Once care proceedings are commenced against you, you will have to attend court hearings. It is vital that you contact a lawyer as soon as you are aware care proceedings are being begun. In severe cases the council may also begin proceedings to place the child with adoptive parents. Potentially a hearing will occur at the beginning of proceedings, to apply for an interim care order. If an interim care order is granted by the judge, your child will be put into temporary care whilst the matter is looked into by social services. An initial interim care order will be for 8 weeks, and will then be reviewed and renewed every 4 weeks.
The main court hearing will happen once the case has been looked at. Your child may or may not be in your care this time. You should attend this hearing. When you go to court a judge will rule as to what should happen to your child. The evidence presented at this court hearing will have been gathered over a number of weeks or months. Evidence will be collected by a social worker, a Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) officer and others. It is vital that they create a detailed and accurate picture of the situation your child is in. To do this they will need to talk to you, to your child and to people who are close to the child to investigate their situation. The child’s safety will be the paramount priority at all times. However, you should be able to get support at this time as it is likely to be very emotionally draining for you.
Whilst evidence is being collected regarding the type of danger your child may or may not be in, social services will also be thinking about what the best course of action is for your child. Therefore they will speak to family members to investigate the possibility of placing your child with one of your relatives. Ultimately they will produce an advisory report regarding the matter which will be presented at the final court hearing which will contain evidence they have collected regarding the case and will outline their advice as to what they believe should happen to your child.
At the final court hearing a judge will review all evidence and will rule as to what should happen to your child. You will be present at the hearing, as will your child, your respective lawyers, the Cafcass officer and social worker. Everyone will have a chance to speak about the situation from their point of view. Following this the judge will decide whether your child will remain in your care or whether they will be placed elsewhere. If your child is taken into care this may be permanent, or with the possibility of them being returned to you at a later date. They may be placed with a family member, a friend, in foster care, in a children’s home or adopted.