Child’s voice

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Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2021 12:02 pm

Child’s voice

Post by Cuppa » Mon Jan 11, 2021 8:34 pm

Hello, recently my niece came to live me due to her mother struggling with her mental health. When coming to live with me, my niece shared that her mum has been drug holding, dealing and taking all in the presence of my niece. She’s had multiple men in and out of the house related to the drugs. My niece had been left alone while her mums gone drug dealing and left with random men. My niece was also left with another family for weeks and just forgot about by her mother ( this was when I took her into my care).
The mother hasn’t attended any of the 3 child in need meetings since November and although states to be “struggling” with her mental health and low in mood, she has found a new boyfriend. Over the 5 weeks my niece was with me, her mother had only seen her for 3 hours, this was after failing to turn up on Christmas Day to see her.
I have raised complaints and a number of occasions due to arguments that this was not a private matter as the social worker arranged between my niece and her mum for her to come stay with me. However, after a meeting this morning they stated that are are concerns but not enough for them to stop her going back. So it was decided to let my niece return back to her mothers care.

My niece has repeatedly said she didn’t want to return because;
.the drug dealing
. Drug taking
.Drug holding
. Multiple men in and out of the house
.Not being fed by her mum for days because she’s asleep ok the settee
. Being dropped off at peoples houses for weeks
. Her mum not making any effort over Xmas
. Mums emotional abuse
. Mums mental health

But the social care haven’t battered an eye lid and hasn’t took any of these concerns seriously as they have let her go back. I feel stuck because I’ve took the complaint route to the furthest route with no success.

I’d also like to point out that this isn’t something new. We have had this for 4 years and 3 years ago my niece came to live with myself for a year due to the same behaviour as above and then was back and fourth from her mothers house and mine when an issue arises, for example her mum finding a boyfriend in jail that she had never met.

Before coming living with me, my niece also began self harming and took an overdose due to the neglect she experienced.

Any advice ?

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 777
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Child’s voice

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Thu Feb 04, 2021 11:16 am

Dear Cuppa

Welcome to the Family and Friends carers' discussion board and thank you for your post. My name is Suzie and I am FRG’s online adviser. I am sorry to hear about the difficulties that your niece is having and also that there has been a delay in my response to your post.

I can see that you are very worried about your niece and have been for a number of years. Although you and your niece have told children’s services about all the problems she has had and about her mother’s behaviour, they are treating the situation as a child in need matter. It sounds as if your niece’s mother is not engaging with the child in need process either as she is not attending meetings. A parent not taking part in a plan or meeting to support and help their family is a concern in itself and can sometimes lead to a child in need case escalating to a child protection investigation - especially where there are already ongoing concerns about physical and emotional neglect, parental drug use and chaotic lifestyles.

You don’t mention your niece’s age. As long as she is under 18 she is legally a child/young person and still comes under children’s services’ remit. But if she is an older adolescent this may impact on how the situation is being dealt with. If she is 16 she can agree her own care plan without her mother’s agreement so if she wanted to be placed in foster care (including kinship) she can request this even if her mother does not consent. The older she is the more able she is to make her own decisions but this does not detract from children’s services’ responsibilities to support or protect her, if her needs require this.

You raise a number of different but related issues in your post which I will try to answer here:

1. Children’s services’ response to your concerns about your niece’s welfare – you have already rightly made a complaint about this as you believe their response is inadequate. You say that you have taken the complaint as far as possible – here is our advice sheet oncomplaints for information – if you have exhausted children’s services’ complaints process you would have the option of taking it to the Local Government Ombudsman .

If other agencies (such as school) are also worried about your niece and that she is being left in an unsafe environment you could ask them to raise this with children’s services too. They can follow this up if dissatisfied with the response.

2. Children’s services have stated that when your niece came to live with you this was a private arrangement – however, if the social worker placed your niece with you or facilitated this then case law says that ‘unless it was agreed otherwise at the time of the placement, the child should normally be treated as a ‘looked after’ child’. In this situation it is not a private matter, it is a fostering arrangement, and they should have temporarily approved you as a foster carer. I guess this is the argument you have been making but without success. Again, complaints and then the LGO are the best way to pursue this. You might want to ring our Freephone advice line on 0808 8010366 (Mon to Fri, 9.30 am to 3.00 pm) to get specific advice on this issue.

3. If children’s services say, in the future, that it is not safe for your niece to remain at home and if they ask you to care for her you could insist on being temporarily approved as a foster carer first and that this is treated as a kinship fostering placement from the beginning, that your niece is a Looked After Child and you her foster carer, if approved.

4. If you are so worried for niece that you want to legally be able to care for her safely you could apply to the family court for a Child Arrangements or Special Guardianship Order . This would give you parental responsibility. However, you will not necessarily get any support, including financial support, from children’s services to do so. It would be a good idea to seek advice before going down this route.

5. Depending on your niece’s age, she can get some advice from the Children Commissioner’s Help at Hand advice service as she has a social worker and does not feel she is getting the help she needs.

6. Young Minds might also be a good source of advice and information in relation to your niece’s emotional needs and self-harming behaviour.

I hope this helps a little and that your niece gets the support she needs. Please do post back or call (as above) if you have any further queries.

With best wishes


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