Child care proceedings
The Children's Services department has a duty to act if they believe a child is at risk of serious harm. If they have instituted care proceedings with regards to your child, you need to talk to a family lawyer right away.
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What are child care proceedings?
The Children's Services Department of every local authority has a duty to act if they believe that any child is at risk of significant harm in their home.
When they feel that a child is no longer safe, they can initiate child care proceedings, which ask a court to give them permission to take that child into care for their protection.
Naturally, this is very much a last resort option, and one that can be very distressing for parents if a child is about to be taken away from them, and they feel that this is unfair.
Will I get legal aid for child care proceedings?
Yes, because child care proceedings are one of the very few areas left in UK law where legal aid is granted, regardless of your merit or financial circumstances.
So if you have parental responsibility for a child and have received a letter before proceedings or letter of issue from Children's Services, you should contact us for expert legal advice and for help applying for legal aid immediately.
What is a letter before proceedings?
You will only receive this letter if you have already had some contact with children's services and are aware that they believe there is a serious problem.
A letter before proceedings is a final warning that your child will be taken into child care are if the issues that have led to Children's Services being involved are not resolved.
What is a letter of issue?
This is a letter to inform you that Children's Services believe it is in the child's best interests for them to be removed from your home and taken into child care. At this point, Children's Services will begin care proceedings, which means you will have to attend a number of court hearings.
Everyone who has parental responsibility for a child will be asked to attend as a 'party to proceedings', though other people can apply for permission to be 'party to proceedings' upon payment of a £155 fee.
It is also essential that you have some sort of legal representation at these hearings, to ensure that your rights are upheld.
What are court hearings for?
• The Case Management Hearing: this is usually a short hearing where the court will seek to identify the key issues, establish what evidence is needed and decide whether an issue of threshold needs to be resolved
• The Issues Resolution Hearing: this hearing is intended to see if the case can be resolved early, usually by everyone involved in the case being in agreement about where is best for the child to live
• The Final Hearing: if the child's parents and social workers can't agree on the best course of action at the Issues Resolution Hearing, the Final Hearing will decide whether an order is necessary in order to protect the child.
In cases where the court decides that a child needs protection it may make one of four different types of order:
• A Care Order: this gives the local authority Parental Responsibility until the child reaches 18, unless the order is discharged before then
• A Supervision Order: this gives the local authority the power to monitor the child's wellbeing, either at home or elsewhere
• A Special Guardianship Order: this places the child in the long-term care of someone other than the parents
• A Placement Order: this enables the local authority to put the child up for adoption, even if the parents object
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