Our specialist care solicitors know that if your children have been removed from your care, under an interim care order or final care order, the time that you have with them is important. At AFG LAW we will always make sure that the contact you have with your children is raised with the local authority, the children’s guardian and the court, as well as being kept under review throughout the court proceedings. If the contact you are getting is not right we can support you by helping you access legal aid and making an application to court. We will give you an honest assessment of the level of contact you can expect and the steps you will need to take to increase contact. Our experienced team of care solicitors deal with these issues regularly and have the knowledge to help you.
When children are being “looked after” by the Local Authority they must be allowed reasonable contact with their parents or people who have parental responsibility for them. During proceedings it is important that parents attend all available contact sessions with their children to support their children, show commitment and maintain their bond with them. If you have concerns about the level of contact you have with your children contact our solicitors for a confidential discussion. We are frequently asked questions like:
- What contact will I get with my child during care proceedings?
- What will contact be like whilst my children are in foster care?
- Who can have contact with a child in care?
- I’m not a parent but I had a close relationship with the child. Can I see him?
- Can the social worker change my contact?
- Can the social worker stop me seeing my children even though there was a plan for me to see them?
- My contact isnt enough. Should I make an application to court?
What contact will I get with my child during care proceedings?
It depends on what is considered to be in the child‘s best interests and lots of factors will be considered such as age of the child, the need to settle in the new home, the child’s wishes and feelings, what other contact they are having i.e. with the other parent or siblings separately. During care proceedings the arrangements for a child to see their parents will be set out in the interim care plan. We have explained more about care plans here but an interim care plan is a temporary plan whilst the care proceedings are ongoing and before a court has made a final decision about what should happen. The social worker has to set out in the interim care plan what they think the contact arrangements should be and this should then be backed up in the social worker’s statement. The judge dealing with the care proceedings has to approve the interim care plan.
What will contact be like whilst my children are in foster care?
It depends on each family as every situation is different. Contact will usually take place in a contact centre and be supervised by a contact worker. The contact worker will observe the time you spend with your children and will keep records. These can be shown to the social worker and can even form part of the evidence in court. Contact can also take place by video calls, telephone calls, letters and gifts.
Who can have contact whilst a child is in care?
The Children Act 1989 says that if a Local Authority is looking after a child it must allow the child reasonable contact with their parents, any legal guardian, any person who had a “live with” child arrangements order before the care order was made and any person who had care of the child under wardship before the care order was made.
I’m not a parent but I had a close relationship with the child. Can I see him?
Children’s services have a general duty to promote contact with other family members such as grandparents, brothers and sisters.
If you are not a parent of a child, a guardian and didn’t have a child arrangements order for the child to live with you then you won’t automatically get contact with the child. Sometimes if the social worker knows how important the relationship is to the child they will make arrangements but if they won’t it is possible to make an application to the court. You will also have to make an application for permission from the Judge to be allowed to make the application to see the child but if the Judge can see that it may be in the child’s best interests then it should only be a formality.
Can the social worker change my contact?
The contact that you have with your child whilst they are in care wiill be kept under review and depending on circumstances it may change, this means it can go up or down. If contact is going well or there is a plan to rehabilitate the child back to your care it will increase. If contact is of poor quality, lots of sessions are missed or the plan for the child is adoption then it may decrease. If you are concerned about your contact call our specialist care solicitors.
Can the social worker stop me seeing my children even though there was a plan for me to see them?
The social worker cannot stop contact between a parent and a child when an interim care order is in place unless they have the judge‘s permission but they can suspend contact if there are concerns about the child’s welfare. Children’s Services can refuse a parent contact with a child if it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. The Local Authority can only make this decision if it is a matter of urgency and their decision not to allow you to see your child can only last for 7 days. They have to tell you in writing why they have made this decision. If the social worker is concerned and believes contact should stop they have to make an application to the court for the Judge to consider the position.
If the Judge agrees with the Local Authority’s concerns they have the power to authorise the Local Authority to refuse contact with a child and anyone they name in the court order. The Judge has the power to do this even if the Local Authority haven’t made an application asking for contact to be stopped. This isn’t something that the court does lightly as the court will always start by seeing what contact can take place between parents and children.
My contact with my child in care isn’t enough. Should I make an application to court?
Our solicitors can give you individual advice about your level of contact and your prospects of having it increased. The first step is to raise it with the social worker, you could also speak to the independent reviewing officer. Our solicitors can also negotiate with the Local Authority solicitor and seek the children’s guardians view. Your proposals can be put forward about how you think contact should be changed. If it is not possible to reach agreement then our solicitors can help you make an application to court for an order for contact with a child in care.
How does the court decide whether to make an order for contact with a child in care?
The judge hearing the application will start on the basis that reasonable contact between the parents and child should continue and look at the long term plans e.g. is it likely the child will be returning home. The court will look at what is in the child‘s welfare and apply the different principles we have talked about here. The children’s guardian will also provide their opinion to the court.
What can be included in an order for contact with a child in care?
If a judge makes an order for contact with a child in care the arrangements can be tailored to what is best for you and your child taking into account the concerns. The court could say it is to be supervised or supported, in the community, who should supervise, that it should only be by telephone or letters. Our solicitors can advise you on what is most likely in your circumstances.