How can the Local Authority remove a child from their parent’s care?
Having the Local Authority involved with your family is incredibly distressing and daunting and perhaps one of the greatest concerns that parents have relates to their child being removed from their care.
If the Local Authority have concerns that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm then they may look at whether the safety of that child demands removal from the care of their parent/guardian. However, there are lots of misconceptions and myths about how children can be removed from their parent/guardian’s care and the situations which would warrant the Local Authority to consider removal.
It is important to note that in the majority of cases, the Local Authority will be working with families to try and reduce the concerns and avoid the need for removal to be considered. This might be under a Child in Need plan or a Child Protection Plan depending on the extent of the Local Authority’s concerns. If this intervention is not working and there are further concerns, the Local Authority may invite parents/guardians to a Pre-Proceedings Meeting to look at what can be done to avoid Care Proceedings being issued.
In some situations, the Local Authority will ask parents/guardians to provide what is called their ‘Section 20’ Consent to the child being accommodated in foster care whilst they continue to work with the family to avoid the need for issuing Care Proceedings. This is a purely voluntary arrangement and the consent can be withdrawn at any time.
It is usually only after these avenues have been exhausted and if concerns remain about the child being at risk of significant harm that the Local Authority will look at issuing Care Proceedings seeking an Interim Care Order to allow them to share Parental Responsibility for the child for the duration of the Care Proceedings. Parents can challenge the Local Authority’s position and it is the Court who ultimately decides whether this Order is necessary and whether the children need to be removed from their parent/guardian’s care on an interim basis. The Court would not make any final decision about a child’s long-term care until a Final Hearing.
In an emergency situation and where there are concerns that a child is at risk of immediate harm, the Local Authority may apply to the Court for a time limited Order to allow them to remove the child called an Emergency Protection Order, which again can be challenged. Alternatively, and again in an emergency situation, the police are able to use their protective powers to remove children from their parent/guardian’s care for up to 72 hours. The Local Authority could issue Care Proceedings before these time limits expire.
If the Local Authority are involved with your family and you need advice about this then please do not hesitate to contact James Lee or Jessica Fletcher-Hall in our Care Department who will be happy to assist.