Child Care Proceedings
Supporting You During Child Care Proceedings
Cartwright King is a Legal 500 law firm that has been accredited by the Law Society for our expertise in dealing with advanced family law matters and children law. Whatever your circumstances, you can rely on our child care solicitors to deal with your case professionally and without judgment. You can be sure that we will do everything we can to keep your family together.
Legal Aid is available free of charge for parents if the Local Authority has applied for a Care Order or a Supervision Order. Other parties involved in Care Proceedings can also apply for Legal Aid subject to a means and merits test.
How our Child Care Solicitors can help
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. Our team are able to:
- Take urgent action to ensure you are represented when the social services have applied to have your child removed from your care via Care or Supervision Orders.
- Advise grandparents and other family members while child care proceedings are in progress.
- Offer advice on all problems that can result in care proceedings, such as allegations of abuse, the death of a parent, mental health issues, situations involving parents who are non-UK nationals.
- Liaise with the social services during an ongoing investigation to ensure that the process is completed as quickly and efficiently as possible and that the rights of you and your family are protected.
Assist and liase with the local authority to arrange contact between parents and their children who have been placed in care as a result of child care proceedings.
Reasons that Social Service May Get Involved
If social services have reasonable cause to suspect that your child is currently suffering, likely to suffer, or there is a risk of significant harm to your child, then they will get involved in the care of your child.
Some scenarios in which social services would likely get involved include:
- If the child appears harmed, either through physical appearance or their behaviour.
- If there is suspected violence in the household, either between the adults in the house or directly towards the child.
- If there is suspected sexual abuse that the child is subject to or witness to.
- If there is any suspicion of neglect, including not properly washing or feeding the child.
- If there is suspicion that the child is not receiving the correct education.
Several different adult figures in a child’s life may feel the need to intervene, including;
- Nursery workers
- Family members
Can Social Services Remove a Child From Their Home?
Social services must be able to provide evidence to prove that your child is at risk within your household and in your care before they can take any steps to have your child removed.
However, once there is a reasonable cause to suspect a risk to the child’s wellbeing, social services will be able to carry out an in-depth assessment of the safety of your child and of your ability to care for them. This assessment will aim to ascertain what further intervention, such as starting care proceedings, is required to safeguard the child.
In cases where there is deemed to be an imminent risk to the child, proceedings will be started, and social services will ask the Court to agree to remove a child from their parents’ care. If this happens, your child can temporarily be removed from your care until a permanent solution is found, and the proceedings are completed.
A child can also be removed from their home under an emergency protection order (EPO). An emergency protection order may be applied for under section 44 of the Children Act 1989 by social services, the police, or the NSPCC if the child is deemed at imminent risk of physical or emotional harm. In addition, if the parents give their consent through a Section 20 agreement, the child can be temporarily removed from their home too.
Care Proceedings Process and Hearing
You are entitled to be represented by a solicitor when proceedings are issued, and in most cases, you are also entitled to Legal Aid, regardless of your financial position.
Our care proceedings solicitor can guide you through the process, represent you at hearings and give you advice wherever you need it.
You will always be a party to the proceedings, which means that you will be able to attend all hearings and receive all documents relating to your case. You will also receive all documents and the evidence social services have provided to support their claims.
There are multiple hearings as part of the proceedings process you may need to attend. These include:
- A Case Management Hearing
- An Issues Resolution Hearing
- A Final Hearing
If an urgent interim care order is requested by social services, a separate hearing will be held for this too.
You may not need to go through the entire process, as a solution could be reached at an earlier stage. If your case does progress to a Final Hearing you will likely be requested to make a statement, which our solicitors can prepare you for.
Possible Outcomes of a Final Hearing in Care Proceedings
At the conclusion of a final hearing, a decision will be made on where your child will live and what further steps will be taken to safeguard your child.
There are several possible outcomes to the proceedings. These outcomes could include:
- Care order
- Supervision order
- Emergency protection order
- Placement order
- Adoption order
- Discharge of care order
We can support you throughout the care proceedings process, representing you at hearings and providing you with our expert guidance when you need it. We will work with you and your family to get the best possible outcome.
Why Choose Cartwright King to Represent My Child Care Case?
Child care cases can come before the Courts very quickly and require immediate action from parents and solicitors. Our childcare solicitors are used to dealing with matters at short notice and can quickly respond to changing situations.
Cartwright King is a respected law firm with offices in London and other major locations throughout the UK. We have been recognised by the Legal 500 for the exceptional legal services we offer. Our child care specialists have a wealth of experience in dealing with people from all walks of life and working with families facing all kinds of problems from mental health to substance abuse and from domestic abuse to injured children.
We are here to help you, not judge you. We will do everything we can to achieve the best possible outcome. Our experienced child care solicitors can talk to you about different ways forward at each stage of your case so that you can make informed choices based on sound advice and knowing all the options available to you.
We're here for you.
Frequently asked questions.
How Do Child Care Proceedings Start in Court?
When local authority social services decide that their involvement with a family is necessary to keep a child safe, they may start a court case. Such a case is often called a ‘public law’ case or care proceedings. This usually happens when the social services have already tried to make things safer (by working with the family of through the Public law Outline procedure) for the child but feel like it doesn’t work, and nothing has changed.
If the child is in real danger, the police may remove them from their current residence for up to 72 hours – this is known as police protective powers, and is then usually followed by care proceedings. Under an Emergency Protection Order, the Court might authorise the removal of children for up to 8 days.
It is worth mentioning that unless the removal is performed by the police, the social services can’t remove your children from your care without a court order or your agreement.
What Types of Hearings Happen Within Child Care Proceedings?
There are a few types of hearings happening during child care proceedings. These are:
- Case Management Hearing – a short hearing to establish when and how the case is going to be decided.
- Contested Removal Hearing – if the local authority wants to remove the child from where they are living, but the carers or parents do not agree with that, the Court will hold a contested removal hearing to make a decision about where the children should live whilst the proceedings are ongoing.
- Issues Resolution Hearing – after all the evidence is gathered, the assessments are completed and all of the parties, including the children’s family have set out what they think should happen, the Court holds an issues resolution hearing to see what issues can be resolved.
- Final Hearing – if all the issues cannot be resolved during the issues resolution hearing, the Court will hold a final hearing, during which it will hear all the evidence, as well as the arguments.
What Types of Orders Can a Court Be Asked to Make at the End of a Care Case?
A Court can be asked to make four main types of orders:
- Supervision Order – when the Court makes this order, the local authority has a duty to to advise, assist and befriend or children and to support the family. This order can be made for up to 12 months, but can be extended by a further 2 years if needs be. the child when they deem it necessary – however, it does not give it parental responsibility nor power in terms of making decisions. In most cases, if this order is made, the child remains within the family.
- Special Guardianship Order – with this order, Special Guardians (who are usually family members) care for the child or children. They also gain parental responsibility for them They make most of the decisions in terms of the child’s welfare and special guardians have the final say in decision making about the children.
- Care Order – This order gives the local authority parental responsibility, meaning that it will be responsible for making decisions in terms of education or health. It is also in charge of day-to-day parenting decisions for the child. In most cases, if the Court makes this order, the child will live with foster carers or with a family member. While the parents still retain their parental responsibility, it is the Local authority who make the day to day decisions about the children and look after them.
- Placement Order – If the Court decides that the best interests of the children are for them to be placed outside of the family, a placement order can be made alongside a care order. This allows the Local Authority to look for and approve an adoptive family for the child or children.
Before the Court makes a Care Order or a Supervision Order, it needs to decide that the child either already has or is at risk of suffering harm because of the care they are receiving.
In many cases, the Court is asked to make an Interim Care Order or an Interim Supervision Order – interim means “temporary” or “in the meantime” and these orders last whilst the Court is able to undertake all the necessary assessments and gather all of the information needed to allow the Judge to be able to make long term decisions about children. . They work in the same way regular, long term Supervision and Care Orders do; however, the difference is that they only last until the end of the court case.
How Long Do Child Care Proceedings Take?
In most cases, the Court will try to make a decision in regards to what happens to your child within 26 weeks (6 months) from when the application has been started.
Where and With Whom Will My Children Stay?
If your child is taken into care because of a Care Order, your council will share responsibility for making most of the important decisions about your child’s upbringing, including:
- who looks after them
- where they live
- how they are educated
- How often they will see their family members
Whether you agree to your child becoming ‘looked after’ by the Local Authority, or if a court makes a care order, you’ll continue to have parental responsibility for your child and will still have to be notified about decisions and kept informed about your children.
In either case, the council is responsible for:
- making sure that the children are cared for
- making sure only suitable people are employed to look after your child
- providing proper training and support to foster carers or family members looking after your children
- listening to your child’s views and your views about care arrangements and taking their religion, race, culture, and background into account
- making sure your child has someone independent to talk to and knows how to complain if necessary
- holding regular “looked after child” meetings about your child or children and inviting you to go to participate in those meetings
The child may be placed with either:
- another relative
- a foster carer
- a children’s home
When Can I See My Children?
If a child is looked after by the Local Authority either during or after proceedings, they have a duty to promote reasonable contact for the child with you if you are a parent, guardian or someone who cared for child (under a court order) before the child was placed in foster care.
What Happens Next?
As soon as you receive any court papers, you should call us immediately.
The safety and security of your child will be the priority, but the social worker should try to do all they can to cause as little disruption to their lives as possible and should listen to your and your child’s views and take them seriously.
What Does a Child Care Solicitor Do?
A child protection solicitor or a child care solicitor specialises in legal child care proceedings related to concerns about the care a child receives. They deal with complex proceedings involving care orders, and emergency protection orders. Typically, a child care solicitor provides specialist legal advice and represents parents and grandparents in custody battles, as well as communicate with social services workers.
Can Child Protection Authorities Take Away My Child?
If a child is believed to be at risk or to be receiving inadequate care, child protection authorities can intervene. Even though keeping families together is the preferred solution, if this could result in harm to the child, then social services can take legal action to remove the child from their parents.
If an application to remove a child from your care has been made, you will be notified (with the expedition of emergency situations) and you should seek legal counsel urgently.
What Should I Expect From My First Child Care Hearing?
The child care proceedings in Court begin with a hearing. You will first be notified by social Services that you will be expected to appear in court. Within a few days of being told, you will be assigned a Court hearing date.
If a child under your care is believed to be in imminent danger, the Social Services have the right to ask the Judge to have the child removed from your care at the first hearing. This is an extreme solution, so a Judge will only rule in favour of such application if they believe that there is no other way to protect the child but to separate them from you.
If this happens, then the social services have to provide alternative living arrangements for your child. They will be either placed in foster care or with a relative if a child arrangement order or interim care order is put in place.
To be fully prepared for your appearance in Court and to minimise the chance of having your child removed, you should consult with one of our child care solicitors before your first hearing.
What Should I Do If I Am Worried About a Child?
If you believe a child may be at risk, you should contact the relevant child protection authorities as soon as possible. If you are unsure how to proceed, Cartwright King’s child care solicitors have offices across the UK and we are just a phone call away, ready to offer the advice and support you need.
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