is there anybody who can help out there!?!(9 Posts)
i am lookin for some advice if anybody would be so kind....
my sister in law and brother have received a letter from the local authority stating that they are taking them to court as they are concerned for the welfare of my niece.
this has been going on for some time and i have made myself known to social services and have since had a viability test which i passed....but my sister in law does not want my niece to come and live with me. she would rather her being cared for by a family member on her side. but i am the only person who has had a viability test and found to be suitable.
my sister in law has been advised by her solicitor that if the baby gets taken into care as a result of the court case she has to "grin and bear" whoever the courts decide she should live with....otherwise my niece will be taken into care and adopted out within weeks!?! she has also been told by her solicitor that in 99% of cases, all children are taken into care once it reaches the court stage.
so what i really want to know is...
1) is it true that because the local authority have taken her to court that my niece is "definitely" going to be taken off my sister in law and brother?
2) if the baby is taken into care can my sister in law have a say in where her daughter goes? i.e. can she say that she doesn't want her to come with me even though i am the only suitable family member?
3) is it right that social services will be able to adopt my niece out within weeks of her going into care?
please help me shed light on these causes for concern!
thankyou for taking the time to read
How kind of you to make yourself known to social services in an attempt to support your little niece, I'm not 100% sure that I'm giving you the correct answers here but no doubt someone else will be along to offer support/advice too.
My understanding is....
1) It's not a forgone conclusion that your niece will be removed. The judge makes the decision to grant the ICO (interim care order) My own foster childs case went to court twice before the judge agreed to grant the LA an ICO.
2) I don't think that your sister-in-law will have any say on who she is placed with. The LA will always be more likely to place a child with a family member rather than foster carers where possible.
3) Despite all the recent news about adoption it is a fairly lengthy process and would take more than a few weeks.
I really hope everything works out ok.x
Hi - I think I remember you posting before about this. Where is the child now - is she with foster carers and how old is she?
OK I will try and answer Cazz has given you good info but I think I can expland a little.
1. It isn't a foregone conclusion that a child will be removed from the parents and the decision is not made until the final hearing (Cazz the sws have to go to court several times called "Directions Hearings") but the final decision is not made until the final hearing (which can take several months) and the decision is made by the Judge.
However in the vast majority of cases that get to final hearings, the judge will agree because a wide range of professionals, sws, psychologists, psychiatrists (if relevant) GPs/HVs and Guardians (who are sws but independent of the LA) mostly recommendations are made about the child's future. All professionals can only make recommendations to the Judge. Rarely will a professional make a recommendation that the child is returned to birth parents, because they know that they have to have a "cast iron" case to put before a judge. Birthparents are legally represented (which is fair) and their lawyers will fight their corner and cross examine anyone who has provided a report and who is recommending that the child is not returned to the parents. The LA lawyer will be fighting the case for the LA.
Occasionally there may be a case where there is disagreement between the professionals and in those cases, they make their recommendations and reasons for their recommendation, and the matter is fought out in court and the judge makes the final decision.
2) If the decision is not to return the child to your sil she will not have any say in where the child goes, because this decision is made in the best interests of the child.
I am wondering what is happening since your viability assessment went well. Have the sws been back in touch with you. I think I said to you before that the LA have a duty to place a child who cannot be cared for her own parents is placed with a member of the extended family, wherever this is possible. I think you need to make contact with them ,because they should be talking to you about the options for the child's care, which will determine what sort of assessment they will be doing to present to the court at the final hearing. You see sws have to have a Care Plan for each child by the final hearing, because the Judge wants to know what the LA are proposing for the child's future, so that he can make a decision on that basis.
You mention a "baby" and the LA will therefore possible present 3 options:
1. A Residence Order. This means that the Parental Responsibility is shared between you and the birth parents, and is not a suitable Order for this kind of case. It is usually used in private law (where parents are in disagreement about their child on their separation) IF they talk about this Order say NO. As I give you the other options you will see why I am saying that.
2. A Special Guardianship Order. This means that the PR is transferred to the applicants (there are only 3 conditions in which the birth parents have to give consent. (i) you are not allowed to change the child's name without their consent (ii) not allowed to take child out of country for more than 3 months and (iii) not allowed to apply for an Adoption Order without their consent.
Other than that you have PR over the child and secures the child's future. She is no longer in the care of the LA. Also a sw has to carry out an Assessment of Needs (that you might have - maybe financial to equip your home with a baby's needs and ensure the Health & Safety angle of your property is suitable - those are just reasons for examples.
I don't know what you think about funding, because the LA are only under a duty to pay fostering allowances to people granted an SGO for 2 years. Also you will have to sort out contact etc although this should be spelled out in the report.
3. An adoption Order certainly cannot be made in a few weeks - it can take months. You could apply for an AO but it is not usually a good idea for families as the child needs to know who is who in his family, although if this is a very young child, you may find the LA are supportive of you applying for an AO.
SO can you let me know if this child is currently in foster care and her age. Also if you understand all I am saying, as it's a complicated business I am happy to go over anything that is confusing. How are you fixed about funding, given you are only likely to get it for 2 years.
The LA will not allow you to permanently foster a baby because they feel that a child should not spend her childhood in foster care (and also because it costs too much having to pay fostering fees till she is 18) They will definitely want you to look at another route to permanency and I think an SGO or an AO would be realistic, but you must get in touch with the LA and ask if and when they are going to come and see youto discuss the child's future.
thankyou both for your responses they are greatly appreciated...
nananina you are right with previous thread! basically since then lots of things have happend including me seeking legal advice as social services asked me to apply for an interim care order on the last working day before xmas! upon receiving advice from a solicitor she advised me not to apply for this order as it would be highly unlikely that my niece would be taken off my sil before xmas due to the stress it would cause. she also advised me against it due to the expectations ss had of me.
so..we arranged a meeting where ss, sil and i were present and i signed a written agreement stating that i would keep regular contact with sil and niece over the xmas period and contact ss immediately should i have any concerns. it also stated in the agreement that sw would call at sil home unannounced to check on my niece.
for a few weeks everything seemed to be "normal" in comparison to sw ringing me every other day to ask me when was the last time i saw my niece, etc...then i received a phonecall just after new year from sw who said she hadnt been able to make any contact with sil since xmas eve! i gave sw sil new mobile no (which she changed and didnt inform ss) and so sw was able to make contact.
its prob important to state now that also as part of this agreement my sil and brother are not allowed to have a relationship or be together in front of niece due to domestic violence...so when sw turned up unannounced and found my brother at the house and with the explanation that they had got back together (i knew nothing about this) sw obviously wasnt happy!
then..letter came about sil and brother being taken to court for care of niece.
the court case should be by the end of this week..but so far havent received a date.
when i spoke to the sw just after new year she informed me then that if niece should be taken into care then they would contact me first but my sil is so against it...she keeps on saying that i will stop her from having access!
in terms of viability test..i only knew it was approved when my solicitor enquired about it.
after speaking to bro todah his solicitor has said that as my brother also has parental responsibility he could suggest and approve niece coming into my care and so over ruling my sil?
but as they are being taken to court surely it must mean that it will be up to the judge/ss who my niece goes to live with.
in terms of finance i am fine and would not need any help from ss - i would much rather have my niece in my care than being placed with absolute strangers money or no money.
i also have childcare sorted as i work in a private day nursery and have amazing directors!
oh and my niece is 1 year 4 months old
AC I think things are very muddled with this case. YOu say that the LA asked you to apply for an Interim Care Order just before Christmas and your solicitor advised you not to because it was Christmas. The fact is you cannot make an application for an ICO, only the LA can do this and they have to have a very good case to put before the court, so it sounds like your solicitor doesn't understand child care law!
I am assuming that because the sw found the child's father there, they are initiating care proceedings, and have written to you sil, although I think it strange that they have written such a letter, as they should be talking it over with your sil, and advising her she is entitled to get her own legal advice.
When you say the court case is sometime this week, I am wondering what exactly the case is. Do you know if SSs want to remove the child (as it appears she is still at home with her mother) - if so they may be in court to apply for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) and the birthparents have a right to have their say. I can't imagine the LA are in court for an ICO, because the child is still with her mother - is that right?
In care proceedings there arre numerous court appearances and it can take months and months to get to the final hearing when a decision is made by the Judge regarding the future of the child and make an appropriate Court Order.
I think you brother's solicitor also has no knowledge of child care law as well as yours, because your brother cannot approve the child coming to you. As I said before all decisions about children have to be made in the best interests of the child not anyone else, be they mother, father, granny, aunt and whoever else
The sw has told you that if the child is removed she will come to you first and as the viability test was positive she will have to being an in depth assessment of you in respect of the permanent care of the child.
There seem to be some doubt as to whether this child is going to be removed, but clearly there is concern as you were asked to keep in touch with you sil over the Christmas period. I think you need a new solicitor honestly -this is all complicated enough without getting incorrect advice from a solicitor. You may not need one anyway. If the LA recommend you care for the child on a permanent basis then the LA will fight the case on behalf of the sws and indirectly yourself.
I think you need another talk with the sw and get correct information. YOu can show him/her this post if your like.
Both parents wishes and feelings about who the child is placed with are taken into account as part of an SGO assessment. This is one small section of a very detailed set of criteria and is unlikely to hold enough weight to sway the SW's conclusion unless there is a good reason, like if the parent accuses the potential carer of abuse.
An SGO is usually the best order for kinship/family placements, be aware that if SIL or your brother are awarded contact you might be asked to facilitate it. If contact with the parents is judged not in the child's best interests you might be asked to make sure they do not see her/ban them from your home.
They will be interested in your relationship with your niece and your experience of parenting and childcare generally. You might also be expected to take leave from work as they will want you to prioritise the child's needs during any transition. This could mean keeping her at her own nursery if she already attends one.
I have carried out quite a few SGO assessments when working as an independent sw, but retired in 2009. I did of course have to interview the birthparents and I think maybe it was necessary to ask what their feelings were about the applicants. Most of them said they wanted the child back. I do also recall that we asked birthparents what were their wishes about contact with the child. I remember one mom saying "every day" and many of them expected that contact would be at the same frequency as it had been when the child was in short term care, or before an SGO was made.
You are quite right to say that the parent's wishes and feelings would be unlikely to hold enough weight to sway the SWs conclusion. I would go further than that and say I cannot imagine that anything that the parents said would sway my recommendation. You mention that "unless there is good reason like the parent accuses the potential carer of abuse." I have to disagree with you here, because it was not unusual for birth parents to make derogatory comments about the SGO applicants. I had one young mum tell me that her partner's mother was a drug user, as was her daughter. I recorded what she had said but made no comment, as I was absolutely certain that this was untrue. The applicant was a nursing Sister in a general hospital, and her daughter was a nurse. I had got to know them very well doing the assessment and I knew the birthmom was having a last ditch attempt to discredit the applicants. She said to me "don't you carry out drug tests on these people." I replied No I didn't and she said "so you're giving drug takers children to care for" I felt sorry for some of these birthmoms as they clearly wanted to care for their child, but had been found incapable of caring for the child and keeping him/her safe. Many of them were very young mums and very immature.
Another birth mother told me that the applicant (her grandmother) had thrown the baby down the cellar steps and "got away with it" - well there was clearly no truth in this allegation. I can on one level understand why birthparents made these comments, as they were so hurt that their child had been removed.
I agree that if contact is awarded (and in my experience it usually is, on a quarterly basis or x 6 per year) and this was something that had to be addressed in the SGO, then the applicants would definitely have to facilitate contact, as the child was no longer in the care of the LA and the case would be closed, so there would not be a sw available. I used to try to tie the contact details down quite firmly, knowing that the applicants would have to cope with this themselves. It was possible to request that a 1 year Supervision Order was made alongside the SGO, so that the sw could ensure that contact went as smoothly as possible, and help with any other issues that arose.
Sorry if I sound like I'm splitting hairs I don't mean to I just wanted to clarify some of the issues.
Sorry auntycupcake - think the last poster and me are maybe forging too far ahead, and might be confusing you more. Mind it is good info for you if they do place the child with you, as the SGO is the most appropriate order to be made, and so the info we have given could be useful later on when things are clearer.
Tbh it sounds like they are going to court fur an ico meaning they can remove the baby without her parents agreement.
If you have had a viability assessment the sw may have included this in the care plan.
If she does come to you they have to assess you in the same way they would a foster carer and pay you the fostering allowance whilst she is subject to an order.
Care proceedings now have to be concluded within 26 weeks and I know our court needs a very good reason to extend it.
If the plan is not to return her to parents - and kids do go home if you are willing to care for her in the long term then they aren't allowed to consider adoption unless there's a huge reason why they think you aren't appropriate.
If you were looking at long term them a sgo would be the way to go. Although parents would still have pr you only have to inform them of any decision rather than a residence order where you would have to agree. The sgo does have a financial package attached for three years but this done through a financial assessment
Hope this helps.