If we’ve told you that your child may be taken into care, it means that Social Workers and/or other professionals are very worried that your child is not being looked after properly and he/she is at risk. They are now thinking about whether to ask the court if your child should be taken into care (foster care).
The first thing that will happen is that you will get a letter from a Social Worker titled ‘letter before proceedings’. This letter will explain why we and/or other professionals think that your child is not being looked after properly. It will also tell you that you need to come to a meeting to talk about the way you’re looking after your child.This letter is sent when there are worries about how a child is being looked after. It is often sent after we have drawn up a plan for your child to be kept safe and well cared for but when we are still concerned that the plan is not working well enough. The letter is a final notice for parents and if the instructions are not followed the parent may have to go to court and the child could be taken into care.
The letter will ask you to come to a meeting called a pre-proceedings meeting with us to talk about your situation. The letter will ask you to bring along a solicitor. We will discuss how you could change the way that you look after your child and how Social Workers and professionals can support you to do this. If you can agree some changes, these will be written down in a formal agreement that all of us have to follow. If you do not agree to work with us, we may ask the court to take your child into care.
You must keep to any agreement you make at the pre-proceedings meeting and we must keep to any agreement that we have made with you. You will then be asked to attend a review meeting to check you are keeping to the agreement and your child remains safe. If the agreement is not kept then we will need to take this to court and ask the judge to remove your children.
If you don’t keep to the agreement or there are still serious or new concerns, we will apply to a court to start care proceedings. This means that you will have to go to court – possibly several times until the court makes a decision about your child’s future. The court should make its decisions within 26 weeks.
At the end of the process, one of the following things will happen.
Your child stays with you under a new agreement about how you will look after them. It you keep to the agreement, your child should stay with you. If you don’t keep to the agreement, you may have to go back to court and your child could be taken into care.
Your child moves in with a friend or family member. This can be for a short time to help you make changes to your life so that you can look after your child better, or it can be permanent.
Your child goes into care. If you can’t agree how you will change the way you look after you child and there is no suitable friend or family member, the court will tell us to find a place for your child to live. This will be either with a Foster Carer or in a children’s home. This could be for a long time, possibly many months, until the court decides whether your child can live with you or needs to live with someone else.
If your child goes into care, we will continue to work with you so that your child can return home, but a time will come when we will have to make a decision about your child’s future. If your child cannot return home to you the other options are that they stay in long term foster care or adoption, stay with a friend or another family member under a Residence Order or a Special Guardianship Order, or live in a Children’s home.