Frequently asked questions for fathers
Fathers and Care System
My son is in the care system. Does the local authority have to consult with me?
Yes. When children are in the care system, the local authority is required to find out and consider the wishes and feelings of the child's parents and other significant people in the child's life about any decisions and plans being made. It should not make any difference whether you have parental responsibility or not.
Similarly they should find out what you think about the review of any plans made for your son, invite you to reviews and send you records of meetings, unless the local authority believe to do so would place another person at risk or make your child feel too uncomfortable to speak.
However, finding out your views is not the same as getting your agreement to plans. The local authority does not have to agree the plan with you if:
- there is a care plan in place, or
- where there is no care order, but your son's mother or someone else with parental responsibility has already agreed the plan, or your child is over 16 and has agreed his own plan.
Read here FRG's advice sheet on making plans for children in the care system.
If feel my son's social worker is against me because I'm a father. She won't consider my son being placed with me. What can I do?
When deciding where to place a child who is in the care system, the local authority should consider whether it would be in his interests to be placed with his parents, family members or anyone else with parental responsibility, rather than being looked after by foster carers who he doesn't know.
The best option is therefore for you to write to the social worker, sending a copy to your son's mother and keeping a copy for your records. In the letter you need to:
- explain why you think it would be best for you to live with you;
- ask for a meeting between yourself and the local authority to discuss it further; and
- be able to show what back up support you have to be able to care for your son and how you can best meet his needs.
If you cannot reach agreement with them as to the way forward then the options open to you depend upon whether or not there's a care order in place.
If you son is 'in accommodation' (i.e. in the care system by agreement between the local authority and their mother) then theoretically, provided you have parental responsibility, you have the right to remove your child from wherever they have been placed unless the mother has a residence order in her favour and does not agree to this. You may find mediation helpful in negotiating with her about this. If you can not reach such an agreement then you should take advice about applying for a residence order to be able to remove him. However, you should NEVER remove your child without also discussing and agreeing it with the social worker.
If there is a care order in place, then the social worker will need to agree any new arrangement for your son to live with you. S/he will want to assess your ability to care for him and you should co-operate fully with that assessment. At the end of the assessment the social worker will feed back to you whether s/he agrees that they can live with you and if so how that will happen. If your son is on a care order and the local authority does not agree to your son being placed with you, then you will need to go to court to apply to discharge the order.
It is very important you seek legal advice on this question either from Family Rights Group or a solicitor specialising in child care law.
My ex made malicious claims that I hit her so she could get a Residence Order some time ago. My children are now in foster care under a care order. I want to apply to discharge the care order. Will these claims go against me?
If you apply to discharge the care order, it is likely that these allegations will be re-considered but the court will also look at the current and future situation as well. The court will only discharge the care order if it satisfied that your children will be safe from future harm and returning home is in their best interests.
I feel my family and I have been ignored when decisions have been made about where to place my son since he has been in care. What can we do?
The local authority should consult you about any decisions made about your son whilst he is in the care system, so you should certainly by asked what you think. If you haven't been asked what you want from your son, then it is a good idea for you to write to the local authority setting out what you want for your son and how this will best meet your son's needs.
However, you should be aware that they do not have to do what you say:
If your son is in 'accommodation' (i.e. in the care system by agreement with their mother) she may have agreed to the plan for your son, in which case they don't need your agreement as well;
if you son is in care under a care order they can make a plan for where your son will live whether or not you agree, whils tthe care order is in place.
If you are unhappy about the outcome you can consider making a complain. For further information see the FRG's advice sheet on complaints.