If a local authority is trying to remove your child from your care, or they have already done so, you need a legal expert who understands the system. Our legal team can represent you to protect your interests and to ensure you that you understand the process and are able to access the help and support that you may need.
If you are facing the prospect of Court proceedings over your child’s care, you will need a solicitor who can put forward the strongest possible case on your behalf. It is important to have the right solicitor in place from the start, so that you can be sure your rights and those of your child are safeguarded.
At Preston Redman, our Family & Children Law team have experience in dealing with local authorities and other child care professionals to support families and help them secure the best possible outcome for the children involved.
Helen Davies is a Chartered Legal Executive who began her career in law in 1995 and qualified in 2000. Helen’s focus is on working with families where the local authority has become involved to provide robust advice, assistance and support to parents and extended family members. Helen has a keen interest in assisting victims of domestic abuse and has completed the London, Brighton and Bournemouth Marathons raising funds for domestic abuse and cancer charities.
Zara Hanson is a Solicitor with over 11 years of experience working with families. Zara has a broad spectrum of knowledge in all family matters but specialises predominantly in assisting clients where the local authority has become involved and Care proceedings are likely to be issued. Zara has extensive knowledge in all areas of care proceedings and regularly advises on complex cases where there are allegations of serious injury or harm, as well as cases involving substance misuse, neglect and domestic abuse.
As well as working closely with parents, Zara regularly acts for extended family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles who may wish to take on the responsibility of caring for a child that has been taken into care. Due to Zara’s previous experience, Zara has extensive knowledge of the law and regulations around Special Guardianship Orders and Connected persons fostering assessments, an often complex and confusing area of law. This additional knowledge allows Zara to work with clients to achieve the best possible outcomes for children and their families.
Preston Redman has over 140 years of experience. Our Family & Children Law Team act for families across the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch (BCP Council) area, the wider Dorset area and throughout the UK and overseas, providing support and representation. We work to help families put the right care in place for children, so that they can have security and a stable home life for their minority.
If your case reaches Court, you can be sure that we will represent you robustly, putting forward a strong case on your behalf and ensuring that you have expert representation and the clear advice and guidance that you need.
For help from an expert in Care proceedings, please contact our Bournemouth office or fill in our online enquiry form for a quick response. We understand how important this issue is, and we will step in to help you without delay.
Our expertise with Care proceedings
We know how stressful it is to deal with Care proceedings in respect of a child in your family. As well as being experts in the area of Care proceedings, our team are sympathetic and understanding. We have an in-depth knowledge of the law involved and the way the process works.
We will ensure that your rights are protected throughout and that you know what to expect and what will happen next. We will make sure that we are available to speak to you throughout, to keep you advised of progress and to answer any questions that you may have.
We deal with all aspects of Care proceedings, including the following:
- Child Protection Conferences
- Pre-proceedings meetings (also known as letter before proceedings)
- Police Powers of Protection
- Emergency Protection Orders
- Care Orders
- Supervision Orders
- Defending allegations of injury, abuse or neglect
- Placement Orders
- Adoption Orders
- Special Guardianship Orders
- Secure Accommodation Orders
- Recovery Orders
- Wardship and Orders under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court, including Deprivation of Liberty (DoLs)
- The Parental Substance Misuse Court (PSMC) or equivalent (in some areas, this is known as FDAC)
- Applications for Expert assessments and Residential placements
Common questions about Care proceedings
What are Care proceedings?
Care proceedings start when a local authority has concerns that a child is at risk of or is suffering significant harm. A social worker will provide the court with information about the situation as they understand it, and the Court will decide whether to make an Order. One of the decisions that will need to be made is whether or not the child should be placed into foster care. You will have an opportunity to share your views and to make representations to the Court about what you believe should happen. A CAFCASS Guardian, will also be appointed to represent the child’s wishes and feelings in the Court proceedings. A solicitor for the child will be appointed to work alongside the CAFCASS Guardian for the child.
There are a number of different orders that can be made, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. Emergency Protection Orders and Interim Care Orders may be made to place a child into the care of the local authority or to place with a family member. Occasionally, these Orders are used to keep a child at home with a parent. A Supervision Order allows a local authority to keep a child at home whilst parents receive advice, assistance and support in respect of their parenting.
If you are facing Care proceedings, our Family and Children Law Team can represent you to liaise with the local authority and social workers and to help you put forward your case in Court.
What happens during Care proceedings?
You will be notified of any application made to the Court. In an emergency situation, you are likely to receive very short notice of any application and a hearing may be heard the same day. As soon as you are advised of the Court’s involvement, you are recommended to ask a solicitor to represent you. If you are a parent or a person with parental responsibility for a child, you will be automatically entitled to access free non-means and non-merits tested legal representation through funding from the Legal Aid Agency.
Most cases have at least two separate court hearings, although, if your matter is complex, there may be a number of hearings. You are entitled to be present and represented at all hearings.
While the local authority will act in what they believe to be the best interests of your child, they may make an application to the Court for an Order to put them into the care of the local authority if they believe they are suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm. However, they generally try to keep families together where possible and offer professional support to help this happen.
How long do Care proceedings take?
The Court may ask for assessments and reports to be completed and there may be several hearings to help assist the Court in what evidence it needs before final decisions can be made. The Courts try to conclude proceedings within 26 weeks (6 months). However, where there are complex issues, proceedings may take longer.
On what grounds does the local authority make the decision to issue Care proceedings to remove a child?
The local authority will ask the court to make a Care Order when they believe that a child is suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm.
The Children Act 1989 defines a significant risk of harm as ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development. Ill-treatment includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Impairment of health includes impairment of physical, intellectual, emotional, social and behavioural development, including neglect.
Can you get your children back if they’ve been taken into care?
If your circumstances change and you are still in proceedings, then the Court may decide that you have done enough for your child to be returned to your care.
If proceedings have concluded and final Orders have been made, you may be able to apply to the Court to have an order discharged or revoked, although the law usually requires that there is evidence of a significant change in circumstances. Depending on the Order made, sometimes there is also an additional hurdle of seeking leave (permission from the Court) before you can apply to discharge or revoke the Court Order.
Where recommendations have been made, such as accessing a course of therapy, or being free from alcohol and drugs for at least a year, these will need to be engaged with before consideration will be given to Orders being discharged or revoked by the Court.
Your solicitor will be able to go through the terms of the original Order with you and assess what has changed and whether there are sufficient grounds to ask the Court to discharge or revoke an Order.
Can you adopt your grandchildren?
It is legally possible to adopt a grandchild, although you should be aware that it will change the structure of your family, giving the grandparent the role of parent. The child’s birth parents would no longer have the rights and responsibilities of parents as it legally severs their rights as a parent. This can be difficult for both the birth parents and, where a child is old enough to understand, for the child themselves.
Where a child’s parents are still involved in their life, it may be more appropriate for a grandparent to become a Special Guardian or a connected persons’ long term foster carer for a child.
What is the role of a Special Guardian?
When a child cannot live with their birth parents, appointing a Special Guardian can give them a secure home with another appropriate person. This could be a grandparent, other relative or a foster carer. Whilst a guardian, is generally appointed in a Will, a Special Guardian is appointed by the Court, through the making of a Special Guardianship Order.
A Special Guardian will have overriding parental responsibility for the child, but the birth parents will remain the child’s legal parents. It is frequently used where grandparents or other family members wish to take on an official caring role in a child’s life under the security of an Order. Depending on your financial circumstances, you may be assessed as eligible by the Local Authority to receive monthly financial assistance to help you care for the child.