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My children are in foster care, can I get them back?
- AuthorEmily Jones
What is a Foster Carer?
Foster Carers can offer children a safe and loving home when they are not able to remain with their birth parents.
Why have my children been placed into Foster Care?
Children may live with foster carers on a short or long-term basis if the Local Authority deem that they are not safe in the care of their birth parents. Often parents find this very distressing and fear that they will never be able to care for their children again, but this is not always the case. Johnson Astills Solicitors can provide support and advice regarding Local Authority involvement with your child.
How are my children placed into Foster Care?
Children can live with foster carers under several mechanisms; a section 20 agreement is a voluntary arrangement, which means parents must consent to their children being removed from their care, but they can withdraw this consent at any time, so it is often used on a short-term basis. Alternatively, children can be removed under an Interim Care Order. This is also a short-term arrangement whilst the Court decides on a permanent plan for the child.
What is a Full Care Order?
Full Care Orders are final Orders and can last until the child turns 18.
Children can be made subject to a Care Order if the threshold under s31 of the Children Act 1989, is met. The Court must be satisfied that the subject child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm; and the likelihood of harm is attributable to the care given to the child, or likely to be given, if the Order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to them, or the child being beyond parental control.
If the Court makes a Care Order, the Local Authority will share Parental Responsibility. This means that they can make key decisions for the child, such as where they live or what school they go to.
In many cases, children are removed from their parents’ care when subject to a Care Order. They may live with family members, friends, or foster carers to ensure that their basic care needs are met in a safe and loving environment. The Local Authority can exercise a higher level of Parental Responsibility than the parents themselves under a Care Order.
Can a Care Order be discharged?
Many parents who have their children removed to Local Authority foster care eventually want their children to be returned home, sometimes known as reunification or rehabilitation. It can be difficult for parents to persuade the Court that their child’s Care Order should be discharged, but Johnson Astills Solicitors can help you with this.
The Court must consider a range of factors when a parent applies to discharge a Care Order.
- Has the parent sustained significant changes to your lifestyle for an extended period?
- Is the parent able to meet their child’s care needs?
- Would the child be at risk of harm if returned to your care?
- What is in the child’s best interests?
- Has the child formed a close bond with their foster carer?
- Is keeping the child in care necessary and proportionate when considering their Human Right to family life?
It is important to understand that the test to discharge a Care Order is what is in the Child’s best interests. The Local Authority does not have to prove that the child would still be at risk of significant harm if returned home, but equally the parents do not have to prove that the child would not be at risk of significant harm if returned home. The test is heavily based on the child’s best interests and the Judge will make that decision after considering all the evidence in the case, including considering papers from the original care proceedings.
Johnson Astills Care Team would be able to assist you to make an application to the Court to discharge the Care Order and prepare your written evidence to the Court to demonstrate that it would be in the child’s best interest to be returned home. Legal Aid is sometimes available.
We understand that the Local Authority being involved with your children can be very stressful and that is why we are here to help and provide advice. We have experience in assisting parents at all stages of Local Authority involvement.
Please contact Johnson Astills at either our Leicester office on 0116 255 4855 or our Loughborough office on 01509 610 312 and ask or a member of the Care Team. Alternatively you contact us through our free online enquiry form or email us at email@example.com and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.