A recent newspaper article highlighted a mother who, over a period of time, had 17 children removed from her care.
Of course that is an extreme situation, but the point was about the feeling of hopelessness of parents who having experienced this, believe it is inevitable that the same will happen if they have any further children.
We hear of parents being told that if they don’t sign papers allowing their children to go to other family members or foster carers then they will be removed from their care.
They cannot legally do that. To remove a child from its parents (other than under a police protection order) the local authority must have your written agreement or must obtain an order from the court.
In such circumstances a social worker may refer to you signing a Section 20 agreement as this is the only legal way i.e. with your agreement, that the children can be removed from your care without a court order. Even if you do sign an agreement it is not legally binding.
If you then change your mind you are entitled to have the children returned to your care.
That said, there is usually a good reason why things have reached this stage and it is always better to try and discuss the issues with the Social Worker to see if a mutually acceptable arrangement can be reached.
You are fully entitled to say to a Social Worker that you don’t want to agree to or sign anything until you have taken legal advice and they should respect that.
Whether or not you have had any previous involvement with Children’s Services we would urge you to seek proper legal advice in any situation where the Local Authority has become involved with your children whether you are a parent, grandparent or other relative or indeed anyone who has parental responsibility for a child.
You are entitled to legal advice meaning a Solicitor can write to or discuss your case with Children’s Services and attend Child Protection and PLO meetings with you (where you have received a “Letter before Proceedings” from Children’s Services). If matters proceed to court you can be represented at hearings and be given help to deal with assessments and any other work you may need to do.
If you have any concerns please contact a Solicitor as soon as possible.
Ben Hoare Bell LLP has many specialist Solicitors with experience in dealing with childcare issues and the local authority.
Having proper legal advice can make all the difference.