When social services are so concerned about a child’s welfare, they can make an application to the Court for an order. These proceedings are referred to as care proceedings.
Social services will usually apply for an order which will allow them to make decisions on behalf of the child and to share Parental Responsibility with the parent(s). They might also ask the Court for permission to remove the child from where s/he is living with her parent(s) and place that child with someone else. That person might be a foster carer, a family member or a family friend. The order is referred to as a care order and if the Court makes the order at an early stage, it is known as an interim care order.
The Court process will involve various assessments, including assessments of the parents and any proposed alternative carers. There are often expert assessments where relevant, including medical experts, psychological and psychiatric assessments and drug and alcohol testing. A timetable will be set out by the Court working towards concluding the process within 26 weeks. During this time, a parent will file their own evidence in support of their case.
Care proceedings do not always end with a child being permanently removed from the family home, so it is important that a parent obtains legal representation from a specialist child care lawyer. We can also advise potential alternative carers in the event that they feel that they should be doing more to assist a friend or family member.
Legal aid is available to all parents in care proceedings regardless of income and we can advise and represent both parents and children (if asked to do so by the Court). Going through care proceedings is a challenging and stressful time for parents and we have specialist solicitors and members of the Law Society Children Panel who are very experienced in dealing with all aspects of this complex area of law.