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October 23, 2012 by Susan Moore, adviser

Demand for our advice service is growing month by month; it is a challenging time to be advising in this complex area. It is vital for us advisers to keep up to date with legal and policy developments but also to be constantly aware of how these changes are impacting on services on the ground.

It’s difficult to prepare for a shift on our advice line because the calls we get are so varied both in terms of content and tone. The best thing for me to do is ensure that I’ve cleared my mind of previous calls or anything else from the morning. When the phone rings, it’s a blank page to be filled.

The first call comes in early. A grandmother calls in tears. Her two grandchildren, who live at the other end of the country, have been removed into foster care because of an unexplained injury to the baby. The whole family are devastated. She feels confused and helpless. What is going to happen…?

Unfortunately that’s a question I can’t answer. I can explain the process though, talk about options, help the caller to realise that there are things she can do to effect the situation. We talk about the importance of the family in care cases; kinship care options, family group conferences. The call is longer than many but the result is worth the extra time. By the end of the call, the caller feels reassured “I haven’t got an answer, but I have got a plan”. There is a good chance that our 40min call will result in two children being back within their family in the near future.

A number of short and straightforward calls are dealt with including referrals to our partners when the issues fall outside of our remit and signposts to advice sheets and decision trees on our website.

My next caller has just attended a review child protection conference and is angry and distressed that her child remains under a child protection plan. She is a victim of domestic violence but feels blamed rather than supported regarding her ex partner’s behaviour.

It is important to hear and acknowledge the caller’s anger without allowing it to dominate the call. It’s in the caller’s best interests to see the situation from Children’s Services’ perspective. We discuss what aspects of the child protection plan the caller can agree with, what issues she feels she needs to challenge and the most productive way of doing this.

I refer the caller to our discussion board for parents as a safe and supportive space for her to vent her frustrations and benefit from peer support while co-operating with the process surrounding her child.

Finally, I am speaking to an expectant mum whose husband has been arrested on suspicion of child sex offences. She is devastated and bewildered. She knows her husband and knows he could not have done this and yet the social worker carrying out the core assessment is already talking about them separating.

It’s a hard call. It is vital that I am completely honest and realistic with the caller. She feels she knows her husband but she cannot truly know what lies behind the allegations. Regardless of the outcome of any police investigation, Children’s Services may remain firm in their view that her child will not be safe while she and her husband are together.  In this case, she may be faced with the stark situation of choosing her child or her husband. Only she can make the right decision for her family; my priority is to ensure that any decision she makes is as informed as possible.

As the line closes, my focus turns to recording the afternoon’s calls on our confidential database. It is vital that these are as clear and detailed as possible to ensure any future queries are dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible if a caller needs to come back to us as their situation develops.

With records complete and any relevant follow up work done, now it’s time to tackle the emails…..

To find out more about our impact read the Evaluation of Family Rights Group Advice and Advocacy Service.


Telephone Advice Line

If you are a parent, family member or friend of a child, in England or Wales, who has social workers involved in your child’s life, or if you need extra support from Children’s Services, and would like to speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential helpline.

0808 801 0366 

(Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm)


Discussion Boards

For advice from our advisers, or to get online support from other people in a similar position to you, visit the parents or family and friends carers forums.  To explore new research and to discuss ideas with practitioners and families, visit the FGC Network  or the Your Family, Your Voice Alliance Boards. If you are a domestic violence worker or social worker in London, visit our new research and practice  board.




We have answered the most commonly asked questions put to FRG advisers. Please follow the links to see a list of questions and answers, grouped together by subject.

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Advice Sheets

For more detailed information, please see our range of advice sheets on family support, child protection, looked after children, family and friends care, adoption or challenging decisions.

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Family Rights Group has produced films for families to help ‘demystify’ the child welfare system.

Go to the relevant films to view fictionalised cases which show what happens when a child protection conference is held and similarly when a family group conference takes place.

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Advice during the Coronavirus Crisis

Delivering family group conferences during the Coronavirus crisis

This guide is written to help local authorities, during the crisis, to work in partnership with families. It describes how remote technology can be used to continue to enable family group conferences to be offered to families and to support their children during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Top tips guide for kinship carers to help children maintain relationships

This top tips guide is intended to support kinship carers to help children to safely maintain a relationship with those who are important to them, including their parents, brothers, sisters and friends, even if they cannot visit them.

Advice guide for parents and families with a child in the care system

In this guide, we have set out some creative ways in which relationships can be maintained and you can support your child during the Coronavirus crisis, even if you cannot visit them.

Join the Virtual Lobby of Parliament during Kinship Care Week 5-11 October

We are asking kinship carers and people with insight into kinship care to meet their local MPs online. Sign up to take part and make the case for a better deal for kinship carers.

Delivering good practice initial assessments of family and friends carers in the context of Covid-19

A new appendix to the existing good practice guide for practitioners assessing whether a family member or friend might be a potentially realistic option to be a carer for a child who cannot live safely with their parents.

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