Too late to discharge care order?

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worriedmum81
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Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:37 am

Too late to discharge care order?

Post by worriedmum81 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:13 pm

My children have been in long term foster care for 6 and a half years. My eldest son returned home to live with me 2 years ago.
In the past 6 and a half years there have been so many changes. I passed an assessment for looking after my son. I passed an assessment through a different authority to be a joint carer for my partners children who are also classed as looked after. My children's local authority gave a positive reference for me to ensure I was allowed, stating that I am a good parent and not a danger.
I have done parenting courses, healthy minds therapy and c.b.t.
I have a new home, am financially stable, have a secure and very responsible career, have completed numerous courses including diplomas in care for people with disabilities (all of my children have different diagnosis of developmental and physical disabilities). I have always worked really well with the local authority, have attended every contact and had nothing but positive reports from the contact workers. The only negatives are once a few years ago a foster carer said she felt the Christmas contact got a bit loud, and recently the social worker supervised a contact; this contact was unusual, with exceptional circumstances but the children were still quite well behaved.
Despite all of this, neither myself or my family are allowed unsupervised contacts. My daughter is still not allow to bring me even though she says she wants to and social services have been agreeing for years that she can. Her carer apparently tells her she doesn't have my number.
My eldest is nearly 18. He has got to the point of not going to contact as he hates that he is being watched constantly and has even been told it's inappropriate to hug his siblings as they are all too old for this now. My older daughter keeps getting upset and asking why she can't see him in normal places like going to the cinema or shopping with him. But the social worker says she doesn't want to see him outside. Due to her autism she lives in the moment so when her lac officer sees her and asks if everything is ok and does anything need changed she says everything is fine, because it is at that moment.
I've had meeting and emailed. I've asked them for their concerns in writing but have had no response from them so far. Recently at a meeting it was said the social workers would speak to foster carers about bringing the children to my sister's 40th birthday but when it came close to the day they denied they had said it. They agreed that for my son's 18th they would change the contact date. They again denied it, but after I challenged them they said they have no availability so won't consider changing the date or time so they know he won't attend.
They agreed that this year we can have a full family contact where we all go out for a Xmas meal but today said it's not happening. When I phoned the social worker they said my parents didn't want to don't and had chose to not see the children until the new year. My mum said this wasn't the case, they had been told that if they want to have joint contact it would have to be during mine, in a small room in the contact centre which my parents thought was unfair on me and impractical to have 11 people in a tiny room with only 4 chairs.
Anyway the point of this is; I want to get unsupervised contact; I don't wish to disrupt the placements as much as I want the children home because my daughter is due to do gcses, my son will be starting gcses next year and my youngest daughter due to move to seniors, and as I only currently have a 2 bedroom property with a view to buying a bigger place next year; I would like my children to have visits home and normal family life. I am planning to go to court next year to look at discharging the care orders if it isn't too late. I am aware it is an obligation for the local authority to consider discharging care orders but as they haven't considered this in 6 years it feels like court might be my only option.
Any advice would be very welcome

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Too late to discharge care order?

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Nov 12, 2018 5:49 pm

Dear worriedmum81

Thank you for your further post.

You are concerned about the level of contact you are currently having and more particularly that the contact continues to be supervised. In your post you have mentioned that you are not able to have telephone contact with your daughter because the foster carers tell her that they do not have your telephone number. Since there is care order in place it is for children’s services to make decisions about the contact your daughter can and cannot have. The foster carer would be required to follow what children’s services say should happen. If it is the case that they do not have your telephone number then the social worker can provide it to them.

Children’s services should have minutes of meeting you attend and what is discussed and agreed during the meeting should be recorded in the minutes. Have you asked for the minutes of the particular meetings in which it was suggested these additional contacts sessions could take place. I suggest you ask for the minutes and then, if the correct information is not recorded, you can consider whether you want to make a formal complaint. Please see our advice sheet Challenging decisions and making complaints. You could also have a discussion with the independent reviewing officer (IRO) about contact.

The other thing you could do is to ask to have a meeting with the social worker’s team manager so that you can discuss the concerns that you have. Request a written response to the request you have already made. If you do not get a response then you will see from our advice sheet about making a complaint that you can ask the local government ombudsman to look at your complaint if the local authority fail to respond.

There are certain duties that children’s service have when children are in the care system and you can read about these in our advice sheet Duties on Children’s Services when children are in the care system.

If children’s services do not agree for you to have unsupervised contact, you could make an application to the court for this contact. Please read how you could go about making an application to the court Contact with children in care. As you say, it is important that the children’s placement is not disturbed especially if they are going to be doing examinations.

Regarding your plan to apply to discharge the care order next year, I do not think it will be too late as you can apply to discharge a care order provided it has not come to it natural end when a child is 18. Before applying to discharge a care you should make sure that you have addressed to concerns that led to the order being made in the first place. Please read our advice sheet which will give you more information about how to go about having your children returned to your care Reuniting children in the care system with their families

Should you wish to discuss this matter further, you are free to telephone our confidential advice line on 0808 801 0366. The advice line is open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 3pm.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes

Suzie

worriedmum81
Posts: 41
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:37 am

Re: Too late to discharge care order?

Post by worriedmum81 » Wed Nov 28, 2018 1:21 am

Thank you for the advice Suzie. I've taken a few steps recently. I have requested and received all lac minutes for my children from the past 2 years which I haven't been receiving. In these minutes there are many occasions that say about my daughter being allowed hone contact and the foster carers are to make that possible, times where it says I'm allowed to go to my children's shows etc and the carers are to make sure they tell me when these are, repeated promises to look at unsurvised contacts etc.
I have had an unofficial meeting with the lac review officer who I have known about 5 years. She has promised to speak to the support worker and try to get more information about why social workers and foster carers are insisting on it being supervised. She also agreed that foster carers are overstepping the boundary to a degree. She said it would be worth speaking to the social workers again, and said if that doesn't work that I have a good case to make a complaint.
I have emailed the social workers to ask in writing what there concerns are but haven't had a response to it yet, despite it being 3 weeks so am planning to email a reminder to see if I can get response.
The lac officer has said that if I do apply to discharge the children would come home but due to my children being settled and doing gcses I don't feel that would be in their best interest currently. But am hoping we can find some middle ground.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Too late to discharge care order?

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Thu Nov 29, 2018 5:20 pm

Dear worriedmum81

Thank you for posting again.

I am pleased that you decided to follow through and the advice you were given.

Hopefully, you will receive a response to your email from the social worker or the team manager. If you do not then, I think you may want to consider if you should make a formal complaint. However, as the independent reviewing officer (IRO) is also looking into matters for you, you may wish to wait and see the outcome of her investigations.

I think you are right, making an application whilst the children are studying for their GCSE is likely to be disruptive and not in their best interests especially if it would mean them having to change school if you are successful in your application.

A copy of our advice sheet Challenging decisions and making complaints which was sent to you previously gives more information about the process.

Should you wish to speak to an adviser, please telephone our confidential advice line on 0808 801 0366. The advice line is open from 9.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday.

Best wishes

Suzie

worriedmum81
Posts: 41
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:37 am

Re: Too late to discharge care order?

Post by worriedmum81 » Wed Feb 27, 2019 1:39 am

A bit of an update on my case, which at the moment feels like I'm banging my head on a brick wall. In recent months I have had meetings with the local authority who also chose to invite the foster carers who expressed a view that my contact is too frequent and they wanted it reduced to holidays only. Luckily when the local authority explored that idea with the children they didn't want that to happen so got kept at monthly. But then my eldest daughter who is doing gcses this year has been booked into extra maths tuition on the evenings we have contact so won't be seeing her for 7 months except one for her birthday so it feels like the carers won anyway on that point. I made suggestions for ideas such as contact supervised by the carers whenever they have a suitable time but was told by the local authority that it's not going to happen, in a very blunt manner. I asked again what the concerns are for me having unsupervised contact as he never responded to my emails requesting it in writing and he said my daughter is too young for unsupervised contact even though she is nearly 16. He said he has doubts about my ability to keep my children safe in public even though I have passed every assessment including being cleared to look after my step children who are a lot younger and have less safety awareness than my own children.
I have had continued issues with the carer for my older 2 children, things which seem petty but add up ; for instance my son does pantomime and I am supposed to be allow to all my children's shows but she won't tell me when they are as she pays for his drama classes herself, last year I discussed with my daughter about getting her a prom dress designed, then at the next contact my daughter said her carer has decided that she will be getting it for her not me, for Xmas we talked about an unsupervised contact where j would take my daughter for a manicure/pedicure as a Xmas present, then was prevented as again the foster carer decided it was an activity she was taking her for.
At the end of last year the sequel to mamma Mia came out. My daughter was really excited as the original was "our film" and she wanted me to take her to it. I mentioned it to the social worker but next time I saw her my daughter was a bit down and said she didn't need to go with me now as her carer and the carers mum had taken her instead.
On top of this my daughter was looking at going to a really good college near my town centre. It is 2 minutes walk from where my mum works so she was excited that she could see her grandma more often as well as spending time with me as I live near it. But the carer talked her out of going to it, and encouraged her to go to a college quite a distance away so would need the carer to drive her there, and would not therefore have time to come see her family. The carer defended it by saying the original college wasn't good enough in her opinion and her own children had attended this new one.

Anyway, (sorry I know I'm waffling but it all boils up really), to summarise there have been a lot of issues, including not being allowed to do a party for her 16th birthday which is coming up, so I spoke to the lac review officer again who said she is trying to deal with it to prevent me putting in a complaint (my parents are also wanting to put in a complaint about there contacts as well but that's another long story) so I am waiting to see what she is able to come up with but it really does feel like no matter what I do everyone is trying there hardest to stop my family from being a family and it's gut wrenching to think I'm powerless against it all.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Too late to discharge care order?

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Fri Mar 08, 2019 2:19 pm

Dear worriedmum81,

Welcome back to the Parents Forum.

I am sorry to hear that things are still the same with the foster carers. They seem to be disrupting the agreed plans around contact with your children. I do not agree that your concerns are petty.
On the one hand, it is good that the foster carers are so caring of your children that they are sorting out tuition for your daughter,paying for her prom dress and paying your for your son to attend drama classes . But stopping your contact is against the statutory care plan and against the best interests of your children.

You say that you cannot have agreed contact with your daughter because she is now having maths tuition on the day agreed.
Your children’s contact with you is so important. Another day for your contact should have been identified or another day for maths tuition.
Given the positive assessments of you, ask the IRO to get the social worker to set out in writing the reasons why you cannot have unsupervised contact.
I fully agree with your view about your son’s school performances. It is fantastic that he has this opportunity but it is wrong that the foster carers say you cannot go because they are paying for it. Children services agreed you could go to them; your son was probably told you would be coming to them and then the foster carer is stopping you from going.
When decisions are made by children services on behalf of children they would consider what is in your son’s best interests. So the foster carers are wrong to go against these decisions.

I was going to suggest that you go back to the IRO but I can see that you have already spoken to her and she is addressing these issues with the social worker.
Do not wait too long for a decision. Chase her if you have not heard back after 2 weeks.
Although you can always complain, remember that the IRO also has the legal powers to take things up to senior management. So, in effect, she could complain (on behalf of your children) to senior managers in children services. After that, she also has the power to take matters to Cafcass –the courts guardian. However, hopefully, her intervention will be enough.

If you do decide to complain, header it as formal complaint. You have already been through the minutes that you were sent you 2 years late, so you have a picture of poor practice. You could put this into a chronology-so that a picture of what has been happening can be seen easily.
You are very mindful that your children are settled with the foster carers and are doing their GCSE’s so you are not pursuing, at this time the option of going back to court yourself.

Given the ages your children have a look at our advice sheet about leaving care support
If you need further advice, please post again.
Best wishes,
Suzie

worriedmum81
Posts: 41
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:37 am

Re: Too late to discharge care order?

Post by worriedmum81 » Thu Mar 28, 2019 11:49 pm

Hi Susie thanks for the advice. The lac officer did speak with the social worker who contacted me. He said he had spoken with the foster carers who admitted that they have said things out of turn to me and said they would try not to say any more inappropriate comments to me. He also reassured me that my daughter would attend some of the contacts but it would be sporadic as her revision is obviously important. He said he hadn't actually thought of discussing ad hoc contacts with my daughter but would talk to her but again repeated that at 16 he still feels that she is too young for this.
I asked again for minutes from a meeting we had last April that I have repeatedly asked for and again requested in writing for the concerns he has if I have unsupervised contacts.
Last week after another 2 weeks of waiting I have emailed the social workers and cc'd the lac officer into it again requesting this but feel I am at the point of having to make a complaint if they don't respond.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Re: Too late to discharge care order?

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Apr 08, 2019 1:18 pm

Hello worriedmum81

Thank you for posting again to provide an update.

I am pleased that that there has been a positive outcome for you regarding the foster careers behaviours towards you and also in respect of contact. Your daughter at 16 is not, I do not think, too young to discuss her wishes and feelings about contact. You know your daughter better than I do so you will know whether she is capable of expressing her views.

A 16 year is able to make a request to children’s services themselves in circumstances where he or she wishes to have help from children’s services and this can be dealt with between the 16 year old and children’s services even if the parent or parents do not agree.
As far as the minutes are concerned, it is very surprising that you have had to wait so long to receive them. Have you considered making a request for the records that children’s services have relating to your family? Here is our advice sheet Access to information held by Children’s Services

As you are considering making a complaint you may find it helpful to read this advice sheet Challenging decisions and making complaints

Should you wish to speak to an adviser, you can telephone our advice line on 0808 801 0366. The advice line is open from 9.30 to 3pm Monday to Friday.

Best wishes

Suzie

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