Following a referral being made to the local authorities social services department, perhaps following Police involvement with your family, an initial assessment is undertaken within 10 days of receiving the referral. A strategy meeting will then be held to decide whether any further investigation is necessary and if it is then a full assessment must be completed within 35 working days. In addition, within 15 days of deciding that a full assessment is required the local authority will set up a Child Protection Conference.
The information gathered at the Child Protection Conference will be used to make a decision as to the whether or not your children will be subject to a Child in Need Plan or a Child Protection Plan or no plan at all.
If further involvement is required, the local authority must decide what level of support is appropriate –
* A Child in Need Plan may be drawn up if it is felt that further support is needed but there is no risk of continuing harm.
* A Child Protection Plan will be drawn up if the Child Protection Conference believes that there is a risk of continuing harm. This will be under the categories of neglect, physical, emotional, or sexual harm. The Child Protection Plan may have incorporated into it a Written Agreement which will lay out the expectations of you as parents and the local authority to work together to ensure that the terms of the Plan are met.
In some circumstances, where there is an imminent risk of harm to your children, you may be asked by the local authority to agree to a voluntary placement of your children away from your care. Since this agreement is voluntary, you would be able to withdraw your consent at any time. However, if you were to remove your consent the local authority would have to either return the children immediately to your care or apply to the court for an order to allow them to keep the children with either family members or in the local authorities care.
As a parent, you must have parental responsibility for your children to either give or withdraw your consent. Parental responsibility means all rights, duties, powers, and responsibilities in relation to a child, for example the right to access school reports or make medical decisions or decide on what school the child is to attend. A mother automatically has parental responsibility as does a father if he was married to the mother either at the time of birth or afterwards or if he is named on the child’s birth certificate and the child was born after 1st December 2003. Parental responsibility can also be obtained by court order.
For more information and advice contact a specialist family advisor at Heaney Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting http://www.heaneywatson.com/site/services/care-proceedings-solicitors/ .