We are able to provide specialist advice in relation to the following:
- Attending Child Protection Conferences
- Children Accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act
- Declarations of Parentage
- Local Authority Applications to remove children from the care of their parents whether by an Emergency
- Protection Order or a Care Order
- Secure Accommodation
- Supervision Orders
- Private Child (Child custody issues)
If you are considering adopting a child, our family solicitors will be able to go through the procedure with you and ensure you are clear on all the legal issues you may face. In this section we explain the following adoption matters, which you should be aware of before starting this process:
- Placement Orders
- International Adoption
- Special Guardianship
A placement order allows a child to live with prospective adoptive parents. The order is applied for by the local authority of the child. If you wish to adopt, you will have to obtain placement order first, before an adoption order is applied for.
If a child has been placed with you under a placement order, it means you will share parental responsibility for that child with:
- The birth parents and/or
- The local authority who applied for the placement order
The prospective adoptive parents will enjoy exclusive parental responsibility for the child one the adoption order has been made, thereby completing the adoption process.
If you are adopting a child from abroad, most of the procedure will take place outside the UK. However, you will still need to meet UK eligibility requirements before the adoption can go ahead. Our family solicitors have helped a number of clients through this process and will be able to guide you through the procedure.
If you become a child’s special guardian, the child will be able to live permanently with you as if you had adopted them. The key difference between this and adoption, however, is that you would share parental responsibility with the birth parents. Our family solicitors will be able to advise you whether this option is favourable in your case.
Social services can be an intimidating organisation, but in many cases parents and guardians feel more threatened by them than they should be. Social services are not allowed to remove your child from your care without proper warning, as it is often assumed that they do. There are a number of ways in which social services can give you the help you need to be a good parent. Our family solicitors. have close professional contacts with social services and should you need representation, we will be able to resent your case to them on your behalf.
In this section you can find information on some of the more common areas of family law associated with Public Child Care:
- Child Protection Conferences
- Pre-proceedings meetings
- Powers of the court
- Information for family members
- Local authority duties under s. 47
- Provisions for children in need under s.17
- Accommodation for children under s. 20
Child Protection Conferences
Child protection conferences are usually the first contact a parent or guardian will have with social services. The purpose of this conference is for everyone concerned with the child – as well as family, this can include teachers, doctors, etc.- to share information about the child’s wellbeing. If, at the end of this conference, it is concluded that the child is in danger of suffering harm of some sort, then steps will be taken to ensure their safety is protected. These steps will be formalised as a Child Protection Plan.
If a CPC is held, it does not automatically mean that your child will be taken into care. However, it is very important that you attend this meeting with a legal representative to make sure your position is made clear at the CPC. Our family solicitors will be able to represent your interests and explain each stage to you as the procedure progresses.
If your local authority is considering Child Care proceedings for your child, they are obliged to contact you in writing and:
- Confirm that they are considering beginning care proceedings and
- What concerns they have about your child that has led them to consider this course of action.
On receiving this letter, you will be invited to attend the pre-proceeding meeting. It is very important that you have a lawyer with you at this meeting to make sure you provide the relevant information to the local authority.
Legal services for pre-proceedings meetings are all publically funded.
Powers of the court
If a local authority decides that action must be taken, they will have to get the correct permission from the court. The court will have three main options available to them:
- Care Order
- Supervision Order
- Police Protection Order
- No Order
Care Order – this will place your child in care and make them the responsibility of social services. As parents, you have the right to complain if you are unhappy with the decision to place your child in care. You should contact our family department immediately if this issue concerns you.
Supervision Order – this order will not place your child in care, but will allow social services to supervise your child to ensure they are not at risk of harm.
Police Protection Order – this order can last for a maximum of 72 hours. It gives a police officer the power to remove a child who is being harmed or at risk of being so to safe accommodation. If at the end of this period social services deem it necessary, they may apply for a care order. If your child has been placed in accommodation under a police protection order, contact us immediately for assistance.
No Order – the court will always look to keep the child with their parents unless there are very compelling reasons why they cannot allow it. If the courts are not satisfied that the local authority has good enough reasons to be concerned for the child’s safety, they will make no order and the child’s circumstances will remain unchanged.
If you are the family member, but not a parent or guardian, of a child who may becomes subject to intervention from social services, you may be able to apply for kinship. If the court grants you kinship, you will be able to take over parental responsibility. This avoids sending the child into care where they are likely to be placed in a family who they do not know. It can be an interim or long term solution depending upon your circumstances.
If you think kinship would be a good option for your family, contact our family solicitors for the necessary legal advice and services.
What are your local authority’s duties?
Under section 47 of the Children’s Act 1989, your local authority has a duty to make enquiries about any child in their area who is:
- subject to an emergency protection order
- is being protected by the police as the result of a police protection order
- living in their area and is suspected to be at risk of harm – they must show that they have ‘reasonable cause’ to believe the child is at risk.
When the local authority is making their enquiries they may feel they need to ask various public bodies for information. These may include the NHS, the local education authority, housing authority etc. These bodies, if asked, in turn have a duty to co-operate with the local authority so that the child’s situation can be properly assessed.
Provisions for children in need under s.17
Under section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989, your local authority has a duty to provide services that will assist your child if they are ‘in need’. Your child will be considered in need if they:
- are disabled
- have a health concern that could severely compromise their standard of living without the correct support.
Whether or not any form of payment is required for these services will be decided based on the means of the child and/or their parents, but they will not be charged for if the parents are in receipt of benefits.
Our family lawyers have a significant level of experience helping people obtain the right services for their child. Contact us for information on the legal services we can provide.
Accommodation for children under s. 20
Under section 20 of the Children’s Act 1989, a local authority has a duty to provide a accommodation to any child in their area who:
- has no parents - and no one else has parental responsibility for them
- has been lost or abandoned
They cannot provide accommodation to a child who has a parent or guardian who is willing and able to look after them.
If a parent or guardian has asked the local authority to provide their child with accommodation because they themselves are unable or unwilling to do so, the parent or guardian may remove the child from the accommodation whenever they wish.
If you feel you may wish to contact your local authority regarding this service, contact our family solicitors for more information.