What is the role of Social Services in Child Care Proceedings?

In a lot of cases, Social Workers are only involved for a short period of time and the family are then left to get on with their lives. From the moment a Social Worker is involved, families are monitored, and everything can be taken into account at a later date. Sometimes families do not fully understand this and so things happen that they later regret which lead to problems down the line.

What is a Child Protection Case Conference?

Social Services may call for a Child Protection Case Conference to take place. This will allow Social Services to see if your child could be properly protected without a Care Order being made. However, if this does not work, Social Services will issue Court proceedings, which normally take 26 weeks.

What if Social Services think my child is in imminent danger?

If Social Services suspect your child is in immediate danger, they can take a number of steps to protect your child, including applying for an Emergency Protection Order which will remove the child from your care for up to eight days whilst further investigations are undertaken.

What will happen if social services start Child Care Proceedings?

If you are notified that Social Services are starting Child Care Proceedings, then you must contact us immediately. This first step will involve an initial Court hearing (this takes place six days after the Local Authority has made the application) and an Interim Care Order will be made.

It is important you understand what this means and the consequences for your child. We can work with you to ensure you and your child’s best interests are maintained.

What happens at the initial Court hearing?

The Court will not usually make any final decisions at the first hearing. The Court will do one of the following;

  • Decide whether to make an Interim Care Order (an Order that will say where the child shall live and who will look after them until the final hearing), or
  • Appoint a guardian and a solicitor to represent the child in the proceedings, or
  • Decide whether the case should be transferred to another Court, or
  • Decide how the case should be prepared for the final hearing.

What happens after an Interim Order is made?

After the Interim Order has been made there will be a series of interim hearings. The interim hearings will continue to monitor the child’s living arrangements, who the child will see and how the case will proceed. The Court will also consider whether or not Orders and directions already made should be renewed or changed, whilst assessing the child’s best interests and safety.

It can take up to a maximum of 26 weeks before the case is ready for the Final Hearing. Some cases take longer than this depending on the circumstances.

What Ringrose Law can do to help?

At Ringrose Law we have a large experienced team of case workers who deal day in day out with families who are involved with the Local Authority and Social Services.

We cannot stress how important it is for you to take legal advice, even if you think you are managing the situation well with Social Services or the Local Authority. Things change quickly and they do have the power to apply to the Court for powers to make decisions to overrule you as a parent or carer for a child.

They can only do this if there are grounds that the child is at risk of harm but the Family Courts do not take any risks and if there is even a small element of doubt then they will give the Local Authority the power they need, even on a temporary basis.

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It is important that you inform your solicitor about any problems or aspects of the current arrangements that you are unhappy with and to keep a record of all information about your child Care Proceedings.

The Court will then hold a meeting called a Case Management Conference where they will decide what evidence it will need for the final hearing and will make directions to progress the case.

We are proud to be Accredited by Resolution as a Specialist in the areas of Private Children Law and Domestic Violence.

For further help and advice contact the Children Department at Ringrose Law Solicitors in Lincoln, Boston, Grantham, Sleaford and Newark.

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Further Information

FAQs

If Social Services become involved with your family, often people perceive this as bad news and the Social Worker as an enemy. However the role of the Social worker is that they only have the Childs best interests at heart although you may not agree with their decisions.

The Social Worker will be coming to your home if concerns have been raised by others such as neighbours, school teachers, doctors or other members of the family. The Social Workers aim is to advise you on how best to improve your situation in the hope that the child can remain in your care.

The Court can decide to make a Care Order if they feel that your standard of parenting has fallen below what would reasonably be expected of a parent and that the child has suffered or at risk of suffering significant emotional or physical harm.

Often, the Local Authority will give detailed and specific examples of the reasons why they have applied for a Care Order. These examples form the “Threshold Criteria” and this criteria must be met in order for the court to make an order.

The first Interim Care Order will be made for up to 8 weeks. At the end of proceedings if a Care Order is made then they the Care Order will be applicable until the child is 18 years old.

A Guardian will be appointed for a child during Care Proceedings to represent the child in Court. It is important that all parties including the Local Authority, parents and solicitors cooperate with the Guardian as their primary role is the welfare of the child. The Guardian will represent the child during Court hearings and will put to the Court what they believe to be the child’s best interests (which may not coincide with either the parents or Local Authority).

A Court will only remove a child from their parents care if they believe the child is in danger in their current surroundings. A Court would not otherwise remove a child from their parents care. Therefore for a child to be returned to the parents the Court and Social Workers need to be satisfied that the Childs best interests are at heart and the child will be bought up in a safe environment, lack of evidence to support this means the child is unlikely to be returned home.

The Courts and Social Workers will also be looking for the parents to be helpful, cooperative and attend all appointments set on time and demonstrate that they are committed to having their child returned to their care.

Typically Court proceedings can take approximately 40 weeks. This will depend on the availability of the court and various experts who may be called to give evidence at a final hearing.

If the child is returned to you and placed in your care, then the Court will issue a ‘No Order’, demonstrating that the Court is satisfied with your standard of parenting and happy for the child to be returned to your care.

Alternatively the Court may issue a Care Order or Supervision Order so that the Local Authority can monitor the care of your child and remove the child from your care if they feel that your child is at risk.

Only if the Court feel that it is completely necessary to remove the child from the parents care, for the child’s best interests, will they do so. If this is the case then the Courts will issue a ‘Placement Order’ for adoption.

The age of the child can affect whether the Child is placed into adoption or into long-term foster care. The older the child the more likely the child will be placed into foster care and a contact order made for you to see the child.

If you fear that your partner may kidnap your children and take them overseas you should first locate the children’s passports (if they have them) and not allow any unsupervised contact with the children, you can also contact the police to issue any alerts if your partner has already taken your child.

Most importantly you must seek legal advice, what we can do is apply for a Prohibited Steps Order, which would prevent the removal of your child from your care. Following on from this, we can then help you put permanent steps in place to prevent your partner from removing your child out of the country.

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General enquiries: 0333 3580 393Your local office: NewarkGranthamSleafordBostonLincoln