Friday July 1, 2022
At AFG LAW our specialist children lawyers know that when social workers want to get involved during pregnancy it is incredibly worrying and stressful for parents to be. Our experienced care solicitors can ensure you get independent legal advice and understand what is happening. We have helped lots of families who are expecting a baby and dealing with children’s services. If you or your partner are pregnant and worried about social workers contact us to get urgent, private legal advice. We have put together this guide, based on questions we have been asked by clients, to try and help.
I’m pregnant and social workers want to speak to me? Why?
If you, or your partner, are pregnant and there are concerns that when your baby is born the baby may be at risk of suffering significant harm then a social worker will want to speak to you before the baby is born. There are lots of different reasons why a social worker might want to speak to you; this could include:
If you have had other children removed from your care
If there are concerns about domestic abuse and a mum’s ability to protect the baby
If someone in the family has been identified as a risk to children
If a previous child has had a non-accidental injury or passed away because of a non-accidental injury
If you have had social work involvement with your other children e.g. if they are on a child protection plan
If either parent is a looked after child themselves
If there are concerns about drug or alcohol use, not attending hospital appointments, poor home conditions etc
What will happen during my pregnancy if concerns are raised?
When you see your midwife for your first appointment the midwife will collect lots of information from you. This helps the midwife make sure you and the baby receive the best possible care but also helps them see if there are any concerns for your unborn baby. If professionals working with you and your family believe you may need extra support to look after your new baby then they must do an assessment to help work out what they already know about your family, your circumstances and how any worries they have might impact on the baby. They will do an assessment of you and your partner, this is sometimes called a common assessment framework or an early help assessment. Once the assessments are completed there are a number of different steps that can happen next; you may be invited to a meeting with different professionals who can put together a package of support. If an assessment is completed, and concerns are raised that the baby is at risk of significant harm then a referral will be made and a meeting will take place to decide whether a ‘pre birth assessment’ is needed.
If you have been told an assessment will be done about your pregnancy and unborn baby speak to our solicitors today.
When will children’s services get involved with me about my pregnancy?
If there are concerns that a baby may be at risk of significant harm when it is born then a multi agency meeting or referral should take place as soon as possible. The earlier that concerns are identified means that you have longer to discuss them, make changes and you should be given this chance. It can be difficult to do this towards the end of pregnancy especially if the baby comes earlier than planned.
What is a pre birth assessment?
Pre-birth assessments will take place when there is evidence to suggest that an unborn child may be at risk of significant harm. The assessment will look at risk factors, strengths in the family, what is likely to change and timescales. The assessment should be completed within 45 days. It should be undertaken as soon as possible but no later than 20 weeks into your pregnancy. It is important to undertake an assessment early in pregnancy so that parents are given the opportunity to show they can change and keep those changes up. Once a pre-birth assessment has been completed the next stage will be for a decision to be made about whether child protection should be started or whether the local authority need to involve their lawyers and either start the pre-proceedings process or make an application to court for a care or supervision order.
If your social worker is talking about pre-birth assessment contact our solicitors to get free, independent legal advice and support.
The social worker wants to put my unborn baby on child protection. What can I do?
If there are concerns that a newborn baby might be at risk of significant harm when it is born children’s services might hold a child protection conference to think about whether the unborn baby should be on a child protection plan. This will usually take place after a pre birth assessment has been completed. A child protection conference will be held if there are concerns the baby may be at risk of significant harm, if a previous child has died, been seriously injured or removed from the parents. It will also be held if the baby has brothers or sisters that are on a child protection plan or if a person known to be a risk to children lives in the same house or visits the family. The local authority will also consider starting this process if the mother is under 16 and there are concerns about how she would look after the baby or if there are concerns about the impact of a parent’s mental health issues, learning disability, alcohol or drug misuse. If a pre birth child protection conference is going to take place it should be held before you are 32 weeks pregnant.
I’m scared. The Local Authority have invited me to a meeting because they think they have enough to start care proceedings for my unborn baby. What can I do?
If you have had a letter from children’s services saying they want you to come to a meeting, as they are worried about your unborn baby and think they will need to make an application to court for a care order, call our solicitors for a confidential chat. This letter is called a letter before proceedings or a pre proceedings letter and the meeting you are being invited to is called a pre proceedings meeting or a PLO meeting. We have set out information about the pre proceedings process here but it is really important you speak to one of our specialist children team quickly and get free advice. Before the social worker invites you to this meeting they will have already had a meeting with their legal team, called a legal planning meeting, and decided to give you one more opportunity to work with the social worker before making an application to court when the baby is born. You should be told that children’s services are starting the pre proceedings process before you get into the later stages of pregnancy to give you time to discuss the concerns, work on any problems and show you can make changes. The aim of working with the social worker at this stage is to try and avoid the local authority starting care proceedings when the baby is born.
Legal aid is available automatically if the local authority have told you that they think their worries are serious enough to go to court and you are a parent of a child or someone who has parental responsibility.
The social worker has told me that we’re going to court as soon as the baby is born. What can I do?
If you have been told that as soon as your baby is born the local authority are making an application to court for a care order you should contact our children lawyers immediately.
If it is the local authority’s plan to issue court proceedings as soon as your baby is born then a birth planning meeting will take place between the different professionals you are working with. This could be the social worker, midwife, doctor, nurse, mental health team etc, it all depends on your circumstances. The meeting is designed to give everyone working with you the chance to share information, understand their roles and responsibilities. The outcome of the meeting will be recorded in your medical records so all health professionals involved in your care know what the plan is once you give birth. The meeting will talk about how long you are likely to stay in hospital with the baby, how the hospital will protect the baby and the plan for contact.
The midwives have to inform the social worker once you have given birth and the social worker will visit the hospital. The midwives will be making a note of everything, including visitors to the baby and if there are any problems on the ward. The social worker will keep the hospital informed about their plans and will call them after the hearing to tell them what the court has decided.
The social worker can not just decide to take your baby from you, they need to have a court order or the police must use their powers of protection. It is only a judge who can decide to make a court order saying your baby should be taken into care. It is really important that you are represented from the start of care proceedings. If you want to know more about police powers of protection or care orders please click on the link
Legal aid is available automatically if the local authority make an application to court about your baby
When will I see my baby if a court decides to make a care order and the baby is removed from me during the court proceedings?
If a judge says your baby should be removed from your care during the proceedings our solicitors will make sure that you know what contact you are going to have with your baby, when and where. We understand how difficult it is for new mums to be separated from their babies and will always ask for contact to be kept under review.
Your baby being taken into foster care is not the only possibility and we will also discuss mother and baby placements and mother and baby/family assessment units depending on your circumstances or wishes.
If you are worried about what will happen to your unborn baby give our solicitors a call today so they can start to help.
Our family team can help you with a full range of legal services.
Contact email@example.com for further information or call us on 01204 377600.