For a variety of reasons, some families experience Social Services’ involvement in their lives. We understand that this can be stressful and upsetting, and our specialist Family Team offers legal advice to assist families throughout this difficult time. We have a dedicated team of Child Care Solicitors, several of whom are members of the Law Society’s Children Panel, and they are able to offer appointments at short notice due to the urgent nature of this work.
Our Family Team provide advice and assistance, pre-proceedings, to try to avoid an application to Court being made. If Social Services do apply to the Court we provide sympathetic and knowledgeable legal advice throughout the Court process.
Our Family Team frequently represents parents, children and extended family members in care proceedings. If you are the parent of a child subject to care proceedings you will be eligible for free legal advice, regardless of your financial circumstances. Free legal advice may also be available for other family members, and we can advise you about this, and alternative funding options, when you make contact with us.
The law says that if possible children should be brought up by their parents, and if that is not possible, by family members. Our Family Team will provide clear advice about the prospects of success in your case, and what action you can take to improve your chances of obtaining a positive outcome.
We have set out below some information about the different types of Orders the Court can make at the end of care proceedings. If the Court decides that children should remain with their parents it is likely that no Order will be made.
A Care Order gives the Local Authority parental responsibility for a child. This means that Social Services can make important decisions such as where the child should live, and what level of contact they should have with their family. Care Orders last until a child is 18 years old, but in some cases they can be ended sooner if an application is made to the Court. A Care Order does not take away the parental responsibility of a parent, but a parent will only have very limited input into decisions about the child while the Order is in place. Social Services have a duty to consult parents about the decisions being made in relation to their child, but they do not have to follow their wishes.
While a Care Order is in place Social Services have a duty to offer reasonable contact to the child’s parents, and anyone else in the family who is important to the child. The Court has the power to decide the level of contact if it cannot be agreed.
If Social Services apply for a Care Order with a care plan for adoption, then they must also apply for a Placement Order. If granted this will give Social Services the right to place the child for adoption with an adoptive family. A Placement Order is not the same as an Adoption Order, which is the Order that the potential adoptive parents will apply for after a child has been placed with them.
A Supervision Order is a less powerful Order than a Care Order as it does not give the Local Authority parental responsibility for a child. Under a Supervision Order Social Services have a duty to “advise, assist and befriend” a child. A Supervision Order does not give Social Services the power to take a child away from their family or to overrule the wishes of the child’s parents. A Supervision Order can only last for a maximum of a year, but it can be renewed for a year at a time, up to a maximum of 3 years in total.
If a child cannot live with their parents, and is placed in the care of another family member or family friend, the Court will consider whether a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) should be made. If an SGO is made the person who has the Order will obtain parental responsibility for the child, which they can use to overrule the parent if there are any disagreements about decisions concerning the child. Social Services have a duty to consider whether to provide financial support, or any other form of support, to help the person with the Order. An SGO will usually last until a child is 18 years old.
If you need advice please contact our experienced team of Child Care Solicitors using our contact form or call us today.