Post proceedings


Discharge of care order

When a Final Care Order is made the local authority share parental responsibility for a child and can make decisions about them, such as where they live, until they turn 18. A Care Order can be made with a plan for a child to live in long-term foster care or with other family members or in the care of parents.
If a parent/carer feels as though they have made the necessary changes to be able to care safely for a child they can apply to the Court to discharge the Care Order. Alternatively, an older child who is competent, can sometimes apply to discharge a Care Order themselves if they are old enough and mature enough to do so.
Once an application to discharge the Care Order is made, the Court may decide that the parents need to be re-assessed to show whether they can safely look after the children and what changes they have made since the Care Order was made. The Court’s concern will be the child’s welfare.

 

Revocation of placement

A Placement Order is a court order authorising the local authority to place a child for adoption with any prospective adopters it chooses.
It continues until it is revoked, the child is adopted or reaches the age of 18 years.
A Placement Order suspends an existing Care Order, Section 8 Order, Section 34 Order or Supervision Order.
Placement Orders can be revoked but it is difficult to do so.
The child or the local authority can apply for the Placement Order to be revoked.
Others need permission from the court and may apply only if the child has not already been placed.
If there is also a Care Order it is reactivated if the Placement Order is revoked.
If the court revokes the Placement Order, the child must be returned to local authority care of the care of parents within a time determined by the court.
In case of no adoption placement taking place following a Placement Order or the adoptive placement breaks down, either the local authority or any party can apply for the Placement Order to be revoked.

There is a two-stage test in order to revoke he placement orders -

1. There needs to be a change in circumstances.

2. If there has been a change in circumstances the court will then consider the welfare of the child, this will include referring to the welfare checklist contained as s (4) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

 

Leave to oppose adoption

The test of leave to oppose adoption and leave to revoke placement are similar.

 

Oppossing an Adoption Order

Once a child has been placed for adoption the parent may oppose the adoption with the permission of the Court. The Court determines whether permission should be granted on a case by case basis. This is called asking for ‘leave’ to oppose the adoption.

The Court may give permission to the parent to oppose the making of an adoption order if it is satisfied that there has been a sufficient change in circumstances since the placement order was made.
There are two stages to the test. Firstly, it needs to be determined whether there has been a change in circumstances. If there has been a change in circumstances, should the court exercise its discretion to allow the parent/parents to oppose?
Whether or not there has been a change of circumstances depends on facts.
The courts will look at the welfare of the child/children when making a decision to grant permission to oppose an adoption order. Even if a parent is able to identify a change in circumstances, the courts priority is the welfare of the child throughout their life.

 

Contact with children in care

It is possible to make an application to have contact with children that are in the care of the local authority. Whether this is possible will depend upon the facts of each individual case taking in to account all considerations.

You can apply for Legal Aid in relation to the above applications, but this is assessed on your likelihood of success of the case as well as your financial situation.

Are Social Services threatening to take you to Court? Call us on our Freephone now to see how we can help

0121 683 5000

Frequently asked questions

Social services/ children’s services are also known as the local authority in these cases. If the local authority has reason to believe your child/ren are not safe in your home, please contact us on 0121 683 5000.  We appreciate it is a stressful situation to find yourself in, but our fee earners are very experienced in this area of law. We will help you understand your legal position and advise you of the steps you can take to prevent the local authority from removing your child/ren.

If you are a biological parent of the child concerned, or if you have parental responsibility, then you will receive legal aid whatever your financial circumstances, and you will pay nothing for representation in Special Children Act proceedings (this does not cover appeals of final orders.) Other people involved may be entitled to legal aid but this depends on their financial situation, and the reasons for their involvement. 

Cases of this kind should be concluded within 26 weeks in accordance with the Public Law Outline (PLO) but there are some exceptional circumstances when they go on for longer.  Permission of the court needs to be gained if proceedings are not able to be concluded within 26 weeks.

These are temporary orders. The judge will decide how long they should last for which can be up to the final hearing or until further order of the court. They are often put in place while assessments/ investigations are being completed and decisions are being made about what will happen in the longer term.

This is a temporary care order which gives the local authority parental responsibility for a child/ren which they then share with the biological parents or those who have parental responsible for a child/ren. This means the local authority can decide things which relate to the child/ren whilst the court proceedings are continuing, this includes where a child should live.  The local authority should consult all those with parental responsibility and keep them fully up to date with information. 

There needs to be reasonable grounds to believe that the child is suffering significant harm, or would be likely to suffer significant harm if an order was not made. “Harm” can be physical, emotional or sexual harm and this also covers cases of neglect. The harm, or likelihood of harm, has to be as a result of the child/ren receiving an inadequate level of care, or as a result of the child being beyond parental control.  If the court finds that the grounds are met for an interim care order the court should only make an order if it is also satisfied that it is in the child’s best interests and that it is proportionate in the circumstances.

This is an order which can be made in emergency situations where the risk of harm is imminent. These orders are obtained from the court to ensure the short term safety of a child/ren. The court will only make the order if they are satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if:
1) he is not removed to accommodation provided by the local authority or
2) he does not remain in the place where he is currently being accommodated e.g. in hospital.
In exceptional circumstances a local authority can apply for an EPO without notice to the parents. Protection orders can last for 8 days but the local authority can apply to the court to extend these orders for a further 7 days.

In urgent situations when the police feel children's safety needs immediate protection and there is not enough time to take the matter to court the police are able to use their police powers to protect the children for up to 72 hours, this will normally result in the children being placed in local authority foster care. The local authority will need to apply to the court if they intend to keep the children from returning home or seek the consent of those with parental responsibility to continue to accommodate the children until assessments/ investigations are completed and a decision made.

In every case the child concerned is separately represented by his/her own solicitor. The solicitor is assisted by the “children’s guardian”, an independent person with expertise in advising the court about what will be in a child’s best interests. The children guardian is independent of the local authority and is appointed by the court.

We represent you to ensure that your voice is heard. You will have the opportunity to get your views across through us representing you and the submissions we make on your behalf and in a written statement which will be filed to the court. You should also be given the opportunity to discuss your views with the social worker, the children’s guardian and anyone else who is preparing a report for the court.  You may also need to give oral evidence which is when you will speak directly to the court and you will be asked questions from all of the legal representatives of the parties.

Some areas have family drug and alcohol courts, if you live in an area which has this program your case may be allocated to that court if the main concerns of the local authority are drugs and/or alcohol.  We are able to represent you in these cases also but there are some hearings where lawyers do not attend and you meet separately with the judge to review progress.