Dealing with social services in respect of your children can be a very stressful time for a parent.
Whether it is in a case conferences, involved with Pre-Proceedings, or actually in court it can be a very confusing time especially when jargon is used instead of proper explanations.
The biggest worry for parents very often is whether their children will end up living somewhere else like foster care.
Here, legal expert and partner Andrew Perrigo answers some questions he is often asked when helping parents.
Can they just take my children from my care without my permission?
No. They need either your permission or a court order. If they go to court you will be notified of that hearing and will have an opportunity to have your say.
What is S20?
Section 20 is you providing permission for you child to be accommodated by the local authority. This is sometimes called ‘going into care’. It is possibly the hardest decision a parent ever has to make but no one can force you to make it. Section 20 cannot be used if a parent objects.
It is also important that you make an informed decision. Getting legal advice about this request can make sure you understand exactly what it involves.
If they are asking for your children to live elsewhere – what comes next and how long will it all take. And if you don’t give permission how quickly will you be in court and who will represent you?
What must I do if social services are involved with my children?
Because parents can be fearful of the decisions taken by social services some do not like to work with them or hide from them. They miss appointments or do not attend meetings. This is in our experience results in things getting worse not better.
Find out what social services want to change and cooperate with them to achieve that. Parents who work with local authorities often have better outcomes than families who don’t. It is important though that you access the right support and we can help point you in the right direction.
You may need help making sure social services are doing their bit. A better way of looking at things might be ‘Could I do things differently so my children are happier?’.
Where can I get good advice?
It is so important to get the right legal advice and get it early. Make sure that they specialise in this area. Ask are they accredited by The Law Society. With eight Children Law Accredited solicitors at Morecrofts we have the largest team in the north west ready to help you.