For some time now, a group of us who attending CPConf2016 have been discussing if it might help parents to have a short leaflet which attempts to explain what’s going on, at the very outset of proceedings. A lot of the problems which arise, or get worse, in care proceedings can be linked to poor communication between parents and professionals which is likely to make parents’ fears and worries get worse, and get in the way of a happy ending to the social worker’s intervention.
We have started the ball rolling with this draft from one of the group. Please do read and comment. We would like to get something ready to print that is accessible and clear – graphics would be a great help. Any suggestions, welcome.
Why Is a social worker asking about my child?
This leaflet is to explain what happens when a social worker gets involved with your family and how to get problems sorted out quickly .
You may be contacted by a social worker because someone could be worried about your child such as a teacher or a doctor. This is very likely to make you feel upset or ashamed or angry.
This is normal especially if you can’t understand why you have been reported.
The way you look after your children may seem OK to you, it might be just like your parents looked after you or just like your friends bring up their children. It might be difficult to work out what the social worker is worried about.
Children’s social workers get worried about children being upset or unsafe as well as being smacked or abandoned. Seeing their parent being hit or shouted at or their parent drinking too much and being out of control makes them upset and unsafe. If their parent is not coping they can become anxious themselves. Not having a clean home, or a parent that puts them first makes them worried. If a child is playing up at school a lot you may also get a visit from a social worker.
The social worker CANNOT just take your child away unless they are in very serious danger. They can only take your child if judge says so or the police are concerned enough to take them. You must contact a family solicitor if that happens, you do not have to pay. They may ask you to sign a voluntary arrangement (section 20) but you can ask to speak to a solicitor for free before you do so. You cannot be made to sign anything.
What is the social worker doing?
The social worker wants to see that your child is safe and well and will try and see what you do well as a parent and what you need to improve. They will not provide support for you but may contact other professionals for you or give you phone numbers if it will help your child. If they think your children are doing OK after they first contact you they will not bother you again unless there are further concerns. If they are worried they will start doing an assessment on your family when they will ask you a number of questions about your family background. This may be upsetting to you, but try and keep calm. From the assessment the social worker will work out what help if any your family needs or if they think your children are being harmed or at risk of harm.
What could happen next
A flowchart here CPC or care proceedings etc ?
What you need to do
Listen to the social workers concerns even if you don’t agree with them. If it helps ask them to write them down or explain more simply. See if you can find support, either from friends and family or voluntary groups. If you have a support your child is less likely to be taken way from you permanently even if there are serious concerns. Be willing to work with the social worker about their worries. Turn up for meetings and court hearings if there are any. Look after yourself, if there are worries about your or your partners addiction seek help, if you are struggling to get out of a violent relationship speak to a solicitor or a domestic violence service , its free. Most importantly put your child first, what would have you wanted your parent to do when you were their age?
FAQ or resources ?
For eg – Surviving Safeguarding, Family Rights Group etc.