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If Children's Services become involved with your family, it is understandable that you may feel upset, angry, and above all - worried. In situations involving your children, we appreciate that you will require professional and expert legal guidance from a sympathetic and compassionate solicitor. Forbes Solicitors will be able to advise and guide you through every step of the process, ensuring that you understand every decision made in situations involving Children's Services.
Your Local Authority has a Children's Services Department who is responsible for ensuring that all parents provide sufficient care, safety and support for their children. If Children's Services receive information from a third party voicing concerns about a child's welfare, they have a duty to take action to protect your children if they believe they may be at risk of suffering harm. If they want to take any action that you do not agree with, they must first receive the Court's permission to do so.
Children's Services define harm in four categories; emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect.
If Children's Services believe your child to be at risk of one or more type of harm, they will then need to complete a series of assessments to determine if your child is in danger or if they may be in the future. If a Children's Worker speaks to you on the phone or visits you at home, this is an 'initial assessment', to determine whether they believe that what they have been told is accurate. If they believe that what they have been told is untrue, the file is immediately closed. However, if they agree that the child is at risk, they will either offer the parent(s) help and assistance, or organise a Core Assessment.
A Core Assessment is a more detailed study to determine whether or not your child is sufficiently protected and cared for, as well as your ability to be responsible for the child. The Children's Worker will speak to the parent(s), the child (and any siblings), the child's teachers, doctor and so on. They may also contact the Police to enquire about the parent(s), and any past convictions or complaints.
Following the Core Assessment, the Children's Worker will then produce a report based on their findings and make a decision on what is best for the child going forward. It may be decided that there is no risk to the child, in which case the file will be closed, or if they are concerned about the child they may decide to monitor the parent(s) and child to ensure that things improve. However, if they believe that the child is at risk of harm or suffering, the Children's Worker will then organise a Child Protection Conference and Plan.
Children's Services will arrange a meeting to determine what needs to be done in order to protect the child. People permitted to attend the Child Protection Conference are the parents, the child (and any siblings), the child's Children's worker, doctors, teachers and the police. The person Chairing the meeting will take notes on everything that is said, and these notes will then be provided to all those who attend the meeting. The Child Protection Conference will result in one of two options; a Child Protection Plan, or legal proceedings i.e. a Court Order.
Before making an Order, the Court has to consider the Children Act 1989. People involved in the case will include the child's Children's Worker, the child's Guardian (appointed by the Court), the child's solicitor, the parents' solicitor and other agencies such as doctors or teachers.
Following the case, if the Court decides to proceed with an Order it will be one of the following:
Supervision Order: This means that the child is able to stay with the parent(s), however Children's Services have the authority to monitor and supervise how the child is cared for. A Supervision Order can last for up to one year, unless an extension is requested.
Care Order: This means that the child is unable to stay with the parent(s), and will subsequently be taken into the care of the Local Authority who will then have parental responsibility for the child.
Emergency Protection Order: If Children's Services believes that a child is at risk of immediate danger or suffering, they can apply to the Court for an EPO. This will either remove the child from the care of the parent(s), or order that the child must stay where they are (for example, if they are in hospital).
Prohibited Steps Order: This Order is usually made in conjunction with a Care Order or Supervision Order. It will prevent the parent(s) or person thought to be a risk to the child from being near the child without consent from the Court.
Exclusion Order: This Order involves the person believed to be a risk to the child leaving the home and finding accommodation elsewhere.
Contact Order: This Order would be made by the Court either during care proceedings or if the parent(s) applied for it afterwards, and would detail the levels of contact between the parent and the child. For example, if they are able to contact them over the telephone or in person.
Interim Order: This is a temporary Order where a child is taken into care for a specific amount of time, or supervised by a Children's Worker for a specific amount of time.
If Children's Services has become involved with your family, you can speak in confidence to our team of sympathetic and compassionate solicitors who will be able to offer legal advice or even represent you in Court. You can call Forbes Solicitors on Freephone 0800 689 1058 or contact one of our expert family law solicitors using our online enquiry form to get things moving. Alternatively, you can call in to speak to someone face-to-face at one of our offices in Blackburn, Chorley or Preston.
Get in touch to see how our experts could help you.