Many grandparents help to care for their grandchildren when things get tough for them at home. But what happens when grandchildren are taken into care by social care and placed in care? At Kundert Solicitors we are here to help and will provide advice as to best course to take. Please call 02476684928 or email Sarah@kundert.co.uk
What it means when a child is ‘in care’
The Children’s Services works with families facing difficulties to ensure children are receiving the sort of care it is ‘reasonable to expect’ from a parent. If they aren’t, and this lack of care is causing the child significant harm, they may issue court proceedings and seek a care order. If granted, this means that the local authority has parental responsibility for the children. There are diifferent types of care offered by social care to children –
- The majority of children in care will be placed in foster care.
- Around 9% are placed in children’s homes and occasionally in secure facilities for young offenders.
- Other types of care include adoption and kinship care – where the child is cared for by other relatives.
Often, kinship care involves grandparents stepping in to care for the children. The Local Authority should undertake a viability assessment . A viability assessment is a relatively brief assessment undertaken with a ‘connected person’ such as relative or friend who wishes to be considered to care for a child that is known to them. A viability assessment considers the likelihood of carers being able to meet the physical and emotional needs of the child now and through their childhood and enables the assessing social worker to make recommendations as to whether a further assessment should be embarked upon.
The importance of grandparents when children go into care
The current care system is under strain – there aren’t enough foster carers and money is tight. Sadly, this can lead to decisions being made that are in the interest of the system rather than the child and some children have to move multiple times during their life in care. Maintaining contact with grandparents can play an important role in children’s lives – offering them a stable and loving figure who consistently puts their needs first.
“Sadly, it is all too common that when families break down or children are taken into care, grandparents sometimes lose access to their grandchildren and it can be devastating for all concerned,” says Fiona Plowman, a family project worker at The Children’s Society.
“We’d advise grandparents that when they do have access to their grandchildren, they should avoid showing their emotion, whether that’s sadness or anger towards other family members. It’s important that the child does not think the change is bad, but just different, and that despite it they are still safe and loved.”
How grandparents can keep in contact
Remember that contact with a grandparent is part of a child’s right to family life. If it is proving difficult, The Grandparents Association offers the following advice:
- Try quoting government guidance: ‘Grandparents and other relatives can provide a sense of family history and continuity where the child cannot live with his/her birth parents’.
- Communicate with the Children’s Services department responsible for your grandchildren’s care to make sure they know about you and acknowledge your request for contact.
- Also be in contact with the children’s guardian as soon as you are aware that your grandchild has been taken into care.
- Ideally this should happen before your grandchild is placed into care as this is the time when they can say who they want to see, and their requests will become part of their care plan.
- An Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) is appointed at the time of the care order to review the local authority’s care plan. You can speak to the IRO about contact with your grandchild.
When parents refuse contact and no care order in place.
If your grandchild is accommodated by the local authority as part of a voluntary arrangement (and not under a care order), their parents retain parental responsibility and can decide who they can and cannot see.
If the parents stop, you from seeing your grandchildren you can arrange a meeting with the responsible social worker. Explain why having contact with you will benefit and support your grandchild’s wellbeing.
Try to keep communicating with the parents and do your best to stay on good terms, even if it’s difficult. If relationships have become very strained, then family mediation can be a helpful way to reach an outcome that everyone agrees to.