Dear Stressed Mam
Welcome to FRG’s parents’ discussion board and thank you for your post. My name is Suzie, FRG’s online adviser. I am sorry for the late reply.
I am also sorry to hear about the difficulties your family is experiencing and that you are feeling stressed.
Your 10 year old is currently in foster care with your consent as a voluntary arrangement under section 20 of the Children Act 1989
. Luckily she has been placed with a family member – her older sister – in a family and friends foster placement. I guess that you were asked to agree to this in order to safeguard your daughter whilst children’s services look into the situation further, assess the risk to your daughter and put in a plan to protect and support her.
Although police are taking no further action, children’s services are concerned about allegations by your daughter that you smack her and perhaps are working with you to support your parenting skills and how to safely manage your daughter’s behaviour. You have explained that her father used to smack her when she lived with him. Children’s services should be involving your daughter’s father too, looking into his use of smacking as a chastisement and assessing his parenting capacity also.
Your main query is about the likelihood of your daughter returning home. She will not remain under a section 20 voluntary arrangement indefinitely and plans will need to be made about her returning home or an alternative plan made.
You be don’t mention if there is also a child protection plan
in place for your daughter. There may well be and if so that would set out expectations about what you and the professionals working with you are expected to do and when. If there is a plan in place it is important to keep to it and to discuss with the social worker if there are any difficulties in doing so. Working with the social worker and dealing with any areas of concern will lead to better outcomes for you and your family.
The most important thing to remember to about section 20 – and this should have been made clear to you all along – is that you keep your parental responsibility (so does your daughter’s father if he has parental responsibility) and that children’s services do not acquire it. They would only get parental responsibility if they obtain a court order for your daughter. The social worker should have made it clear that you can remove your child from accommodation at any time. They should not try to place any restriction on your right to remove your child, for example they must not say ‘you must give 2 days-notice to children’s services before removing your child’.
However, having said that please read our advice sheet children looked after by children’s services under a voluntary agreement
which explains this in much more detail and highlights what you should bear in mind.
This sets out advice on what you can do if you no longer agree to your child being accommodated under section 20. Please see paragraphs 2.8 of the above advice sheet for full information on this.
Here is a summary of the main points:
If you have parental responsibility, children’s services cannot prevent you from removing your child from a voluntary arrangement (with a couple of exceptions which from the information provided don’t seem to apply to you).
It is always best to discuss your plans with children’s services before carrying them out. Remember:
• If children’s services think removal from the voluntary arrangement would cause harm to the child, they will most likely seek a court order to give them permission for your child to remain in care
• Court proceedings may not be the best way of resolving any issues about the care of your child
• If you want children’s services to return your child to you then you must tell them clearly, and you should state whether you wish the child to be returned immediately, or within a certain time.
• If you are thinking of removing your child from accommodation without the agreement of the social worker, it is best to first take independent legal advice e.g. from a solicitor specialising in child care law.
If there is a child protection plan in place it may be that your daughter remaining with her sister in this voluntary arrangement is seen as a protective measure for now and that removing her would be interpreted as escalating any risk to her.
The first step should be to check with the social worker what their expectations are; you should be involved in Looked After Child Reviews for your daughter where plans for her return home are discussed. You don’t say how long she has been living with her sister but there are specific timescales for review meetings – you can find out more in this advice sheet
Because of the Coronavirus (Covid 19) situation, most meetings will now be held remotely e.g. by phone, Skype or another online method.
You may also be affected by changes to the way in which you keep in touch with your daughter – please see this advice guide for parents and families with a child in the care system
for more information and helpful ideas.
I hope this is useful. Please do post again if you need further advice or call to speak to an adviser on our freephone helpline 0808 8010366, Mon to Fri 9.30 am to 3.00 pm (except bank holidays).
With best wishes