Why do social services want to put my children in foster care?
Social Services will become involved with families when there are concerns relating to the safety and wellbeing of any child/ren of the family. Concerns can come to light by referrals from a number of sources, such as anonymous referrals, schools, police and any other professional involved with your child/ren. After some initial investigations, your family’s social worker may advise you that they think your child/ren should be placed in foster care due to continuing concerns for their safety and wellbeing. They usually tell you this in person but also confirm those intentions in writing.
If you receive a letter from social services indicating they are considering issuing care proceedings due to concerns for your child/ren’s safety and wellbeing – contact our specialist team of care solicitors at NLS immediately. You are entitled to free legal advice once you receive that letter from social services.
How can my child/ren be placed in foster if I don’t agree with it?
If Social Services want to place your child/ren in foster care and you do not agree to it (a s.20 agreement* see more detail below) then the local authority has to issue care proceedings as they will need a judge to grant an interim care order and for that Judge to agree to place your child/ren in foster care.
How long can my child/ren stay in foster care?
If your child/ren have been placed in foster care within care proceedings and following the court granting an interim care order, then your child/ren will remain in foster care until the conclusion of the court proceedings and/or an earlier stage in the case if the local authority change their care plan (and if that change of care plan is endorsed by the family judge dealing with your case).
What are my rights and responsibilities once my child/ren is in foster care?
If your child/ren have been moved into a foster placement within care proceedings, and under an interim care order, this means the local authority shares parental responsibility with you. They have to continue to consult with you in respect of all important decision making for your children relating to education, health and religion etc. but there are some urgent decisions they may be able to make without consulting with you in the first instance. You have a right to have reasonable contact with your child/ren when they are in foster care and the local authority will usually assist with travel costs to promote that contact, if necessary.
How do I get my child/ren out of foster care?
If your child/ren is in foster care as a result of care proceedings and decisions made within the family court you will have an opportunity at a final hearing to object to the child/ren remaining in long term foster care and usually all suitable family and friends put forward for assessment in the court case will be considered as possible carers for the child/ren in the event there are safeguarding reasons preventing the child/ren returning to the parents. If court proceedings have already concluded, you would need to apply to discharge the care order but you would have to demonstrate significant change of circumstances since the time the full care order had been made (when the care proceedings concluded).
There are some situations when you may have signed a s.20 agreement which is you giving your consent to place your child/ren outside of your care (with family or with foster carers) for a certain period of time. If you later change your mind and no longer agree to your child/ren being outside of your care you need to obtain urgent legal advice from our specialist care lawyers to be advised as to the steps involved in revoking s.20 agreement and the consequences and considerations in doing so.
Do not delay in getting legal advice if social services are involved with your family, particularly if they start to talk of removing the child/ren from your care and control. Our dedicated team of specialist solicitors will be able to take your urgent instructions and advise you as to your options and next steps.