we help you with the Court process and make sure you understand the law and what to expect.

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).

Pre-Proceedings Meeting

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.

Care Proceedings

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:

Care orders place a child in the care of the Local Authority until the age of 18, and gives the Local Authority parental responsibility for a child and the power to determine the extent to which a parent, guardian or special guardian or other person with parental responsibility may meet his parental responsibility for the child.
Supervision orders require the Local Authority to advise, assist and befriend a child.
Child arrangement orders define the arrangements for a child to live with and otherwise have contact with members of their family. In some circumstances they give parental responsibility to the person in whose favour an order is made.
Visit our information about special guardianship orders.  These orders give enhanced parental responsibility to the holder of the SGO, although they continue to share parental responsibility with the child’s parents.

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.

Along with Child Care Proceedings, we provide a range of service in the field of Child Care Law, including: