Contact With Children in Local Authority Foster Care

Contact With Children in Local Authority Foster Care
Written by: Daniel Maiden Updated: In: Child Care

This article has been written by Cartwright King’s Child Law solicitor, Daniel Maiden.

When a Court makes an order to remove children from the care of their parents and to place them in Local Authority Foster Care, one issue that becomes immediately clear is the amount of contact the children will have with their parents.

Who Can Children Contact Once in Local Authority Foster Care?

When children are placed in Local Authority Foster Care, the Local Authority has a duty to allow children “reasonable” contact with the following groups of persons;

  1. Their parents;
  2. Any guardian or Special Guardian;
  3. Anyone who has parental responsibility;
  4. Anyone who the children lived with before they were moved into Local Authority Foster Care.

Understanding ‘Reasonable’ Contact

One question that becomes clear is, what does “reasonable” mean? Reasonable has never been defined in terms of contact between children who are in Local Authority and their parents, it is something that will be considered by the Court on a case-by-case basis and depends on the facts of the case.

Promoting Contact Between Children and Guardians

It is also important to note that the Local Authority has a duty to promote contact between children, who are in their care, with any friend, relative or other person who is connected with the children. An example of this is contact between children and their maternal or paternal grandparents.

Seeking Contact with Your Children in Foster Care

It is often the case that parents of children who are looked after by the Local Authority are not happy with the level of contact that they have with their children. However, parents can apply to the Court for a separate order for contact with their children. If grandparents would like to have contact with their grandchildren who are in Local Authority Foster Care, then they will need to ask the Court for permission before making their application.

The Court’s Focus: What’s Best For the Child

If a parent or grandparent does make an application for contact with children in Local Authority Foster Care, then the Court will consider the children’s welfare as their paramount consideration. The Court will also consider the welfare checklist which includes the following factors;

(a)the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child(ren) concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);

(b)his physical, emotional and educational needs;

(c)the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;

(d)his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;

(e)any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;

(f)how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;

(g)the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.

When to Re-Apply for Contact

It should be observed that if a parent or grandparent does make their application for contact with children in Local Authority Foster Care and the Court refuses it or they are unhappy with the outcome of the application, they cannot make another application for six months unless permission is granted by the Court. It is important to pick the right time to make such an application because making an application which is rushed could mean that contact will not increase for at least another six months.

When Contact Can Be Limited

We have discussed the Local Authority’s duty to promote contact between children who are in their care and with their parents or extended family members; however, the Local Authority does have the power to refuse reasonable contact if it is satisfied that it is necessary to safeguard the children. This refusal can last for up to seven days.

If a Local Authority wishes to not allow contact between children and a certain person, for example, the children’s mother, then an application to the Court must be made to allow the Local Authority to refuse contact. An example of an instance where such an application may be made is where the Local Authority has concerns that a mother and/or father and/or any other extended family member may influence the children during a police investigation into serious allegations of harm.

It is always crucial to remember that orders to not allow contact are permissive. They allow a Local Authority to not promote contact between children and a certain person, but if it comes to a point where the Local Authority thinks that contact should be re-instated, then it allows a Local Authority to re-instate contact without applying back to Court. An example of this is, if a police investigation has finished and the Local Authority does not have concerns that the mother and/or father and/or any other extended family member may influence the children because the investigation is over, then contact can re-commence.

Get Legal Help – Advocating for Your Children

If your children have been placed in Local Authority Foster Care and you wish to spend more time with the children or wish for them to be returned to your care, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Please call us on 03458 941 622 to speak with one of our legal advisors.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.