PASSuk Parent's Advice On Social Service's.

PASSuk Parent's Advice On Social Service's.


Public Law Outline (PLO).

30 Jan 2019

Revocation  of an Adoption Order (Freeing order) Explained. 

If your child's adoptive placement breaks down....

The first thing you need to do as soon as your find out your child's placement has broken down is e.mail the children's social worker, and send a copy to Children Service Manager and Chief executive of the Local Authority and ask for an Immediate Meeting with them.

This meeting is called a Disruption Meeting. This is also used for when a foster placement breaks down aswell.

Please read the following;

A disruption is the premature ending of a placement of a children that has been placed for adoption.

A decision not to carry on with a potential adoptive placement during introductions is not considered a disruption for these procedures.

A placement can disrupted by the adoptive parents request, or by the local authorities who approved the placement for the children and different procedures may then apply..

Disruptions can occur both before or after an Adoption Order is made.

Disruption before making the Adoption Order

Adoption Review.

Where an adoptive placement disrupts making the Adoption Order, an Adoption Review will take place as soon as possible.

This will be chaired by the child Independent Reviewing Officer and will consider the following areas.

Whether the adoption plan for the child remains appropriate.

The arrangements for meeting the children's  health and educational needs and whether any changes are required to assist the children's  development.

The existing arrangements for contact and whether they need changing.

The adoption support needs of the children, the adopters and the birth relatives in relation to contact and where the children are subject to a Placement Order, the need to seek revocation of the Placement Order.

The carers who fostered the children before the move to the adoptive placement should be informed of the disruption.

Discussion should take place between the children and the prospective adopters’ social workers, and the foster carer’s supervising social worker about who should inform the foster carers, and who should offer them support should this be needed. This may also be an opportunity to explore whether the foster carers may have a role in offering some support to, or contact with, the child.

Disruption Meeting..

A Disruption Meeting will be held between 28 and 42 days of the Disruption to identify the reasons for the breakdown and to learn lessons from the events surrounding the breakdown. Consideration must be given to the timing of the Disruption Meeting and whether it would be helpful to hold the meeting before the Adoption Review.

An Adoption Team Manager will arrange for the meeting to be chaired by an experienced practitioner or manager from outside the Adoption Team and not involved in the line management of the case responsible social worker. In inter-agency placements, consideration will be given to having a chair from an independent agency. It is the responsibility of the Adoption Team Manager to commission this if needed and the other agency will be asked to share the cost. The prospective adopters’ social worker, or family finder in the case of inter-agency placements, will coordinate the arrangements for the meeting.

Those attending the meeting will be...

• The child’s social worker and line manager.

• The prospective adopter’s social worker and their line manager.

• The family finder.

• The prospective adopters (some may choose not to attend).

• The child’s previous and current foster carers.

• Consideration will also be given to inviting key professionals such as teachers.

If appropriate (for example, where Parental Consent to Adoptive Placement had been given).

• Birth parents will be invited to contribute to the process of the meeting, possibly in writing or via an interview/contact with the Chair of the meeting.

• It may also be appropriate to invite comments from other family members.

A pro forma letter of invitation to all the participants is available. This letter explains the purpose and overall agenda of the meeting.

If the Adoption Review decision is that adoption is no longer the plan for the child.

A freeing order...

Appealing a placement order....

Appealing a placement order for adoption used to be called "revoking a placement order". When the parents apply to the Courts to have their children's returned in to their care.

Post Adoption Contact...

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 sought to address issues of contact in recognition of the fact children were much older at adoption than had previously been the case, and therefore were more likely to have established links to their birth families.

Sections 26 and 27 of the Act places a duty on the court to consider contact arrangements for birth families and their children when making a placement order section 46 (6) comprises a duty to consider such arrangements when an adoption order is made.

The intention is for contact arrangements to be agreed by the parties. If agreement is not possible, an application can be made to the court for a contact order it is unusual for the court to make such an order, especially against the wishes of adoptive parents.

Contact arrangements with birth parents are usually indirect rather than face-to-face. Many families participate in letter-box contact once or twice a year, which involves exchanging information between the adoptive family and the birth parents. This contact is usually done through the adoption agency to protect the identity and location of the adoptive family. Direct contact with birth parents is rare it occurs more often with siblings.

It was important to remember that contact should be for the benefit of the child, not for the parents or other relatives.

The reasons why a child might benefit from contact were spelled out in evidence from After Adoption it is not about maintenance of the relationships as they were with the birth family...

What [children] like is to have some continuity that enables them to integrate the past with the present, and obviously then the future...

I think contact can play a very useful role for the child in helping them understand their world and their life history..

Practice in relation to post-adoption contact with birth family members varies considerably. We are concerned that the purpose of such contact may not be fully understood when arrangements are made.

Post-adoption contact should be considered only in relation to the needs and best interests of the child, with no presumption for or against allowing contact...

Given the importance of sibling relationships to many adopted children, we would be concerned if the new clause on post-adoption contact in the Children and Families Bill presented a barrier to maintaining such contacts.

Arguments in favour of contact with siblings are often made by the birth parents as respondents to the adoption application.

Under the new clause, parents would need to seek leave to make a contact application, as would siblings, but the ability of the latter to do so may be constrained in practice.

I sincerely hope that the new provision on obtaining leave to make an application for contact do not limit the potential for sibling contact to be considered by the court, when it is desired, and deemed to be in the child's  best interests......

30 Jan 2019

How do I prepare for the final hearing in a care order case?

Your solicitor will receive copies of all the statements and reports filed during the case and also a copy of the council’s care plan, which sets out its plans for how your child should be cared for in the long term. It is important to read all these papers and talk to your solicitor about them. You should ask your solicitor to explain anything that is not clear.

If English is not your first language, you can ask for a written translation or use an interpreter to help you. If you are disabled, your solicitor should arrange for you to get any help you need to understand what is in the statements, or to get large-print text.

The court will ask you to make a statement. You can also ask family members or friends to make a statement and come to court as witnesses if you think they have information about your child that will help. You should tell your solicitor as soon as you can whether there is someone who is willing to care for your child if the court says you cannot. This person will have to be assessed by the council before the final hearing. Again, if you have not already had an FGC before the case started in court, you could ask for one now if you think it would help.

Your solicitor may talk to you about whether to let the court have information about your health. Your GP or other health professional can give the court information about you only if you agree. If you allow them to give a report to the court, then the council, the guardian and their legal advisers, as well as the court, will see the report.

Working with your solicitor

You can help your solicitor and yourself by doing the following:

• Have a folder or a special place at home where you keep all the information about the case, like notices from the court and letters from the social worker or your solicitor.

• Have a book to keep a note of telephone calls, conversations or meetings that you have with social workers and any other professionals involved in the case. Include the date and a brief note of what was said.

• Keep your own notes about what happened at a contact visit or assessment.

Always let your solicitor know about letters, special appointments or conversations with the council, including changes to arrangements, such as where and when you can see your child.

• Tell your solicitor as early as possible in the proceedings about anyone in your family network who would be willing and able to care for your child if you are unable to.

• Before you go to a meeting, see your solicitor or go to court, make a note of the important things that you want to say or ask.

• If you have agreed to see an expert or specialist, talk to your solicitor about what you can expect to happen at this meeting. If English is not your first language, check that the council has arranged an interpreter for the meeting.

• Try to get to court at least an hour before the time of the hearing so you can talk with your solicitor and take part in any discussions that take place before the court hearing starts. Wear tidy, comfortable clothes to court.

• The local council should help you with transport to get to meetings, if you need it.

If you have a problem getting around, or some other disability, talk to your solicitor to make sure that all meetings and visits are at a suitable place.

• It is very important that you work closely with your solicitor and any other professionals involved throughout the proceedings.

• It is also very important that you go to court. If you don’t, the court may have to make the order without taking into account your views.

31 May 2019

Pre-Proceedings Explained. 

There are a set of stages the Local Authorities must follow .....

• Pre-Proceedings.

• Public Law Outline Meeting.

• Review Panel Meeting.

Before any proceedings for Public Law Outline can begin you will be invited to attend a meeting called a Pre-Proceedings meeting.
This meeting is held for you, your social worker and any other parties who are involved in your case to sit down formally to discuss and consider what can be done to address all the concerns and issues in order to protect your child from any future possibility of harm and to see if an agreement can be met and reached without the need to go to Court.

31 May 2019

Public Law Outline Meeting Explained. 

A Public Law Outline meeting is different from the Pre-Proceedings meeting. This is different because with the Pre-Proceedings meeting it will usually just you and your social worker who attend.
The differences are as follows......
• If you don't attend the Public Law Outline meeting or discuss the concerns over your child with your social worker then there is a very real and high risk that your social worker will decide to take your case to Court.
• Also a lawyer from the Social Care's legal team will be at this meeting to advise your social worker.
• You are also entitled to have your own lawyer present to attend the meeting I strongly advice that you do. Go and get a solicitor from outside of your County and one that is renowned for fighting for parents not a slack one that doesn't bother and just goes along with what Children Services wants.
• Remember if you are the childs parents or you hold parental responsibility for the child then you are entitled to free legal aid to cover the costs to have free legal representation.
Ok so you should have received a called "Letter Before Proceedings" inviting you to a Public Law Outline meeting. This letter should set out exactly what your social worker's concerns are, what their worried about, what they have done in the past to try to help you and what they would like you to do in the future.
PLO meeting is usually a sign that, as far as the social worker is concerned, things have reached a critical stage. This is usually the last chance that parents have to work with the social worker and Children's Services before your case is taken to Family Court. Because of this, it is really important that you attend this meeting at all costs, even if you have had difficulties talking and working with your social worker in the past.

If you are at the point of a PLO meeting, there has probably been a long history of social worker's involvement with your family. Relationships between parents and social workers is never easy and can be very difficult, parents can feel under attack and victimised and quite understandably be angry or upset. I advise you to put these understandable emotions aside when you go to the PLO meeting, get a solicitor to attend your solicitor should support you and help you to stay focused and keep your mind on the issues and concerns at hand.

If you haven't been invited to A PLO meeting then this will be because your social worker feels that there is an immediate great risk of harm to your child, or that your case is urgent and needs to be done as an emergency case, In these cases they may not hold a PLO meeting. In this situation your case will go straight to Court and your social worker will apply for an Interim Care Order better known is an ICO, an Interim Supervision Order better known as an ISO, or perhaps an Emergency Protection Order better known as an EPO. 

This should only be done if your child is actually suffering, or is likely to suffer real significant harm. If you have been told that Children Service's are going straight to Court about the concerns over your children, you should get legal advice immediately. If you are the parents (or person with parental responsibility) you will still be entitled to legal aid, regardless of your financial position.
31 May 2019

Review Panel Meeting Explained. 

The Review Panel must decide if your case has met something called the threshold criteria of significant harm to be able to proceed and to take your case to Family Court in order to be granted a care order.
14 Jan 2019

Public Law Outline Explained.

PLO proceedings are set out into stages.

• Stage 1- Issue and Allocation

• Stage 2- Case Management Hearing

• Stage 3- Issues Resolution Hearing

• Stage 4- If matters are not concluded at the Issues Resolution Hearing, then the Court will list a Final Hearing to resolve any outstanding issues in the case.

Although the Public Law Outline is set out in a set of stages, it is also flexible by the judge at any point of stages of the proceedings. Steps, which the court would ordinarily take at various stages may be altered if the circumstances of the case changes.

The flexible powers of the court include the ability for the judge to cancel or repeat a hearing twice, this is down to the discretion of the judge.

Children Services are not like Judges they work on the balance of probability although there allegations may not be true they will see the concerns and issues as fact regardless.

A Public Law Outline is a court order that gives Children Services shared Parental Responsibilty along with yourself. The Local Authorities will make to the Court because they feel there is enough evidence to support that your children are at risk of significant harm or are likely to suffer significant harm in the future.

Public Law Outline or plo is a series of court hearings where a judge will decide after all the evidence and assessments have been collected whether or not your child will remain in the care of the Local authorities or to remain in the care of the parents.

Judge may grant a PLO hearing and Children Services will give you a number of steps that you will have to take. They will usually insist that you do a parenting assessment aswell as a psychological assessment, they may ask you to attend parenting classes (refer to the step by step tab get yourself signed up to the Webster Stratton parenting course also known as the early years parenting program in your area). They will also set out what the situation is with your partner aswell. They may also carry out spot checks on you at your home. If you don't comply with the rules set out at this point then they will start care proceedings. In some cases your child may initially get removed from your care and go straight in to a foster placement with a probably view to adopt your child at the end of the proceedings.

PLO proceedings can last no more than 26 weeks in total from start to finish the Judge can grant an extra 8 weeks but only in extreme situations and cases.

There is a legal structure which a Local Authorities must follow when they are considering removing a child from there parent's. This is the point at which everything else they’ve tried has failed. What the Local Authorities do is build up evidence against you.

Usually because the parent's won’t work with the Local Authorities. Sometimes the issues and concerns are much more complex like when there are difficulties getting parents to engage and to do everything that is needed to be done to address the concerns and issues. It may be a case that you will have to choose between your child or your partner especially when there is domestic violence or when a relation is causing emotional harm due to arguments and its at best chaotic.

The good thing is the local authorities plan's for your children are not automatically accepted by the Judge.

• Before the court can remove your children a threshold level of harm must be proved.

• It will depend on the progress of your case.

• What the best interests of your children are.

• If there is an alternative dispute resolution procedure can be met.

• Agreement in relation to part of the case.

• For a contract of expectations to be drawn up.

• Monitoring directions.

• Directing advocates.

• To plan a step agreement and justify.

• The impact of any decisions to the children concerned.

• Parties to co-parent amicably together.

• Parents to co-operate with the local authorities.

• Parents willingness to accept change.

• Identifying facts and issues and to address them with a plan of action.

A plo requires procedural fairness by the Local authorities by ensuring that all parties are on an equal balance and treated equally on an equal footing. The court should encourage all parties to use a non-court dispute resolution procedure if the court is willing to consider that appropriate, and can facilitate the use of such procedures by overriding objectives to deal with cases justly, ensuring that all cases are dealt with expeditiously and fairly. The court should recognise and respect the diversity in all manner of people entering the court and to treat everyone fairly without fear, favouritism, affection or ill-will.

They must recognise....

• That all families are unique with shared tendencies and idiosyncrasies.

• That all families are the cornerstone of most communities and a key source of the children's personal identities.

• Differences in the outlook of all families and to remember its a diverse society.

• That families do not conform to the traditional model and are an increasingly common social reality.

• For the courts to encourage parents questions that they need to ask.

• For the courts to explain clearly to the parents exactly what steps they need to take.

• To take in to consideration the thoughts and feelings of the childrens wishes and views and to envolve and encourage all children over the age of 10 years old to take an active participation in court.

• To recognise and to challenge any discriminating remarks and comments also any unfair assumptions and to involve everyone equally.

• To ensure fairness and equality of opportunity.

• That the courts maintain and preserve the status quo while the reports are obtained and all the assessments are completed.

You can ask for the alternative dispute resolution.

You can ask for a family assistance order.

You can ask for an independent social worker to be assigned to your case.

You can ask for an independent psychological assessment to be carried out for fairness.

You can ask for an independent childrens advocate to be called in to work with your children so there views and thoughts are heard and known to the judge.

31 May 2019

Stage one Issue and Allocation.

On Day 1
The Local Authority submit their application together with a full Annex and all their evidence and documents supporting their application in to the Family Courts. The Court will consider their application and ensure that the Local Authority has filed all the correct documents. They then issue the application and send it to the gatekeeping team in the Court to consider which level of Judge the case should be allocated to, depending on the complexity of the case.
The allocated Judge will then send out an Order called the ‘standard directions on issue’ which will list the first hearing and make court directions for certain documents to be prepared and sent to the Court in time for the first hearing. The directions will include that the Local Authorities should prepare all outstanding documents and they will allocate the Children a Guardian sent from CAFCASS so they can prepare a position statement or report. This Order should be prepared and sent out by the end of Day 2 to allow the parties sufficient time to prepare any documents required by the Court.

Stage two Case Management Hearing.

This is the first Court hearing and should take place before Day 12 in the PLO process. Before any hearing, an Advocates’ Meeting will have taken place, no more than 2 days before, between all the legal representatives to discuss each party’s position in respect of the Local Authority’s application to the Court. Each party’s legal representative will also need to prepare a short statement, no longer than two sides of A4, which sets out their position so that the Court is aware of this prior to the hearing commencing.
In readiness for the first hearing, each party is also able to make an application for an expert to complete an assessment within the proceedings if they consider this to be necessary. Examples of expert assessments include parenting assessments or a psychiatric or psychological assessment of a parent or the child/ren. These applications will be considered by the Judge at the Case Management Hearing.
At this hearing, the Court will:
• Identify the key issues in the case
• Consider if there are any additional parties to the proceedings
• Analyse the care plan
• Create a timetable the proceedings
• Consider whether any expert evidence is required
• Determine whether a fact-finding hearing is required
• List the Issues Resolution Hearing and any Final Hearing
The Court may also consider making an interim Care or Supervision Order at the Case Management Hearing which will last for the duration of the proceedings and will consider making a Final Order at the Final Hearing.
The Court could consider that a fact-finding hearing is necessary. A fact-finding may be required, for example, in a case where there is more than one possible perpetrator who caused significant harm to a child and therefore the Court will need to determine who was the most likely perpetrator. This hearing would be heard just before any Final Hearing to determine the relevant factual history. This will help the Court in making long term plans for the child/ren’s care.
If all the issues cannot be addressed at this first hearing for any reason, the Court may consider listing a Further Case Management Hearing which must be heard by the Court by no later than Day 20 in the PLO process.
31 May 2019

Stage three Issues Resolution Hearing.

This is a hearing that is listed before any Final Hearing and is used to make final case management directions. If all the issues can be resolved at this stage, the Court may decide to use this hearing as an early Final Hearing.
At this hearing, the Court will:
• Identify any outstanding issues and try to narrow these down
• Review the timetable
• Give directions up to the Final Hearing including filing any final evidence and agreeing the time estimate of the Final Hearing.

Stage four Final Hearing.

If the case cannot be resolved at the Issues Resolution stage, the case will proceed to a Final Hearing. At the Final Hearing, all the parties, including the parents, social worker and Children’s Guardian, together with any instructed experts in the case, will give oral evidence at Court allowing each party to be heard and challenged.

At the conclusion of a Final Hearing, the Judge will give a Judgment which sets out the Court’s decision. This must occur within 26 weeks of the Local Authority making their application and this deadline will only be extended in appropriate circumstances. An initial extension of time can be for 8 weeks and thereafter will be in blocks of 8 weeks.
The Court’s will follow this step-by-step procedure in care proceedings to ensure that the application is dealt with effectively and expeditiously.
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