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JR Jones Solicitors Birmingham
solicitors Birmingham

Child Protection Frequently Asked Questions

When Social Services become involved with your family it can be a distressing and confusing time. We can help you through the process and represent you at every stage of the legal process.

Below are the questions we are most frequently asked about Social Services involvement with children. Please click on a link to see the answer or contact us for more personal advice.

What are Care proceedings?

When a Local Authority believes that a child may be, or is likely to suffer serious harm, they can apply to the Court for a Care Order.

If your child is subject to care proceedings by Social contact usServices it is critical that you contact us as soon as possible so that we can represent you.

Care proceedings will involve a Child Protection Case Conference where you will be asked to meet with various professionals to discuss the situation. These professionals may include Social workers, Doctors, Teachers and any agencies involved with your child.

During a case conference you should be represented by a solicitor who will advise you and help you to understand the proceedings.

At this stage Social Services cannot take any action that you do not agree with without obtaining the Court’s permission. The goal of a case conference is to decide whether arrangements can be made for your child’s care without the need for a Care Order being made by the Court.

Your child will be represented by a Court appointed guardian from the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service) (CAFCASS ). The guardian does not work for Social Services and their job is to represent your child’s best interests.

The process may go through a number of steps, which could result in a Care Order being made in relation to your child’s ongoing care. The type of order made by the Court will depend on the circumstances of the case.

The Local Authority may decide to leave the child living at home with the parents, or with other relatives. Alternatively, they may decide that the child should be placed with foster carers or be placed in a children’s home.

It is also possible for the child to be placed with potential adopters, although the child could not be adopted with the Court making an Adoption Order.

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Can I get legal aid for my Child Care case?

Parents and others who have parental responsibility for a child involved in care proceedings can receive legal aid to pay their solicitor’s fees. You can receive this regardless of your financial means.

Your solicitor will set up the public funding (legal aid) for you.

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What is looked at during Care proceedings?

The most important factors if care proceedings is always the child’s welfare. The Court will take into account the following factors:

  • The physical, emotional and educational needs of the child.
  • The likely effect of any change in circumstances on the child.
  • The feelings and wishes of the child. These will be assessed taking into account his or her age and understanding of the situation.
  • Any harm the child has suffered or is judged to be at risk of suffering.
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any relevant characteristics the child may have.
  • How capable the child’s parents (or guardians) are of meeting the child’s needs.
  • The range of powers available to the Court.

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What Court Orders relate to children?

Care Orders enable the Local Authority to share parental responsibility for a child, which means that they are involved in making important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as where they live and who they live with.

A Care Order will usually last until a child is 18 years old, although you can apply for a discharge of a Care Order before then.

Below are some of the common Court Orders available:

Supervision Order

A Supervision Order places a child under the supervision of the Local Authority, however it does not grant them parental responsibility. This often means that the child remains with the parents rather than being taken into care, but that the children are supervised by Social Services to make sure they are well cared for.

Living Arrangements Order (Replaces the old Residence Order & Contact Order)

A Living Arrangements Order sets out where the child lives and who looks after them. It also sets out who can see the child, for instance if they are not returning to live with the parents.

Living Arrangements Orders can be made in respect of parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, other relatives and friends.

Placement Order

A Placement Order gives the Local Authority the authorisation to place a child with prospective adopters. It can only be made where a child is already the subject of a Care Order or where the threshold criteria for a Care Order contact usare reached.

Parental consent to a Placement Order can be dispensed with by the Court on the basis that either the parent is incapable of giving consent; or that the welfare of the child requires the consent to be dispensed with.

Additional legal proceedings are required before the Court can make an Adoption Order.

Adoption Order

An Adoption Order transfers Parental Responsibility for the child from the birth parents (or whoever had Parental Responsibility), to the adopter on a permenant basis.

An Adoption Order will be made where the Court agrees that adoption is in the best interests of the child and Parental consent to adoption has either been given or dispensed with by the Court.

Emergency Protection Order (EPO)

An Emergency Protection Order can be applied for where there is an immediate risk of significant harm to a child.

A Local Authority will usually make the application for an EPO, although the NSPCC, a police officer or any other person may apply for one.

An EPO enables a child to be removed from the current abode to other accommodation or to remain in a place where they are being safely accommodated (for example a hospital or foster placement).

Special Guardianship Order (SGO)

A Special Guardianship Order offers another option for children who require permanent care outside their birth family. It offers greater security for the child without severing ties permanently from the birth family, as in the case with adoption.

Special Guardians have parental responsibility for the child, replacing parental responsibility held by the Local Authority under a Care Order.

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How can a Care Order be ended or discharged?

Someone who currently has parental responsibility for a child can ask the Court to discharge a Care Order. The Court will agree to do this if it can be shown that there has been a real change in circumstances since the order was made and that it is in the child’s best interests. The Court will then assess the current risk to the child.

The Court can decide to replace the Care Order with a Supervision Order, which means the Local Authority will no longer have parental responsibility for the child but will supervise how the child is cared for instead.

If the Court discharges the Care Order, the person with parental responsibility will take over caring for the child.

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