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What will happen if I run away with my child to avoid Social Services involvement?

View profile for Jasmine Lees
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When the Local Authority become involved due to concerns regarding a parent’s care of a child / children, it can be a very challenging time for the family. Many people feel that they wish to escape so that they do not have to deal with any intervention and scrutiny by the social worker or other professionals. If the concerns have developed and have not been addressed by the family, the Local Authority may instigate Care Proceedings for protective orders for the child/ children and this may include removal from the parent’s care.

Sometimes parents take steps to remove their children from the local area which the Local Authority are involved and some parents even take steps to remove their children from the country. However, the Local Authority, the police and the Courts are able to take steps to safeguard the children to ensure that they are safe and returned to the appropriate area / country.

Moving areas to a new Local Authority

Where safeguarding concerns have arisen in respect of a child in one Local Authority (i.e. Leicester), any steps taken by the parent to re-locate to a new area (i.e Manchester) will result in a safeguarding referral to be made to the new Local Authority. This means that the family will have to undergo assessment and engage with a social worker within their new local area to address any safeguarding concerns which have arisen. This new social worker will have to build up a relationship with the parent from the beginning and will need to gather information as to safeguarding concerns from various sources such as the previous Local Authority so is likely to rely on this information.

Running away with the child to an unknown location

Occasionally in desperation, parents may decide to go into hiding with their child to evade the Local Authority or pending Care Proceedings before the Court. If this occurs, the Local Authority are likely to call the police to report the parent and the child as missing and raise any safety concerns police so that the police can try and locate the parent and child. This will only heighten the Local Authority’s concerns and they may determine that the child has been placed at greater risk of physical and emotional harm by the parent absconding.

If the matter is before the Court and the children are subject to Interim Care Orders which means the Local Authority hold parental responsibility for the child, the Court may order a Recovery Order to direct the person who has care of the child to return them to an agreed place as soon as possible. It also gives power to the police to use reasonable force to enable them to search for the children and enter any premises they believe that the child may be in.

Police Protection Powers

Under Section 46 of the Children Act 1989, the police have the power to lawfully remove a child without the consent of the parents if the police officer reasonably believes that the child is at risk of suffering significant harm if they are not removed or kept in suitable accommodation. A child can only be under the protection of the police for a maximum of 72 hours without a court order.

If a person absconds with a child and the police believe that the child is at risk of significant harm in that person’s care once located, they make exercise their right to protect the child under these powers. A referral will automatically be made to the Local Authority who are then likely to initiate care proceedings to further safeguard the child through a protective order.

Taking the child out of the country

If a person attempts to remove a child from the UK who is subject to Local Authority involvement then a referral may be made to the country to which the person travels to. This means that the local social services or equivalent body within that country may become involved with the family as a result of the inter-country safeguarding referral.

The Court may also make a Recovery Order directing for the parent to return the child to the country and/or give power to the police to direct such return. Subsequently, there may liaison between national and international law enforcement bodies to action the return of the child to the country.  The Court will need to keep in mind if the child is “habitually resident” in the England and Wales when making any such decision. 

How Johnson Astills can help

It is very important that if you are considering leaving the country which your child and you have Local Authority involvement or are subject to any Court proceedings relating to your child that you seek legal advice first.

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 for a member of the Care Team so that we can advise you accordingly. Alternatively, please email us on careteam@johnsonastills.com and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.