When a social worker or Local Authority is concerned about the welfare of a child or children, they can apply for child proceedings as a way to help to protect them. Child proceedings do not mean that a child is going to be taken away from you, but it does mean that the situation will be investigated to gather information about the welfare and safety of the child.
Before child proceedings begin, the parents or carers of a child or children will be sent a letter that explains that child proceedings will be beginning and how the process will continue moving forward. It is essential that you do not ignore this letter and act in the way that you are instructed to give you the best outcome for you and your child(ren). This is a formal letter to advise you that child proceedings will be taking place if an appropriate resolution cannot be found at the pre-proceedings meeting.
When you receive a letter before child proceedings
As stated above, it is essential that you do not ignore the letter and that you read it carefully, following the instructions that it sets out. The letter will explain why the Local Authority is concerned about the care of your child or children, and why they feel it appropriate to bring about child proceedings. The letter may also provide you with information relating to how the Local Authority believes that it would be best to resolve the issue.
The main purpose of a pre-proceedings meeting is to come up with a plan that will help to make children safe and secure, with their well-being at the centre of it.
The letter will ask you to attend a pre-proceedings meeting, giving you details of where and when the meeting will be. This will be an opportunity to explain how you wish for your child to be bought up and whether you agree or disagree with the views of the Local Authority as stated in the letter – including their resolution recommendations.
If you agree that their concerns are warranted you can discuss ways that you can improve the situation with the Local Authority. If, on the other hand, you disagree with the concerns that they have, this is your opportunity to put your side of the argument across.
When you receive a child proceedings letter, it is advised that you look to appoint a Care Proceedings Solicitor who specialises in children law. The solicitor will come to the pre-proceedings meeting and you should advise the social worker that your solicitor will be attending the meeting with you.
Appointing a care proceedings solicitor
When you appoint a care proceedings solicitor, there are a number of things that they should go through with you including:
- They should meet you before the pre-proceedings meeting to go through the details with you.
- They should be able to give you advice on the next step(s) for you.
- They should go through the before child proceedings letter with you.
- They should explain how the Local Authorities have assessed the situation and their proposed services to help.
- They should also aid you throughout the whole process, offering legal advice and helping you to know where you stand at all times.
The pre-proceedings meeting will be attended by several people. These can include:
- The parents or primary carers of the child
- Their solicitor
- A social worker and their manager from Children’s Services
- The Children’s Services’ solicitor
- Other advocates or interpreters for the parents
In the meeting, there will be several discussions, including:
- Discussions and responses to the concerns of the Local Authority
- Discussions relating to how the family can be supported by the Local Authority and Social Services
- Any additional help that the child could be given
When you receive the letter before the child proceedings letter, it does not mean that the worst is going to happen. This is the first step in the process of trying to improve the situation, safety, and well-being of your child or children. It can be very beneficial to go to the meeting with an open mind and be willing to make changes. Showing that you are keen to improve things is essential to making the meeting as constructive as possible and avoiding the risk of it escalating.
If you are unable to come to an agreement at the pre-proceedings meeting, the case will almost certainly go through to child proceedings at the family court. Likewise, if you fail to attend the meeting, this will be seen as being unable to demonstrate your commitment to the well-being of the child or children and you will not be looked upon favourably.
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Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Luke Boxall who is a Solicitor and Director