Social Services have removed my children

Question:

I have been in the pre-proceedings procedure with social services. I have been involved with Social Services since 2010 due to allegations of domestic violence. Last year I had a very bad accident were I was in hospital for 7 weeks so my 3 children were put on a plan. Everything was going well I'm a recovering alcoholic 9 months and I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in April last year. Since being diagnosed there have been no police call outs and things were going well. On 13 December 2013 my partner stayed at my house for the night. We both had a drink my partner had shandy and I had 2 cans of cider. we had an unannounced visit the next day at 10-15 am. On Monday the 16th December I had to go to the social services office who have told me I was in breach of the agreement because I had consumed alcohol. I had to sign a section 20 agreement and my children have been taken to live at their paternal grandparents. I have to have supervised visits until it goes to court . I would like some advice I desperately need my children home. I am a completely different person since I was diagnosed with Bipolar Personality Disorder and put on the correct medication. I also go to my local alcohol services and I'm abstinent. I had a lapse, not a relapse.

Answer:

The first things to say is this -
go and see a solicitor. I do not know what area you are from, but you need to find a solicitor who is experienced in dealing with ‘Public Law’ (i.e. Care Cases). These cases still receive Legal Aid and it is vital that you get a solicitor on board as soon as possible.

They will be able to do a number of things, including, arranging for you to have hair strand alcohol testing to show whether you have been drinking and to get reports from the organisation you have been getting help from.

‘Section 20’ means section 20 of the Children Act 1989. It means that you give your consent to the children being ‘looked after’ or provided with care by the local authority. They have clearly decided to place your children with their grandparents. Strictly speaking you can get them back at any time unless the Local Authority have an order from the court (such as an interim care order) as they are not allowed to keep them without your agreement. I am
not suggesting that you withdraw your consent without speaking to a solicitor first, however if the local authority are delaying in getting the matter before the Court sometimes solicitors with threaten to withdraw consent so as to force the local authority to issue their application and get the matter in front of the court. This is a ‘tactical’ decision that you must discuss with a lawyer as sometimes threatening to withdraw consent can be the wrong thing to do.

Sometimes it is a good idea not to withdraw consent as nowadays care proceedings are being completed within a short period of time (26 weeks) so it can be helpful to have a long period before it goes to court so that a parent can show, for example, that they have not been drinking. However you must discuss all these issues with a solicitor.

In the mean time, make sure you attend every and all contact (no excuses) with the children and make sure that the contact is really good for the children. Do not discuss any of the issues in your case in front of them or say things that might make them feel worse about being away from you at the moment. Keep all the appointments that any social worker makes with you and keep attending any supportive organisations you are engaging with. Above all do not let the currently awful situation lead you to drink alcohol. I suspect that whether a Court will allow your children to return to your care will depend on a number of things including whether you drink alcohol again and how well you co-operate with social services and other agencies.

Sorry to bang on about it, but above all, go and see a solicitor. Now.

Good luck.


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