The key piece of legislation is the Children Act 1989 The Act does not assume that children are “in need” for example because a parent or child has a learning disability. It does make clear, however, that children are best cared-for within their own family, and so parents should receive any support they need to perform their parenting role, and therefore protect the welfare of their child.
Working together to safeguard children (Department for Education) Statutory guidance on inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Context of the guidance given by the Department for Education, Department of Health and Social Care and the Home Office: Strengthened guidance to protect children at risk The advice is aimed at professionals who come in to contact with children and families. It is a sad irony, showing a complete failure of self-awareness, that when professionals refer to 'working together' they are referring to working with each other not families.
This page explains the Family Court System and this page explains the role of the Court of Protection.
Ministry of Justice, The Public Law Outline PRACTICE DIRECTION 12A - CARE, SUPERVISION AND OTHER PART 4 PROCEEDINGS: GUIDE TO CASE MANAGEMENT This includes information on timescales and documentation checklists etc. There is a 26 week timescale to resolve proceedings – this is why once proceedings start, even though social workers work with parents to resolve difficulties, at the same time they will be investigating other options including adoption where babies and young children are concerned, known as 'concurrent planning'. I'm told that ''the 26 weeks is preceded by a pre – proceedings period, except in the worst cases, this is the period during which social workers and others are supposed to undertake all of the work with families to support them to effect change which is sustainable over time. The 26 weeks exists because, once those assessments are completed, there should be no delay for the child.'' This is a very contentious area when children have disabilities, because families may have been desperate for support over a long period of time but not received it. This is when issues of parenting capacity can be raised by professionals. (Why can you not get your child to attend school? Why are they aggressive or highly anxious? )
It is very important that once a parent starts to raise concerns that their child/they are having difficulties, they also start to systematically keep records of contact with all professionals, ( health visitors, doctors, teachers, social workers etc) any requests for help, what was agreed and what actually happened.A table is a good way to do this for lots of reasons including ease of retrieval plus when you are experiencing crisis after crisis your focus is usually dealing with the situation as it presents rather than what went before and it is very easy to forget or get muddled about what happened six months ago. ''Don’t make it complicated! It needs to be easy so it requires as little effort as possible''
When you are in pre-proceedings or proceedings it can be difficult to know who to trust, who understands the issues around disability, blame, shame and stigma. My advice is tell the family and friends you trust no matter how difficult that is, as early as possible, and do not try and 'do this' on your own.Remember that professionals are not your enemy or your friend. They are trying to do their job and they may have almost no training about disability, poor multi-agency arrangements eg child diagnosis ( much better on the parent 'diagnosis' front ...) or be feeling defensive because they hav'ent helped as an agency or as a person much earlier when they should have. If you feel yourself becoming angry, stop. Becoming angry or aggressive will be taken as evidence that you cannot work with professionals and are not safe around your child. If you need someone with you in meetings to tell you when you need to stop because the way you are behaving is not helping, bring them and be guided by them when they signal for you to stop. What works for me in meetings is to be open and try and make my point as part of a discussion, (never ever rant!) then afterwards if I'm upset or feel I was not listened to write what I'm angry or upset about down and leave what I've written for twenty four hours. Then I edit to at least half the length replacing charged words and phrases with neutral ones (e.g. never write 'you' it is too personal, people feel personally attacked) and send in an email or delete the whole thing unless I have a very clear idea of what sending the email will achieve for my child. I know everyone is not like me so maybe a long work-out, run or time in a garden will help - just never ever get angry with a professional. There are things that you have to 'let go' because the bigger picture is more important. You may be able to make a formal complaint when the dust settles and record keeping will help with that too.
If you are a parent in Court proceedings, the other side will have an array of professionals lined up to say you are a bad parent and will have logged every crust of bread on the floor or damage/destruction they observed during visits so stay in very close contact with your solicitor beforehand keeping them in the picture about changes in circumstances and avail of their expertise. Reflect on what they tell you because when they give advice, it may be best to take it rather than the 'nuclear option' of losing your child(ren). Remember that your social worker will be carrying out concurrent planning although they are unlikely to tell you this in case you stop working with them. This almost impossible situation is hugely stressful and may feel unreal but you need to hang in there because the stakes are so high. See this page Advice from other Parents?