If your family is subject to a child protection plan, it’s because your child is considered to be at risk of harm or is lacking the basic care and support they need. This can be a very tense and stressful time for all concerned.
While it is natural to be worried about what this means for your family, knowing what you can expect to happen under a child protection plan and the rights you have throughout this process can alleviate some of that fear. It’s important to keep in mind that the overall purpose of a child protection plan is to create a safe environment for your child.
When is a child protection plan put into place?
A child protection plan is drawn up by social services when it is determined that a child is at risk of harm or abuse. This determination is made after an initial assessment is conducted. Information may be gathered from a variety of sources including the child, family members and others involved in their care such as teachers and medical professionals.
A child’s risk of harm can be categorised in four ways:
- Neglect: This is the most reported form of child abuse. Child neglect occurs when a child’s basic needs – such as food, shelter, clothing, education, or medical care are not being met.
- Physical abuse: This occurs when a child is intentionally hurt or injured, or is at risk of being hurt or injured, by someone who is responsible for their care.
- Sexual abuse: This type of abuse can take different forms, from enticing the child into physically taking part in sexual activity to exposing the child to pornography.
- Emotional abuse: This occurs when a child’s emotional needs are not being met, or when they are subjected to emotional or psychological harm by someone who is responsible for their care.
In some cases, an overlap will exist with the child being a victim of more than one type of abuse at the same time. The child protection plan will consider the type of abuse taking place and outline appropriate measures to protect the child from harm and safeguard their wellbeing moving forward.
What does a child protection plan include?
Each child protection plan is designed to ensure that the child’s needs are met and that they are kept safe from harm. It will outline the specific risks and concerns that have been identified, as well as what needs to be done to ensure the child’s safety.
The plan will be updated and revised as the child’s situation changes. Periodic reviews will take place at three and six month intervals until the child is no longer determined to be at risk, or they reach the age of 18.
Due to each child’s unique circumstances, no two plans are exactly the same; however, they will all include the following:
- The reasons why a child protection plan is required.
- What measures should be taken to safeguard your child’s safety and wellbeing.
- The consequences of not following the plan.
- A timeline for change to be made.
- The responsibilities of each party, including parents or guardians and social services.
Can a child be removed under a child protection plan?
A child can be voluntarily removed under the terms of a child protection plan. The plan may include provisions for the child to be temporarily placed with relatives or in foster care if it is deemed necessary for their welfare and those with parental responsibility are in agreement with this plan. If it is not agreed upon, social workers will need to obtain a court order for the child’s removal. This will not happen unless the court agrees that the child is at immediate risk of serious harm.
Even in this scenario, the family will remain very much a part of the process: social workers will work with you to address the risk factors which led to the child’s removal, with the end goal of reuniting your family as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.
It is always best to cooperate with the local authorities and professionals involved to create a safer environment for your child. This means you must be willing to address the areas of concern outlined in the plan and make necessary changes, as well as work alongside social services.
It is important to keep in mind that as the child’s family, you have a right to be involved in the decision making process, to be informed of all decisions concerning your child’s care, and to seek legal representation if you believe the plan is not appropriate or that any of the action taken is not justified.
Our team of experienced, empathetic family solicitors can help you throughout the process if your family is subject to a child protection plan. Get in touch to arrange a confidential consultation.