A guide to understanding Childcare Proceedings

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1 A guide to understanding Chidcare Proceedings

2 About this guide Care Proceedings are one of the most traumatic and emotiona episodes that can happen in anyone s ife. When Chidren s Services (formery Socia Services) become invoved in your famiy s ives, things can often get very compicated, very quicky. It can sometimes be overwheming and eave you feeing ike you have nowhere to turn. We have put this simpe guide together in cear, everyday words to provide detais on the main parts of the process invoved in chidcare proceedings, and hopefuy answer some of the questions you may have shoud you be - or about to be - invoved in any form of Care Proceedings. The main aim of this guide is to provide you with the key aspects of chidcare proceedings in the run-up to and during any invovement with the Courts, so that you know what is ikey to happen and have a cearer idea of some of the things a soicitor or Chidren s Services wi be taking to you about.

3 Chidren s Services investigations Chidren's Services have a ega obigation to act if they have any evidence that your chid is in some way at risk of significant harm. This wi usuay mean that Chidren's Services wi then take action to understand more about the safety and webeing of your chid. This is normay done by making a number of direct enquiries with you and setting up meetings to meet you - the parents - and the chid in question, in the hope of becoming satisfied that the situation can be resoved without the need for any further action. However if this does not happen, Chidren's Services wi then begin a process that may we end in Court. This invoves: A chid protection enquiry. Care proceedings through the Courts. Each of these stages are now expained in a itte bit more detai for you. What shoud happen before any Court action - Chid Protection Enquiry. The aw is actuay there to protect you, the parents from your chid or chidren being taken away from you, without an amount of work having been done before that. If Chidren's Services fet that there was an imminent risk to your chid then in that case, they woud seek to begin Court proceedings immediatey. Chidren's Services more often than not, try to work with you and your famiy to avoid going to Court. If Chidren's Services had information that gave them cause to worry, then they woud usuay work through a of the foowing steps before issuing Court proceedings. A Chid Protection Enquiry invoves: A discussion around the pan for your chid s needs This is caed a strategy discussion. It is when Chidren's Services arrange everyone invoved to either meet up or have a phone ca together. It sometimes may invove peope from the poice, heath and education agencies. The reason for having this strategy discussion is to agree what the next steps are. This is not a meeting you wi be invited to and sometimes part of the information wi not be shared with you. A strategy discussion wi normay ony take pace when Chidren's Services beieve there is ikey to be significant harm caused to your chid. An assessment of your chid s needs The purpose of this assessment, known as a Section 47 assessment is to aow Chidren's Services to understand if indeed your chid is in need of support or hep. This wi be carried out by a socia worker and may at this stage incude your wider famiy. Socia workers, teachers and heath professionas may discuss your situation or share information about your circumstances, but there are very strict rues around how they do this. Normay information about you wi not be shared without your permission. By aw, this assessment needs to be competed within 45 days from the day of any referra around your chid's situation being made.

4 The initia chid protection conference A chid protection conference is arranged to review a the information that the various peope invoved in your chid's case have pued together. What is aimed for here is a ook at a the circumstances, to assess whether your chid is at continuing risk of significant harm. This chid protection conference wi aso agree what needs to be done to make sure your chid is safe in the future. There wi be a written report from Chidren's Services that wi incude a the information gathered during the enquiry. You wi be invited to this meeting uness there is reason to think that doing so may cause confict. If you have not been aowed to attend then you have the right to have your views heard often in writing. A review conference Once the pan has been agreed, there wi be a review conference, maybe more than one. This is to ook at how the pans that were agreed are working out. This is your opportunity to show how you and your famiy have changed this situation, to ensure your chid is not ikey to be in harm s way in the future. The first review conference has to take pace within three months of the origina chid protection conference. It can be agreed at one of these that there is a need for further conferences to take pace and, if they do, they wi have to be at no more than six month intervas. This meeting can agree that they no onger need to have a protection pan in pace, woud ike to continue with a number of review meetings or pan to begin ega proceedings. Core Group Core Group members usuay consist of the socia worker, famiy members and professionas invoved with the parents and chid. If a chid is accommodated by a Loca Authority, the foster carers who have direct contact with the famiy wi aso be invited. If appropriate, the chid may aso be invoved. Members of the Core Group are jointy responsibe for a Chid Protection Pan, refining and monitoring the pan and ooking at progress made. The Core Group does not change the Chid Protection Pan; major decisions concerning the pan must be made at the chid protection conference. The first Core Group meeting wi take pace within ten days of the initia chid protection conference and wi have review meetings every six weeks. A ega panning meeting - Gatekeeping If the socia workers invoved in your case decide the situation is not getting better, then what is known as a ega panning meeting wi be arranged. This meeting is with the socia worker s awyers and is arranged to decide whether you shoud be given a further period to improve the situation, or whether someone ese in your famiy woud be better equipped to care for your chid. They may aso decide that they wish to remove your chid from your care. You wi not be invited to this meeting, but you wi receive a etter with the decision of the meeting. If the decision is that you wi be given more time to improve the situation, you wi sti be sent a etter before proceedings commence. This is caed a Pre-proceedings Letter and wi set out the Loca Authority s concerns and what you need to do, as a parent, to prevent proceedings being issued. You wi be invited to a meeting aong with your soicitor. This wi te you that Court proceedings are ikey to happen, but you are being given more time to change things. If you have not aready spoken to a soicitor by this point, then it is highy advisabe you do.

5 Care Proceedings - the ega process Linder Myers has a great dea of experience in chidcare proceedings. We have a team of soicitors who ony work in this area. We have a weath of experience of situations where Court proceedings are panned. It s hugey important to us that you are made to fee as comfortabe and in contro as possibe and that is something we pride ourseves on being abe to do. Normay, you wi be made aware via a etter that Court proceedings are starting. In some circumstances however, things wi not happen ike that, for exampe if Chidren's Services have appied for emergency protection. The first thing that you need to do is contact one of our experienced chidcare soicitors who wi be abe to advise you during this difficut time. Parents and those with Parenta Responsibiity for a chid wi be abe to obtain free ega advice. Our fees are funded by the Lega Aid Agency, so there is no need for you to worry about ega costs. Our chidcare speciaist soicitors are experienced in deaing with cases that invove aegations that chidren have been negected, have suffered physica injuries, or sexua abuse. Going to Court This is a difficut experience for any parent and we wi be on hand to ensure that you understand what is happening. There are a ot of peope invoved in care proceedings; the soicitors and barristers, socia workers and a Chidren s Guardian. The Chidren s Guardian is usuay a socia worker and works for CAFCASS (Chidren and Famiies Court Advisory Service) and is independent from Loca Authorities and the Court. The Guardian is the voice of the chid in care proceedings. The proceedings must finish within 26 weeks and it s vita that you obtain expert ega advice as the time wi pass quicky and you need speciaist advice to ensure that this time is used to verify that appropriate assessments are undertaken on you. The Loca Authority wi be seeking a Court Order if they beieve that your chid is not receiving the sort of care he / she is reasonaby expected to get from a parent. This might be because your chid may aready be on a Chid Protection Pan or the Loca Authority may have started pre-proceedings meetings, and the socia worker is saying that the care you are giving to your chid is not improving. It may aso be the case that your chid has suffered a non-accidenta injury such as a fracture, a burn or a brain injury. In these cases a referra may have been made from schoo, hospita or the poice to Chidren s Services who then want to take the case to Court. The most common order that a Loca Authority wi seek is a Interim / Care Order that aows the Loca Authority to share Parenta Responsibiity (PR) with the parents for the chid. You do not ose your PR but the Loca Authority can imit your PR if this is considered necessary in the interests of your chid. When a Care Order is granted, your chid becomes a Looked After Chid and there wi aso be reguar meetings with socia workers away from the Courts to review the case. There wi be quite a ot of documents in the proceedings. An important document is the care pan. There wi be a separate care pan for each chid and this wi set out the Loca Authority pan for the chid, and the Court must consider this pan when making decisions for your chid. An Interim Care Order is a temporary order unti the Court makes a fina decision in your chid s case.

6 When the proceedings come to an end The Court wi usuay have a minimum of three hearings, the very first hearing and a hearing towards the end when everyone hopes that the proceedings wi concude by agreement. This is caed an issues resoution hearing. At this hearing, a the evidence wi be competed and if a the parties in the case agree, the Court can finaise the case. If a party however disagrees or a matter is sti unresoved, for exampe how the chid was injured, then in these circumstances the Court wi arrange a fina hearing. At this hearing you may need to give evidence in support of your case and you may be asked questions. The socia worker, guardian and any appropriate experts may aso give evidence and at the end of the case, the Court wi make a decision. Wi I sti see my chid If your chid is taken into foster care, you wi sti see them. The Loca Authority have an obigation to ensure that reguar contact takes pace and the socia worker cannot stop your contact unreasonaby. The Loca Authority woud need a Court Order to suspend your contact with your chid.

7 What assessments wi be undertaken During the proceedings, it is essentia that the right assessments are undertaken to ensure that the whoe picture is presented to the Court about the care you can give to your chid. Each assessment wi be different as the facts of each case are different but generay, a Loca Authority wi assess you and your abiity to care for your chid. This is caed a parenting assessment. The Loca Authority may have aready undertaken an assessment if your chid is subject to a Chid Protection Pan, but we wi need to ensure that this is the right assessment for you and that there have been no mistakes in it. If you have a earning disabiity, you wi need a speciaist parenting assessment to ensure that your disabiity is taken into account when assessing your abiity to care for your chid. It maybe necessary to have independent expert evidence, for exampe from a speciaist chidren s doctor such as a paediatrician to provide a report on your chid s deveopment. If your chid has been injured, other experts may aso be invoved such as a paediatric radioogist to give a second opinion on X-rays or a paediatric neuroogist if your baby may have suffered a head injury. It may aso be necessary for menta heath assessments to be undertaken from psychoogists and psychiatrists, drug and acoho testing and sometimes, when there is a dispute about who is the chid s bioogica father, DNA testing wi be undertaken. oder chidren. The Court wi ony separate a famiy when there is an immediate risk of harm to a chid. At Linder Myers, our focus ike the Courts is to keep famiies together. We understand the importance of cutura and reigious beiefs and wi argue that if a chid is taken into foster care that his or her cutura and reigious beiefs are, wherever possibe, matched with the foster carer or steps are taken to preserve those beiefs to respect your chid s heritage and anguage. Where can I get more information Your soicitor shoud be abe to give you a the advice and guidance you need. However, if you woud ike to, you can find a ot of information onine. We can recommend the Famiy Rights Group - They have a ot of information avaiabe onine incuding: Guidance on chid protection procedures Sheets/9-chid-protection-procedures.pdf Guidance on care and court proceedings images/advice_sheets/15-care-proceedings.pdf Where wi my chid ive during the assessments The Loca Authority may want your chid to go into foster care whist they undertake assessments. This can be very upsetting for both parents and chidren, especiay

8 Common words and phrases Adoption Adoption is an Order made by the Court that aows another famiy to parent your chid. An adoption order is an order of ast resort and the Court wi ony grant one in exceptiona circumstances when, there s no one within the famiy to care for the chid. The adoptive parents become the chid s new parents and the chid s birth ties with you come to an end and you no onger have PR. CAFCASS This stands for Chidren and Famiies Court Advisory Service. Care Order This is an order of the Court and enabes a Loca Authority to share Parenta Responsibiity with you. An Interim Care Order wi remain in pace for the duration of care proceedings. A Fina Care Order remains in pace unti a chid reaches 18, or the Care Order is discharged. Contact The Loca Authority has a duty to offer you reasonabe contact with your chid. The Loca Authority cannot suspend your contact without an Order of the Court. Emergency Protection Order There are two grounds to this appication. Firsty that there is reasonabe cause to beieve that the chid is ikey to suffer significant harm if not accommodated by a Loca Authority. The harm must be significant and the circumstances exceptiona, warranting imminent danger to the chid. An Emergency Protection Order asts for a maximum duration of 8 days. Guardian A trained socia worker who has undertaken additiona training to work for CAFCASS and promote the chid s wefare within the proceedings and be the voice of the chid. Parenta Responsibiity (PR) You wi share this with the Loca Authority in making decisions for your chid. Poice Protection Order If the Poice consider that your chid is at risk of significant harm, they can remove your chid from your care for a maximum of 72 hours. Section 20 - Vountary Agreement This is where you agree, on a temporary basis, for your chid to be taken into foster care. You wi usuay have signed an agreement prepared by a socia worker. Secure Accommodation A chid can be egay paced into secure accommodation if the Court is satisfied that the chid has a history of absconding and is ikey to injure themseves or others. This is an order where the chid s iberty is taken away. The order wi ast, in the first instance for a maximum of 3 months and upto 6 months on a further appication to the Court. If a chid is under 13, the permission of the Secretary of State is required. The chid must attend this hearing. Specia Guardianship Order (SGO) This is an order appointing one or more peope as the chid s Specia Guardian. It enabes a chid s ong-term pacement to be secure and for the chid to continue to ive in the famiy and importanty does not sever your reationship with the chid and in most cases, you continue to see the chid. You wi retain your PR for the chid but the Specia Guardian wi have a higher PR giving them more responsibiity over decision-making for the chid. Supervision Order This is an order of the Court and provides a duty upon a Loca Authority to assist and befriend your chid. This basicay aows the Loca Authority to supervise your chid. A Supervision Order wi remain in force for

9 a set period of time - usuay 12 months - and wi automaticay come to an end uness the Loca Authority seeks a further order from the Court. Threshod Criteria The Court cannot make a Care or Supervision Order uness it is satisfied that your chid is ikey to suffer significant harm, and that that harm is attributabe to the care you have given to your chid, or that your chid is beyond parenta contro. Checkist - things we need to know Names and addresses of chid s parents: Your teephone and Nationa Insurance Numbers: Chid s name and date of birth: Where is the chid iving Name of the Socia Worker. Which Loca Authority is invoved What are the Socia Worker s concerns about your parenting Have you received a Pre-Proceedings Letter and, if so, what is the date of the meeting We wi need a copy of this etter, so pease keep this safe. Have you been served with papers If so, pease keep these in a safe pace and bring these with you to our first meeting. What is the Court hearing date and where is it taking pace

10 About the Linder Myers Care Team So why us Working with parents, grandparents and other famiy members, we can hep if the Loca Authority removes your chid from care, threatens to do so, or if it is investigating the care of your chidren. Where Chidren s Services take your chid away, Linder Myers can represent you in Court to: try get your chid home. estabish contact between you and your chid. hep remove some of the stress during this very difficut time. We can aso dea with Chidren s Services, socia workers, CAFCASS and Loca Authorities on your behaf. In addition of this, Linder Myers can provide representation in respect of: Care proceedings Contact with chidren in care Specia Guardianship Adoption Fostering Discharge of care orders We are on hand to guide you through this difficut and often engthy process and provide you with advice at every stage. Your first meeting with a soicitor wi be free of charge whist we consider your options and often pubic funding wi be avaiabe to you so that you do not have the added worry about paying ega costs. We can aso hep grandparents appy for the chidren to ive with them instead of being taken into care. If you d ike to find out how we can hep you, contact a member of our team today. Tony Broadey Partner Phoenix House, 45 Cross Street Manchester M2 4JF. Diane Cogan Soicitor Phoenix House, 45 Cross Street Manchester M2 4JF. Meanie Sharpes Soicitor Phoenix House, 45 Cross Street Manchester M2 4JF. Tony is head of the Famiy and Chidcare Department across the firm. Having a passion for the aw, Tony has worked both as a practising barrister and as a soicitor. He studied aw at Leicester University and started out his ega career as a barrister, having been caed to the Bar in Tony s speciaist areas are Chid Law, Crime and Road Traffic Offences. He is a we-known and much-respected advocate on the Manchester Court Circuit. Diane has a passion for Chidcare aw. She has an exceent reputation as a speciaist Chidcare soicitor. Diane reguary represents parents, grandparents, extended famiy members and chidren in care and supervision proceedings. She aso advises famiy members and foster carers on specia guardianship orders, coupes and individuas seeking to adopt a chid, Ward of Court matters and aso in Private Law Chidren Act proceedings. Meanie is a Soicitor in the Famiy department. She joined the firm in December 2011 foowing the acquisition of Rowands Fied Cunningham. Meanie speciaises in care proceedings representing parents, grandparents and extended famiy, private aw Chidren s Act proceedings and domestic vioence. She aso has a arge cient case at a oca women s prison. Meanie provides practica advice in a friendy and approachabe manner.

11 Linder Myers Soicitors has speciaist divisions covering private cient, bodiy injury and commercia issues. We aim aways to provide expert ega advice in a straightforward, friendy and efficient manner. We genuiney beieve in the vision that our soicitors have to be peope first, awyers second, in their approach to working with cients. We operate from a number of offices: LANCASHIRE MANCHESTER CHESHIRE SHROPSHIRE Park Street, Lytham, FY8 5LU 45 Cross Street, Manchester, M2 4JF Windsor House, Pepper Street, Chester, CH1 1DF Market Street, Shrewsbury, SY1 1LG. Unit 5 Abert Edward House, Preston, PR2 2YB 19 Spring Gardens, Manchester, M2 1FB. Our abiity to provide a unique bend of ega services to both individuas and businesses is what we beieve truy sets us apart. That and an unwavering commitment to making sure that cients have the best possibe cient experience from beginning to end. Our services incude: Services for you Services for business Trusts and Estates Empoyment Conveyancing Commercia Litigation Famiy Law Corporate & Commercia Dispute Resoution Commercia Property Court of Protection Costs Management Persona Injury Franchising Medica Negigence Empoyment Occupationa Disease Disputed Wis and Probate Crimina Defence and Reguatory

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