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“Social Services are asking me to put my child in care, and they want me to do it now”

 Some important things for you to know, if you are asked to put your child in care. And some practical tips.


Firstly, and I can’t stress this enough – I am not your lawyer, just A LAWYER, and what is right for you and the circumstances of your case are things I don’t know, and the best thing I can recommend is for you to either talk to your own lawyer or find a lawyer and talk to them.

If you need to find one – you came here on the net, so you have internet. Google “family law firms in X” (where X is your town or county). Look for ones who do Care work if you can. Get in touch with them and make an urgent appointment.

There might be a good reason for you, and your family, why agreeing to the children coming into care is a good thing. What I want to help you with is not agreeing just because you feel you have no choice, and before you have had chance to think and ask your own lawyer what to do. If you honestly feel that it is the right thing for you, don’t be put off by me. I am trying to help people who feel that it ISN’T the right thing for them.

That done, back to your situation. You are a parent, social workers have come to your house, told you that they are worried about your children and think they need to come into care and are asking you to agree.

Here are some important things to know before you make any decisions

1. You don’t have to say yes. It has to be your free choice.

2. You don’t have to decide right now.

3. You are entitled to tell them that you want some legal advice before you decide something as big as that.

4. If you are told “If you don’t agree we will go to Court”, this is supposed to make you agree to avoid going to Court. It doesn’t have to. The Court will listen to your side of the story, and it might be that going to Court is the right thing for you to do. At the very least, it will get you a lawyer who will listen to you, give you advice and speak on your behalf.

5. The social worker doesn’t have any magic powers to be able to take your children away. They have to have either your agreement, or a Court order. Except in very specific circumstances, they can’t get a Court order without you having a chance to be there, to have your own lawyer speak on your behalf and have the chance to have your say.  They should NEVER go away and try to get that order without you being there if they have asked you to consent to the children coming into care and you have said no. That hearing should be with you present.

6. If they DO have that Court order, you will have a chance at a later Court hearing to challenge and fight it, but I’m afraid the order does give them the power to remove (if it is an Emergency Protection Order or an Interim Care Order) and trying to prevent them won’t do much good. You can try to tell them the names of other family members who would be willing and able to look after the children (as they have to consider placing the children within the family rather than with strangers if it is safe to do so)

7. The police do have the power to take your children away without a Court order (I’ll come back to that later) so you will know that if the police aren’t there and there isn’t a court order, your children will not be going anywhere unless you agree or until you have your say in Court.

Here are suggestions for what you can do if you are asked to make that decision

Very hard to do, but keep calm. It is likely that what you do and say in the next hour or so will end up being information given to the Court. It can be information that helps you (you were calm, reasonable but firm) or that hurts you (you got aggressive, shouting, or physical, or the children were exposed to lots of drama and distress whilst all this was going on).

With that in mind, it is perfectly fine to say something like “That’s a real shock. I want to talk about this, but I don’t want the children to have to hear it. Can we sit down with the children being in another room and talk about it for a bit?”

And “I’d really like to get some legal advice about all this before I decide anything at all, does this have to be decided right now?”

If they are insisting on it being right now, it is fine for you to ask why, and also fine for you to ask them for some paper, so you can make a note of what they are saying.

It is also fine to say “I would like to call my lawyer to see what they think and I am going to do that now, just so I know where I stand”

[I don’t know whether agreeing to the children coming into care is right for you, or right for your situation, that’s a matter for you and your lawyer. What I want to do is give you the chance to make that decision and think about it and know what it means.]

The social worker will probably say something along the lines of “I’m afraid if you won’t agree now to the children going into care, then I’ll go to court and get an order for them to come into care”

And as I said earlier, you need to remember, that what they actually mean here is “I’ll go to court and ASK for an order for the children to come into care, and you will be at Court and you can ASK for them to stay at home, and the Court will make a decision”

And also that the Court don’t automatically grant those orders – they require the social worker to have evidence that the children are at risk and that going into care is the only thing that can be done, and that everything else that could be tried either has been or isn’t safe to try.

It might be that for you, going to Court is better than agreeing for the children to go into care. You would have your chance to fight this in Court, to have someone speak for you, and the chances are that if Social Services are in your home asking you to agree to the children going into care that you will eventually have to be in Court in order to get them back. So the threat of the case going to Court isn’t a good reason to agree to the children going into care, if you wouldn’t otherwise agree to do it.

Agree if you do think it is best for you or your children, or if talking it through with your lawyer you decide it is right for you right now, and that you need to sort some things out for yourself first before you have that fight.

If you feel that you are being bullied to agree or make that decision right away, you can say to the social worker “I believe that the High Court in Re CA, decided that section 20 consent has to be voluntary and not as a result of pressure, and that my human rights could be breached if I was cajoled into that agreement”

And “It isn’t that I am not cooperating, but I think a decision about whether my children should be removed is a very big one, and I don’t agree that right now. I’d want to see all of the evidence and have my own legal advice before I thought about it”

What if the police are there?

If the police are there, all of these discussions become much more serious. The police do have the power to take the children away, under Police Protection. That lasts for 72 hours, after which time the social workers have to either get a Court order, or your agreement to the children being in care, or a Court order.

So you would have a right to challenge and fight to get the children back in 72 hours, but you obviously want to avoid that happening if at all possible.

So firstly, again keep calm. Shouting, yelling, screaming, throwing things, being aggressive are all things that make the police more likely to use that power. Try not to give them any excuse.

Here are the magic words, if the police say “we are going to take your child into police protection” or something similar.

“Officer, I’m not being difficult, but I see that you have come with the social worker, which means social services are already involved. And as the High Court said in Re CA 2012, where that is the case, the social worker ought to go to Court to seek an order from the Court, so my human rights aren’t breached by the police or social services. And you will know from the Liverpool case that the police shouldn’t just take a child into police protection to save the social worker the trouble of going to court. And so you should only take the children into police protection if the risks are so great that they can’t be kept safe until the case is heard in Court. I won’t do anything silly and I won’t run away. I will go to Court and the Court will decide. If you want, you can watch me with the kids, or they can go to (my mother/aunt Beryl/whoever) until the Court case starts, then you know everything will be fine.”

That may well put the fear of god into them. It will probably make them think “God, I don’t know anything about the law on this, but this person seems to, and the High Court say we shouldn’t do this”

And you won’t have said anything that isn’t (a) true and (b) fair. No threats, no shouting. Just a reminder that the police aren’t supposed to do social workers dirty work for them, unless there is evidence that the children won’t be safe with you even for an hour whilst the social worker gets a Court hearing sorted out.


About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

16 responses

  1. forcedadoption

    Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly ………

  2. Any parent who finds themselves in this position should be very wary of the advice given in this blog and should seek professional advice.

    Just to clarify a few truths, if the Local Authoriy (LA) has serious concerns for the welfare of the child/children (this has to amount to significant harm) they will firstly try to remove the risk, Next stage will be to place the child with family members or a place of safey.

    If parent/s agree to S.20 (meaning voluntary agreement for child to be placed temporarily elsewhere) it’s possible for the child to be returned within days if the original concerns are addressed and identified risks are minimised.

    Note: Every visit is recorded, ask for copies!!!!!!, Read these reports and ask for your views to be added!!!!

    However if the LA has evidence of ‘risk of significant harm’ and parent refuse S.20 they will proceed with an application for an Interim Care Order then a Full Care Order. That’s when psychologists get involved!!!!
    Any parent/person who has experience of this will know the game is over!!!!

    Once a Full Care Order has been granted (by the court) and Long Term Care is deemed in the Child’s Best Interest, rarely is this revoked (LAC Reviews only enusure the care plan is followed, they do not aim to rehabilitate the child back home).

    To summarise, find a lawyer who is experienced and has the balls to challenge the LA.

    Keep calm and deliver a rational argument supported with facts, ask for copies of written reports after EVERY visit, do not sign anything you do not agree with

    • Well yes, absolutely they should seek professional advice, which I was at pains to point out many times. The suggestions here are for the situation where a parent is feeling under pressure to agree something quickly and is perhaps not aware that they do have a choice.

  3. And while you are phoning the lawyer they must leave the room and get out of earshot.

    • I do believe parents panic in these situations and hope such parents have access to this advice.

  4. Tweetygraffity

    Dear all, This is really good ” In case of emergency break glass” advice. It Is meant to help someone who has no other resource at the time of the emergency. Seusspicious Minds is at pains to point out that it is not specific legal advice (as CPR is not specific medical advice.). A compassionate and generous blog.

  5. Jean Robinson, President, Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS)

    I often wonder how many social workers have read their BASW Code of Ethics lately, or even
    the Health Professions Council brief general Code of Conduct for all the professions it covers. I would advise every client to look them up, and keep copies handy.


  7. I think this is really helpful. Any good social worker will be glad the families they are working with are well informed, they know they have enough power without needing to use coercion, and most tell parents what you have written.

    • Thank you Helen, I think most good social workers want, and would tell the parents, that it is a genuinely free choice (although of course one where consequences may follow). Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, very kind of you.

  8. The trouble is most will not inform you,
    We did a section 20, but were informed that they would go to the court if we did not,
    Implying we had no choice in the mater,
    I wish I had been able to had seen this thread before,

    • Simon

      Your experience only shows, as does that of most, that the theory of how social workers should behave, with code of ethics etc. taken on board, is so far removed from the reality of what families / clients experience, with coercion / intimidation as the default position, that you need a microscope to see the ethics in their approach.

      Things will remain dire unless the whole social work system is scrapped to make it accountable to the public- with redress against wrong doing being available through independent scrutiny. I find it depressing to keep reading of these injustices which few lawyers, if any will challenge.

  9. Pingback: Quashing the child protection investigation: self-serving or breaching the dam? | The Not So Big Society

  10. Hi Jacqui,

    A s20 is just a shorthand way of saying “a parent agrees for their child to go into care” – it is important for you to know, as I say in this piece, that your agreement has to be genuinely voluntary and that you are told of your right to say no, and your right to change your mind at a later time. I would recommend wholeheartedly that if you are thinking about whether or not to agree to place your child in care voluntarily, even if you are told it will only be for a little while, you GET YOUR OWN LEGAL ADVICE about whether it is the right thing for you and your child. [Why s20? Well Section 20 is the bit of the Children Act that deals with this system, and lawyers use “S” rather than saying “section” each time]

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