What Happens if Social Services Are Called?
When social services become involved with a family, parents or guardians can feel fearful that their child will be taken away against their wishes. However, if social services are called they can only remove a child from their home and start care proceedings if there is evidence that the child is at risk of immediate danger or harm. Additionally, to remove a child from a household, social services must be instructed by one of the following:
- Emergency protection orders
If social services have not been instructed by one of the prior, the decision to remove the child from their home will be made under an application from an interim care order. There will be legal arguments given for all parents or guardians with parental responsibility before the family judge can make any decisions. Therefore, in most cases, a child will not be removed from a household unless permission is granted by the parents/guardians.
What Happens if Social Services are Called?
The involvement that social services can have with a family depends on a multitude of factors specific to the family’s situation. Often social services can get involved when a family least expects it. This is because anybody can raise concerns regarding the welfare of a child. When child services are called in the UK, they have an obligation to check in on the welfare of the child.
When social services are called out to a family the first stage is an initial assessment. The Children’s Services work to the government’s guidelines to assess what actions should be taken regarding the concerns raised.
Social services will always contact you to arrange for an initial assessment unless the situation calls for more urgent action.
During the initial assessment, social workers will visit the family’s home and speak to the parents/guardians and children. From speaking to the family, social services will determine if the concerns about the welfare of the child are justified and if there is any risk to the children.
Outcomes After Social Services are Called for an Initial Assessment
After the initial assessment there are typically three outcomes:
- There is no risk to the welfare of the child. Therefore, there is no further action is needed.
- The child is ‘in need’ and therefore requires further involvement from social services. Further support from social services will vary depending on the specific needs of the case.
- A child is ‘at risk.’ Therefore, immediate intervention is needed by social services. The immediate intervention will vary depending on the specific case relating to the child.
It’s important to note that social services cannot stop parents or guardians from contacting their child or removing a child from a home without the consent of all parties with parental responsibility or by order of the family court. Therefore, if social services have removed a child or prohibited contact without consent or responsibility of the court, get in contact and our solicitors can help you.
Reasons Social Services Could Take Away Your Child?
There are many different reasons that social services could remove a child from a household, but the most common are:
- Abuse – Abuse is the most common reason why a child may be removed from a household. Abuse falls into four categories: physical, emotional, sexual, and substance abuse.
- Neglect – Neglect falls into different categories. The first category is emotional neglect. This is where the child’s emotional needs are not met. The next category is medical neglect. This is where medical treatment is not provided for the child when they need it. Finally, is the removal of basic human rights. This means water, food, and a clean and safe home are not provided for the child to live in.
- Illness – Illness relates to when a parent or guardian is either physically or mentally unwell and therefore cannot look after the child.
- Abandonment – Social services will get involved if a parent or guardian leaves the child for a long period of time. For example, a parent or guardian may drop off the child at a babysitter and never return.
What are Care Proceedings?
If social services deem the child to be at risk, they need to ask the parents or guardians for permission for the child to stay with a relative or foster carer until further investigations have been carried out. Social services cannot remove a child from home unless the parents or guardians agree to it. However, the rules are different if the child is deemed at immediate and urgent risk of harm and there is no voluntary agreement to remove a child from the environment. In this situation, the child can be placed in local authority care by police protection. Alternatively, the child may be placed with family, friends, or foster care.
Your Rights When Social Services are Called
If you are in a situation where social services are requesting to place your child with the local authority, Cartwright King recommends that you seek legal advice before agreeing to an intervention.
In most cases, if the social workers involved in your investigation believe there is a risk to the welfare of the child, they will apply to the court. Social services will apply to the court on notice to all parties involved in looking after the child. This is unless there is a good reason to justify that no notice is provided.
Additionally, the parents or guardians will be encouraged to remain in contact with the child. The arrangement is normally agreed upon between the parent/guardian and the Local Authority. If a decision for contact cannot be decided, the Court will make the decision.
Getting the Help of a Family Solicitor when Social Services are Called
If care proceedings have begun, you are eligible for legal aid regardless of your financial situation. Therefore, you do not need to pay for any of the legal advice and representation you receive during the legal process.
Cartwright King can provide you with expert advice and representation throughout care proceedings, when protection orders are granted, and when you are worried about your child being taken from your care.
What Happens During Care Proceedings?
If the local authority feels that the child is not safe in their guardian’s care, the authority may apply to the court for an interim care order. An interim care order is a temporary order which will last for the duration of the proceedings, giving the local authority parental responsibility for the child. At the hearing, the court will then decide where the child should live, and who the child has contact with, as well as determine what needs to be done before the final hearing. This will include assessments, reports, and statements.
During each court hearing, a date will be set for any additional hearings that are required. In some situations, there may only be one further hearing before a final hearing. However, in some cases, there can be several hearings.
After the court hearings, there will be several things that you are required to do and engage with in an effort to minimize the concerns and worries of the local authority.
After the initial hearing and any subsequent directions hearings, there is a penultimate hearing. This is called the issues resolution hearing (IRH). This hearing is listed before the final hearing and is there to determine whether any agreements can be reached between the parties. If there are no further disagreements, there may be no reason to have a final hearing. However, if there are still unresolved issues, the case will be listed for a final hearing.
What are the Outcomes of Care Proceedings?
During a final hearing, there are several outcomes that the court can make. These are:
What is a Care Order?
A care order means your child will stay in care until they turn 18 years old or if the order is ended before then.
What is a Supervision Order?
A supervision order allows your child to live with you with the supervision of the Children’s Service aiding the family.
Child Arrangement Order
What is a Child Arrangement Order?
A child arrangement is when your child lives with another person such as another family member or a friend for as long as the child arrangement exists. The order can set out contact arrangements for you and your child.
What is a Placement Order?
A placement order gives permission for Children’s Services to place your child for adoption, even if you do not agree,
What is Special Guardianship?
A special guardianship means that your child will live with another person such as a family member or friend. This person will have parental responsibility over the child. Therefore, they will have the same legal rights and responsibilities as a parent.
Making a Care Proceedings Complaint
In most cases, separating a family is the social services’ last resort and they will only do so if they truly believe the child is at risk or susceptible to harm while living at home. However, in some cases, the system does fail. You may feel as if the decisions made were not in the best interest of your child.
If you believe that a mistake has been made, the first step is to write to your local authority and then to the Local Government Ombudsman. If you are not happy with the response, our family solicitors can help you challenge the decision made. Additionally, we can help you claim compensation for any costs that are associated with the suffering.
What Happens If You Don’t Comply with the Court Order?
If an individual does not comply with a court order, they will be in contempt of the court. By deliberately breaching a court order, the individual may be in contempt of court. Sanctions for contempt of court can include:
- Seizure of assets
If you disagree with the court order, or with the involvement of social services, our family law solicitors can help provide legal advice.
Legal Guidance Regarding Your Care Proceedings
At Cartwright King, our family law solicitors are highly experienced in supporting parents when social services have become involved with the care of a child.
You can contact us for guidance and support at any stage. However, we recommend you get in contact as soon as social services are called.
Legal Aid is likely available to you when you request the assistance of our solicitors, regardless of your financial position. Legal Aid is available free of charge for parents. This applies if the local authority has applied for a care order or a supervision order.
Please note: We are a solicitor firm with offices across England, and can assist in family law matters for those living in England and Wales.
All advice is correct at time of publication.