Have a question?
033 3772 0409

Child Care Solicitors

The Impact of Parental Mental Health on Children who are the Subjects of Care Proceedings (16 October 2017)

Date: 16/10/2017
Duncan Lewis, Child Care Solicitors, The Impact of Parental Mental Health on Children who are the Subjects of Care Proceedings

The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry have done much in recent times to raise awareness of mental health and dispel the stigma attached to it, by speaking about their own personal experiences. Is this enough to provide reassurances to parents with mental illness whose children are the subject of care proceedings?

When the court is concerned with making decisions about the upbringing of any child, its paramount consideration is the child’s welfare. Parents are not expected to be perfect but to provide “good enough” care to their children.

The kind of mental health issues which would affect a parent ranges from depression and anxiety, to diagnoses of personality disorders and psychosis. The courts will consider whether the presenting illness or condition impacts on the parents’ ability to meet the children’s physical, emotional, educational, and social needs.

The starting point will be for the court to order an expert assessment of the parent(s) concerned to establish both diagnosis and prognosis, and to identify whether the issues are likely to prevent the parent(s) concerned from meeting the children’s needs. The court will also consider whether, if any treatment is recommended, the parent is likely to engage with that treatment and whether this can be done within the children’s timeframe.

In the past the Court was prepared to adjourn final hearings to allow parents to undergo therapy, and for there to be a further report to assess whether the child(ren) concerned can remain in or be returned to their parents’ care. Since 2014 the court has been constrained by the 26 week time frame in which it must make final decisions about the children’s care. This can be an obstacle to parents who have to take part in therapy which lasts for a long time. This may result in the children being placed with family members or in foster care. Parents can however apply to discharge the final order once they have completed the recommended therapy and can show that they are able to care for the child(ren). This is not satisfactory when children are of adoptable age, and if a Placement Order is made, the parents concerned will have limited time to apply to discharge that Order and also limited time to prove to the Court that the concerns which led to the Placement Order being made, no longer exist.

If parental mental ill health is coupled with drug and/or alcohol abuse, for example where the parents concerned use illicit substances to self-medicate to deal with their anxieties, this can result in concerns around neglect which might make for a less favourable prognosis upon assessment. Conversely if the only issue is short term depression which is well managed through medication, that is much less likely to result in parents having their child(ren) removed from their care, but some supervision and monitoring of the situation might be considered necessary.

It is unlikely that the recent and welcome public awareness and destigmatisation of mental health is sufficient to enable parents with mental health issues to retain the care of their children in care proceedings. However the author of this article hopes that it will encourage parents to seek help as early as possible and to engage with any recommended treatment or therapy in order to work towards keeping their children with them with some support, or having their children rehabilitated to them wherever possible.

Anna Perry is an experienced specialist child care solicitor who regularly acts for parents in care proceedings. Anna is also accredited to act for children through their Guardians in all children related matters.

Duncan Lewis Childcare Solicitors

Duncan Lewis’ Child Care team can advise parents on a wide range of child care law and family matters, including parents’ duties under the Education Act 1996 and SEND. We advise on many areas of Child Law including those involving social services, or private law matters and we understand the importance of representing you and your family’s best interest.

Duncan Lewis can also advise on Section 38 enquiries, pre-proceedings meetings, children taken into Local Authority care and Court of Protection cases. We can provide advocacy during all stages of Court proceedings, ensuring a professional and consistent service.

The Duncan Lewis Child Care Law department is recommended in Legal 500 2017 and includes members of the Law Society Children and Family Panel Members. The majority are also members of the Association for the Lawyers for Children, and of Resolution (formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association).

For expert legal advice on family and child care matters, call Duncan Lewis Child Care solicitors on 0333 772 0409.

For all Child Care related matter contact us now.Contact Us

Call us now on 033 3772 0409 or click here to send online enquiry.
Offices Outside London
Duncan Lewis is the trading name of Duncan Lewis (Solicitors) Limited. Registered Office is Spencer House, 29 Grove Hill Road, Harrow, HA1 3BN. Company Reg. No. 3718422. VAT Reg. No. 718729013. A list of the company's Directors is displayed at the registered offices address. Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority . Offices all across London and in major cities in the UK. ©Duncan Lewis >>Legal Disclaimer, Copyright & Privacy Policy. Duncan Lewis do not accept service by email.