The Buzz

The latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Contact with children in care – what parents should know

When a child is taken into care, parents can ask straight away for contact to be set up, even if the local authority does not tell parents they can do this.

Many parents find that they do not get contact at the start of child protection investigations, and then find that their children do not want to see them, or they are being told by social workers that their children do not want to have contact.

Keeping that connection with your child is vital to ensure no negative external influences affect your child’s state of mind, and that your child can continue to feel that you love and care for them.

The right to contact can be found in Section 34(1) of Children Act 1989, which says that children’s social services must allow a child to have reasonable contact with: his or her parents; guardians; anyone who looked after the child under wardship just before a care order was made; and anyone with a residence order or child arrangements order for residence just before a care order was made.

If you have parental responsibility for your child, the local authority must tell you where your child is once they enter care, and can only ever withhold this information if it is not in the child’s best interests to share their location.

You are entitled to ask for help with travel costs to get to and from the contact sessions if paying for these expenses would cause you financial hardship. You can ask the local authority what their policy is on helping with these costs, as they have the power to fund your travel.

Once contact starts, if you think the level of contact you are getting with your child is not good enough, you should ask the social worker for a written statement explaining the reasons for the current level of contact. Getting this written statement is very important, as it establishes the local authority’s position about the contact routine and prevents the local authority from adding more reasons later on.

You should also send a proposal to the social worker in writing (text or email) for the kind of contact you think is appropriate for you and your child.

If a social worker refuses to change the format or frequency of the contact, Section 34 of the Children Act gives you the power to apply to the family courts to ask for a different contact routine, or for contact if you have not yet been able to see your child.

An application for contact to the court is made using a C1 form, or if court proceedings have already started, you can use a C2 form. You will also need the C15 supplement form.

If you fit into any of the carer categories in the second paragraph of this article, you do not need permission to submit an application for contact. Anyone else who wants to apply for contact will need to get the court’s permission.

The courts must take into account the following principles when deciding to grant contact or change the terms of a current contact arrangement:

  • If the contact is in the child’s best interests
  • Reasonable contact between the parents and child should continue
  • The application is part of an effort to set aside a care order
  • Parents can show a change of circumstances which the local authority should have acknowledged when putting together the child’s care plan

The court is also required to acknowledge that ongoing contact with natural parents:

  • Lets a child know that his or her parents still love them and care about them, and that this is important for a child’s sense of security
  • Protect against a child feeling abandoned or as if they have suffered a loss, which can be deeply damaging to the child
  • Ensure the child remains connected to his or her roots, and cultural, religious and ethnic identities.

If the local authority decides to stop contact, they must get a court order before stopping that contact. It is not legal for a social worker to stop contact without getting a court order first.

The only exceptions to this legal duty are: if there has been an incident of some kind which the local authority thinks is serious enough to stop contact, or if the quality of contact between you and your child has gotten worse over a long period of time.

The local authority can then pause contact for up to 7 days. However it still cannot stop contact for more than 7 days, or indefinitely, without a court order.

If a local authority has failed to comply with a contact arrangement, you can ask the court to attach a penal notice against the head of the children’s social services in the local authority, in your application for contact. If the local authority continue to breach an order for contact, the court can then issue a punishment such as a fine, or imprisonment.

Many thanks to Victoria Hudson for drawing our attention to the article below, which led to us to write this post.

Additional information:

The Buzz

The latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Many thanks to Tum Mum for alerting us to the second item.

Legal advice helpline for families offers signposting service

A telephone helpline which offers legal advice to families experiencing domestic abuse, child protection proceedings and separation, will now use its service to signpost people to organisations offering support on the ground.

Civil Legal Advice (CLA), a helpline which advises on a range of family issues, said its operators will now carry out an initial ‘means and merits’ assessment for families. If the family or person is eligible for support they will be referred to their three nearest providers.

If a person or family doesn’t meet the threshold to get the help they need, the CLA said it would then offer information about other organisations which may be able to help.

A press release published by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) said the new system would not affect access to family law advice, and people who qualified for legal aid could continue to get face to face and telephone-based help from family lawyers with legal aid contracts.

In the press release, the LAA said it was making the change because more than 90% of family cases billed under CLA only ever reached the determination stage.

The changes do not affect enquiries related to education, discrimination, debt, and housing work.

You can call the CLA on 0345 345 4 345, Monday to Friday from 9am to 8pm, and Saturday from 9am to 12:30pm.

You can also text ‘legalaid’ and your name to 80010 to ask the CLA to call you back. This costs the same as a normal text message.

Useful links:

Question It!

Welcome to another week.

As the government’s current review of children’s social care continues to face challenges from child welfare and social work professionals about its work and its outlook, the voices and views of children and parents have gone completely unnoticed.

Our question this week then, is very simply: what do you, parents of social care experienced children, think of the review so far?

The Buzz

The latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Many thanks to Joe Thwaites for alerting us to the first item.

Open Conference: Modernising Child Contact in Adoption Cases

An online conference which has been put together by the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA), wants to improve post adoption contact for children and their natural parents.

The seminar, “Modernising Contact: Practice Fit for the 21st Century”, wants to develop the way contact for adoption children works in the UK. the page for the event says:

“In recent years post-adoption contact has come under increasing scrutiny and found wanting. All too often not meeting the needs of adopted children, their adoptive families or their birth families.”

“The use of the term `contact’ has itself been critiqued as problematic as merely having `contact’ is not an end so it is thought that the terminology needs to address the point of contact, i.e. relationship development/continuation, family communication and identity building.”

“Letter box arrangements are still the default option for post-adoption contact and yet even these indirect contact arrangements are often poorly supported and managed, and also beg the question; who writes letters any more as a main form of communication in this digital age of messaging and the internet?”

The statement goes on to say, “Keynote speakers will help us set the scene and then you will be contributing your experience and ideas to identify the issues with current practice/policy, suggest possible solutions and help write an agenda for what needs to happen next to influence practice/policy and create real change.”

The event aims to better understand the following:

  •   What are the current issues/problems in regard to direct and indirect contact?              
  •   What are the possible solutions?
  •   What needs to happen next to support change?

Speakers for the event include:

Dr Krish Kandiah, Chair of the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board at Department for Education

Professor Debbie L. Watson, Professor of Child and Family Welfare and Head of the Centre for Children and families Research, University of Bristol

Ms Beverley Barnett Jones MBE, Associate Director Practice and System Impact, Nuffield Family Justice Observatory and;

Dr John Simmonds OBE, Director of Policy, Research and Development, CoramBAAF

While the seminar appears to be aimed at adoption “practitioners” and independent professionals, the conference will make absolutely no difference to the lives of adopted children if adoption-experienced children and families don’t attend this event and share their invaluable experience. Yours are the only voices that matter.

So we’ve asked the CVAA if you can attend the event. As there is currently a charge of £49, we will also ask them if they are willing to waive the fee, as you will be offering important knowledge the conference will need.

We urge you to sign up for this event, and if you have any problems with registration do come back to us and we will help.

You can register for the seminar at the bottom of the event’s online page.

Side note: The CVAA, contrary to the organisation’s misleading name, does not advocate for voluntary adoption and a ban on involuntary/ non consensual/ forced adoption. The word voluntary here just means organisations working in the voluntary sector, often referred to in the UK as the third sector, or charitable sector.

In the news

The latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Father launches demonstration against Worcestershire Children’s Services

A father who has accused Worcestershire Children’s Services of unnecessarily removing his daughter from his care instead of offering her therapeutic support at home has organised a demonstration to protest against her adoption.

The demonstration came to the attention of Worcestershire County Council last week after the father placed posters around the area, some of which have been taken down by the council who said the flyers had been “illegally placed on the county hall campus.”

The poster said: “Have Worcestershire Children First taken your kids? Have they told lies about you? Have they used crystal ball laws to take your children (future risk of harm)? Have your children been forcibly adopted against your wishes? It’s time to stand up to this corrupt profit making organisation.”

Speaking to Worcester News, the father said, “Myself and other families across the country have had enough of the corruption.”

“The way things are conducted are shrouded in secrecy but we want to spread the word that we will not back down whilst our kids our ripped from their homes. We will not be silenced.”

A spokesperson for Worcestershire Children First told the Worcester News, “Worcestershire Children First staff continue to keep children and young people at the heart of everything they do and act in a professional and timely way to protect children from harm.”

Worcestershire County Council was given a grade 4 ‘inadequate’ rating in 2017 — the worst possible grading by watchdog Ofsted — after a catalogue of serious failings were identified by inspectors.

The council was inspected again in 2019 and received a grade 3, ‘requires improvement’ rating. In that same year, the council admitted that too many children leaving care were still living in bed and breakfasts. Ofsted said the number had not improved since the council’s 2016 inspection.

The council has said it is working through its five-year plan to have at least a ‘good’ rating by 2022.

Despite the council’s claims that its children’s services are professional and efficient, concerns by parents who reach out to the council for help persist.

Another father who tried to secure help for his autistic son told the Worcester News on 19th May that the council had told him he would have to make his son homeless before being able to access urgent support for his child.

The gap in care stems from a change in policy once a child reaches 18. Speaking to the newspaper, the father said, “Before he turned 18 he was under CAHMS and they were brilliant, absolutely amazing. They got him diagnosed and medicated and he had the most amazing councillor, but since being transferred to the adult mental health services it has all gone down hill. It is a constant battle now to get him the support he needs. They have undone all the hard work that CAHMS did with him and it is wrong.”

Following a request from the newspaper for information about the case, Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust and Worcestershire County Council said, “We can confirm that whilst changes to Ethan’s support plan are being discussed and implemented, all support is being planned from the family home as per the wishes of both Ethan and his dad at this time.”

The protest has been planned to take place on 17th September, from 9am outside Worcester County Hall.

Many thanks to Tum Mum for alerting us to this development.

In The News

Welcome to another week.

These are the child welfare stories that should be right on your radar: