Who can remove a child?
A local authority and social services can remove a child (or children) from their parents under an urgent order granted by a court called an Emergency Protection Order (EPO). This is where a child is seen to require protection from significant harm or the potential risk of significant harm under the Children Act.
The local authority then shares Parental Responsibility and must produce a “Care Plan” in support of their EPO which outlines their position on the key issues involved.
What is a Care Plan?
A Care Plan states whether a child/children should be removed from their parents and where they should be placed pending further consideration by the courts.
The Plan will also consider what safety measures need to be implemented to address the identified risks to the child and what contact can be safely arranged for the parents to see their child.
On what grounds can social services remove a child?
The law protects all children from abuse, neglect, exploitation and a dangerous or inappropriate home environment.
This means that the child’s welfare is the court's “paramount consideration”
in deciding an appropriate outcome or whether a child should be subject to an EPO and care proceedings.
For all decisions in care and supervision proceedings, the main principle is that children are best cared for by their own families and that they are safe.
However, if it is deemed unsafe for the child to remain with their parents, the law allows social services to look at the various options to place the child elsewhere.
Any delay may be critical to the welfare of the child so the court aims to make these decisions quickly. On the other hand, if the court believes that it cannot provide a better outcome for the child, it will not make any order at all.
Can my child be taken away from me?
Yes, in cases where there is a need for protection against significant harm or potential risk of significant harm to your child, they can be taken away from you.
Not only can a local authority and social services take a child or children away from their parents through a successful EPO application to the local authority, but the police can also remove a child under their protection powers for up to 72 hours. Following this, an application may be made for an EPO depending on the circumstances of the specific case.
What can cause a child to be taken away?
Several circumstances could arise that may result in a parent losing custody of their child/ren. These include the following:
- Abuse: Physically, emotionally, or sexually abusing your child or allowing someone to do so.
- Neglect: Making sure that a child is supervised by a responsible adult and is reasonably clean, clothed, going to school, fed healthy foods and generally cared for in a way that does not suggest that the child has been neglected.
- Domestic violence: Violence towards another child in the home, including abusing a partner or family member which may indicate a parent is not stable enough to keep a child safe or able to look after their well-being.
- Unsafe housing: Living with your child in a place that is not safe or appropriate, whether it is owned, rented or if you are living with relatives.
- Abandonment: Leaving a child alone for extended periods of time.
- Illness: Having a physical or mental illness that does not allow a parent to look after a child in a safe and appropriate way.