FAQs on Domestic Violence for fathers
Section 20 accommodation
My child’s social worker wants to place them into foster care because of concerns that we cannot keep them safe at home. They want us to agree to section 20 accommodation. What does this mean?
If you agree to section 20 (also known as voluntary) accommodation this means that your child will be “looked after” away from home by Children’s Services with your agreement and with no court order in place. You still have parental responsibility for your child and Children’s Services do not have parental responsibility. This means that you have the right to agree or disagree with plans made for your child by the social worker.
It is important that you understand what you are being asked to agree with and that you are asked to sign a written agreement which sets out clearly the arrangements for your child including where they will live, who will care for them and when you can spend time with them. The agreement should also make clear that you can remove your child from accommodation at any time. Always seek advice if you do not understand or feel pressured to agree to your child being accommodated or to the plans being made. You can seek advice from a solicitor specialising in family law or Family Rights group’s advice service. If you have a baby or very young child and a fostering for adoption placement is raised as a possible plan for them it is essential that you seek urgent legal advice.
If you agree to section 20 accommodation for your child you can request that your child is placed with a family member, friend or someone already known or connected to them and ask that the social worker assesses this person as a prospective foster carer. The person would have to be temporarily and later fully approved as a foster carer for your child to be placed with them. The law says that relatives/friends/connected people who are approved as foster carers should considered before unrelated foster carers as long as this is practical and in the child’s best interests.
You can find out more about section 20 accommodation in Family Rights Group’ advice sheet on care proceedings and in our tailored FAQs. When children are looked after in the care system children’s services must comply with a broad range of duties. You can find out more about the plans that must be made for looked after children and how they are reviewed in Family Rights Group’s advice sheet on children’s services’ duties when children are in the care system.
If you do not agree to your child being voluntarily accommodated or if you remove your child from voluntary accommodation without children’s services’ agreement and they believe that this is unsafe for your child they can ask the court to make an emergency protection order (in an emergency) or an interim care order.