My social worker has is it in for me and is going to make sure that my child is taken off me.
All social workers have to work within a clear legal framework and cannot do anything without having a sound legal reason. Any decision to take a child into care- even for a very short time – has meet the criteria set out in legislation.
We know that sometimes the working relationship between social workers and parents can break down. But always remember, even if you find your social worker difficult to work with, it is the court who makes the final decisions, not the social worker.
We have given an explanation of the key legal processes here. We also examine the investigation and referral procedures here.
The Department of Education has published guidance about how the Children Act works here
Because my other children were taken that means they will take any future children as well.
Each and every decision relating to child protection has to be taken individually taking into account all the facts at that time. Even a group of siblings living together with the same parents will be considered individually rather than a blanket assumption being made that they should all be treated the same.
If you have previously had a child removed, if you get pregnant again social services will need to be certain that you are able to look after this baby and will work with you to conduct an assessment and support you in getting any help you might need.
Even if your social worker decides that you are not currently able to look after this baby, they need to have evidence to support this conclusion. Your social worker cannot just refer to the fact that you have had a previous child taken into care, and they need to get an independent judge to agree that there is a sound reason for removing this baby.
My social worker only cares about taking my child and doesn’t care about what happens to me.
Section 1 of The Children Act 1989 creates a statutory obligation to put the needs of the child first. Often that means supporting parents so that children can remain at home with them, as that would be in the best interests of the child. Where this isn’t possible, or the courts believe that this would not be in the child’s best interest, the court can make an order to remove a child from their parents. This doesn’t mean that your social work doesn’t care about the impact this would have on you, but that they are obliged to put the child first and foremost.
My social worker has told me that they are thinking of applying to the courts for my child to be adopted. That means I’ll never get her back.
Not necessarily. There are a number of reasons why plans might change, including if you can demonstrate that you are willing and able to make the necessary changes to address the concerns that led to adoption being considered as an option for your child.
In England between 2009 and 2013, 9% of permanence plans (on average) moved away from adoption to another option, such as returning to a parent, residency with another family member or long term foster care.
The Government publishes statistics (‘Adoption scorecards’) showing how local authorities place children for adoption, so you can check the figures there. As of 31 March 2013, 5% of children leaving care in England were placed with their parents and 5% were placed for adoption. The British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) is another useful source of statistics.
Social workers are targeting families, particularly white working class families, to meet targets for the number of children adopted and to provide babies for adoption by middle class families. This is because local authorities get paid a financial bonus to meet targets for removing children and getting them adopted.
There is no evidence that this is happening in the UK. For further discussion, please see our post on Forced Adoption.
In fact, there is a lot of evidence that this is not happening, including:
- The targets that local authorities are working to refer to the process for assessing prospective adopters and the process for finding adoptive families for children who have already been taken into care. There are no targets for taking children into care in the first place.
- Even though local authorities have targets to match children in their care with adoptive parents faster than before, in England the average age at adoption was three years and eight months at 31 March 2013. Just 2% of children adopted in England in the year ending 31 March 2013 were under one year old . Again, see statistics published by BAAF.
- Only 6% of Looked After Children in England were under one year old at 31 March 2013.
- It usually takes at least three months for adoptive parents to be matched with a child after they have been approved to be adopters – again, have a look at the local authority ‘score cards’ data.
- It is the courts, not individual social workers or local authority managers, who decide whether a child should be placed for adoption. Independent experts working in this field deny claims that there is a conspiracy to take babies for adoption. See what David Holmes, the Chief Executive of BAAF said:
Social services do not take children into care to unnecessarily be adopted. It is dangerous to suggest that this is happening and that the care system is not the right place for children who are at risk if they stay with their birth families.
Children come into care for many reasons including parental abuse and neglect.
The rise in the numbers of young children coming into care may be explained by a variety of factors including a rise in parental substance misuse.
Whatever those reasons are, it is important to remember that children cannot be taken into care without legal procedures. It is a very serious decision to take a child into care and this decision is carefully scrutinised by an independent children’s guardian and by the court. Furthermore, children are only adopted when it can be shown that it is in their best interest, and again, this decision is scrutinised by an independent guardian, as well as an adoption panel with a majority of members independent of the local authority, and by the court.
If birth parents believe they have had their child taken into care unfairly, they should lodge a formal complaint with their local authority. I believe that this is rare. I certainly do not believe children are systematically being taken into care to meet adoption targets.
Money paid to LA for meeting adoption targets did NOT exceed cost of care proceedings – so where’s the incentive?
Although the amounts of money paid to local authorities who meet their targets for placing children in their care and for assessing adoptive parents can be large – scroll down to the bottom of this page to see figures from September 2007 – they do not exceed the cost of the care proceedings.
For example, the largest payments in this table were made to Kent County Council, who received £2,156,583 over three years. Information on the numbers of children placed for adoption by Kent County Council in 2005-2007 is not readily available, but more recent information suggests that the average number is 205 children per year if you look at the adoption scorecard for 2008-11.
Dividing £2,156,586 by 205 would give an average payment of £10,519.93 per child placed for adoption. Even without details for the costs of all social workers involved in a case, plus legal representatives at court – usually for both the local authority and the family involved – plus court time, plus foster carers, it is clear that any money paid in the form of a bonus does not come close to covering the cost of removing a child from their family and placing them for adoption.
There are some further interesting statistics in this article ‘The Serial Removal of Children from Young Mothers – is it Right’
The cost of an internal foster placement, per infant, was £66,000. The cost of an external foster placement, per infant, was £102,000. The average number of children removed per mother was three. The average cost of removal per mother was £200,000 (for an internal foster placement) and £300,000 (for an external foster placement).
In respect of a mother who had had eight children removed the cost was between £500,000 and £800,000 to place her babies. It is interesting that the average cost of assessment of parenting capacity of a mother was £4,000.
Further, some councils have announced they are going to reduce the numbers of children they take into care in order to save money – Torbay council announced in September 2014 that it needed to save money and would thus be looking to reduce the numbers of children in care; In 2013/14 the authority spent about £12.4m on looking after children and wants to reduce the budget to about £5.4m by 2018/19.
It seems odd to suggest that LA deliberately set out to target children to adopt to ‘make money’ when you consider just how much care proceedings will cost them. Research from the University of Bristol in 2011 said this:
Bringing care proceedings is a costly and time consuming business for local authorities. It has been estimated that each care case takes up 20 per cent of a full-time social worker’s working hours for a year (Plowden 2009). In addition, the local authority will have to contribute towards independent assessments ordered by the court and may need to instruct barristers (counsel) to represent it at court. In order to ensure that proceedings are used only where the local authority can prove its case and court orders are required, as well as to control expenditure, local authorities have established internal procedures for approving court applications. Legal advice and senior management approval are generally required even where an application if made for an order to remove or detain a child in an emergency (Masson et al 2007; DCSF 2008, para 3.3).
The family courts operate in total secrecy and nothing that goes on inside them can be reported.
This is not the whole story. There are a number of restrictions in place that mean that details of the children involved cannot be published, but journalists are able to attend most hearings. We accept that it is difficult for journalists to write about family cases but there are signs that things are changing – see this case.
You can find published cases on a number of websites which give you free access – see the Family Law Website and Family Law Week, for example.
Sir James Munby when President of the Family Division, published guidelines on transparency in the family courts in 2014, which you can read here.
You may also be interested in our post on transparency.
EDIT Jan 2020 – issues around transparency have certainly not moved as quickly as Sir James Munby wished but further guidelines about reporting family cases were issued by the new President in October 2019 . The debate about opening up the family court continues.
Social workers didn’t even try to keep my children together when they were placed for adoption.
Social workers are expected to try to keep siblings together wherever possible but there may be reasons why it is not possible in the end for siblings to be placed together, including where one or more child is placed for adoption but one or more child is best suited to another type of placement such as long term foster care.
You may be interested in this article from Be My Parent, which discusses these issues.
There is an ongoing debate about whether or not siblings should be separated in order to make it easier to find permanent homes for them, but the court is very aware of the importance of the sibling bond though out our whole lives, and will want to examine this closely before making a final decision.