If the council are concerned about your children and may take them into care, you will be worried. First of all, the most important thing to do is to follow all the instructions you are given, secondly, get in touch with a solicitor as soon as possible for legal advice. If you have to go to court you will require legal representation so instruct a lawyer sooner rather than later.
Letter before proceedings: When the council initially make contact you will be asked to meet with a social worker to discuss the welfare of your child. Make a meeting with the council and do not ignore this letter. If you ignore the situation it is more likely you will end up having to attend court regarding the matter, you will also increase the likelihood of your child being taken from you. Ensure the social worker understands the concern you are feeling regarding the situation.
Pre-proceedings meeting: This meeting can prevent your children being taken away from you. Essentially you will discuss the way you currently care for your children and the local authority will suggest changes you could make, with their help, to make ensure your child is being cared for well. These changes will be written down in an agreement.
Keeping to the agreement: You need to keep to the agreement you have made. Regular meetings will occur to ensure that you are. If the agreement is broken care proceedings are likely to begin.
Care proceedings – Interim care order: Whilst the local authority is applying to the court for a care order, they may also apply for an interim care order. If granted this means your children will be taken into temporary care whilst the authorities investigate the case. You will be allowed to be present at any court hearings. You are probably going to attend court on multiple occasions throughout the case.
Care proceedings – Examining the case: The situation your child is in will be thoroughly examined over a significant period of time. Individuals will talk to you, to people close to the child and to the child themselves. You can get support at this time. Once evidence is gathered reports will be filed advising whether your child should be taken into care, and where.
Care proceedings – Court hearing: The final court hearing will determine what is best for your child. You should be present at this hearing. The court will decide whether your child should be permanently taken into care, taken into care until they can be returned to you or whether they are not at risk and continue living at home. Furthermore, they will decide who will be caring for your child. They may be adopted, placed in foster care, placed with a relative or taken into a children’s home.
What happens next: You may be able to have your child returned to you with the help of a lawyer and some changes on your part. Also if you are concerned about the welfare of your child in care you can raise your concerns with council. Every situation is different so talk to your social worker and lawyer regularly.