1. It is really important that you go to your child's looked after child review meetings to find out, amongst other things, what the permanence plan is for your child.
A permanence plan will be made for your child once they have been in the care system for 4 months or sooner if you have a very young child. It could include returning home, living with a family member under a legal order (for example a child arrangements order or special guardianship order), living with unrelated fosters carers (or in residential care) or adoption.
If the permanence plan is for your child to be adopted and you disagree with this, you should explain your reasons for objecting and what alternative proposals you have for your child's long term care to the Independent Reviewing Officer and the social worker at the review meeting. This might include:
- You having made changes to your life so that you are better able to care for your child now than before. In this situation the social worker will not agree unless they had reassessed your situation to see if it is now suitable for your child; or
- Potentially suitable family members coming forward to offer to care for your child long term. You will need to speak to other members of your child's family about this and you cannot delay. If there is anyone in the family who could care for your child, again you should tell the social worker immediately so that they can assess if they are suitable to look after your child. It is vital to do this early, even if you are still being assessed yourself or still asking for the child to return home to you, as they could be ruled out simply because it is too late for them to be considered. You should also tell your solicitor about any suitable family carers immediately.
Sometimes your child's Independent Reviewing Officer may decide you cannot be at the review meeting. If this happens, you can still meet with them and give your views about what is the best plan for your child. If you can't go to the meeting you should write down what you want the reviewing officer to say to the meeting on your behalf and make sure that you know what decisions were made.
2. Children's Services (or the council's adoption agency) can only pursue a plan for your child to be adopted if a senior officer (known as the agency decision-maker) has agreed that this is the best plan for your child.
The agency decision-maker should make sure that the social worker has considered all the other permanence options for your child, particularly any possible placements for them within your family network before making this decision. This will involve the social worker assessing all possible options to see if they are suitable to meet your child's needs.
3. You should speak to a solicitor or Family Rights Group advice line immediately.