Requests to Remove A Child From Care
1. Accommodated Children
Authority to remove a Child
The authority to remove an accommodated child varies according to the child's age, and whether or not there is a Residence Order/Child Arrangements Order in force in respect of the child.
Young persons aged 16 or over may remain accommodated if they so wish despite a request for their return (1989 Children Act s20 (11)).
The following persons may remove a child from accommodation without notice:
- A person with a Residence Order/Child Arrangements Order in their favour (provided that any other person who has a Residence Order/Child Arrangements Order in their favour agrees); or
- Where there is no Residence Order/Child Arrangements Order in force, any person with parental responsibility (regardless of the wishes of any other person with parental responsibility).
A parent who does not have parental responsibility may request the child's return. They may not remove the child. There is an obligation to consider their request. The child should return to their care if:
- No person with parental responsibility objects; and
- The arrangements are practical and appear consistent with the child's welfare.
Response to a request to remove a Child from Accommodation
If the allocated or a duty Social Worker is faced with an unplanned request to remove a child from s20 accommodation s/he must:
- Confirm that the person does have parental responsibility;
- Establish from the case record who else (if anyone) also has parental responsibility and what the agreed Care Plan is;
- Consult parents, and others who have parental responsibility (and in particular anyone who holds a Residence Order/Child Arrangements Order) about the proposal;
- Seek the views of the child (and attribute a weighting to them according to their level of understanding);
- Discuss with the person seeking the child's removal the immediate and longer term consequences of such an event;
- On the basis of the above actions determine if there is any reason to suspect that the child would be at risk of significant harm if removed - if so consider appropriate child protection action;
- Seek to make an agreement about future social work support;
- Make a recommendation to the Team Manager or in her/his absence to the Children's Services Manager;
- Make the practical arrangements to end the placement as positively as possible.
Wherever possible unplanned endings for placements should be avoided. Where such a move is anticipated or has occurred abruptly consideration must be given to convening a planning meeting or a CLA review.
2. Children in Care
A local authority is entitled (when it is satisfied that it is in the interests of the child to do so) to determine the extent to which parents who have parental responsibility may exercise that responsibility.
The authority may only allow a child to live with a parent or other person who has parental responsibility if certain criteria are met.
Under s49 of the 1989 Children Act a person shall be guilty of an offence if, knowingly and without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, s/he:
- Takes a child to whom this section applies away from the responsible person;
- Keeps such a child away from the responsible person; or
- Induces, assists or incites such a child to run away or stay away from the responsible person.
This section applies in relation to a child who is:
- In care;
- The subject of an Emergency Protection Order; or
- In Police protection.
The responsible person means any person who for the time being has care of him by virtue of the Care Order, the Emergency Protection Order, or s46 as the case may be.
Requests to remove a Child from Care
The allocated or duty Social Worker who receives a request from a parent or other person who has parental responsibility to remove and take on or resume the care of a child must:
- Inform the person that such a decision is normally made at a review meeting at which all relevant wishes and feelings, including those of the child, are taken into account;
- Draw the person's attention to the existing Care Plan which should clarify the current intentions with regard to rehabilitation;
- Remind the person that, unless a Court has indicated otherwise, or less than six months have elapsed since their last challenge (when they would need to seek leave to do so), then they are entitled to seek a revocation of the Care Order.
Refuse the Request
If the person actually removes the child without the consent of the local authority, it may be appropriate to apply to Court for a Recovery Order and the Social Worker should discuss the need for this with their Team/Assistant Team Manager and seek legal advice if necessary.
Under planned removal of a Child
Where any child is removed from the responsible person (foster carer, residential unit or other responsible person) the Social Worker must be notified without delay.
The Social Worker must consult with their Team Manager and draw up a strategy to seek the return of the child. This may involve negotiations with the Police, CLU and the Head of Child Protection and consideration being given to seeking a Recovery Order.
In any event the Police and other appropriate authorities must be notified without delay in line with the normal procedures for reporting a child in care as missing (see Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures Manual, Children Who Go Missing from Home or Care, or Who are Vulnerable to Sexual Exploitation Procedure).
When the removal occurs outside of office hours the Emergency Duty Social Worker must be notified without delay.
The parent and/or carer must be notified as soon as possible.
An emergency meeting must be held within 8 working days to include parents (if appropriate), Social Worker, carers and the Police.
Where there are grounds to fear for the safety of the child a Recovery Order must be sought.
Where a child is missing for 7 days a report must be prepared for the Deputy Director detailing the circumstances of the removal and the steps taken to try and secure the return of the child. The Deputy Director will consider what further steps may be taken, including notifying other authorities and the use of publicity.
A further update report will be required 2 weeks later and again after a further 4 weeks.
A decision will be taken by the Deputy Director about any further reporting requirements.
Where the child is subject to a child protection plan all members of the core group need to be updated and asked for any information they have about child/ren's possible whereabouts - and anything learnt should be passed to the Police.
All relevant other local authorities must be notified (pass details of the nature and category of concerns, and key dates to the Child Protection Administrator, tel: 01992 556935, comnet: 56935 who will do this - s/he will also notify Health Trusts in Hertfordshire).
It may be helpful to bring forward the review child protection conference so as to update all agencies and to revise the protection plan (in this case, the Police officer in the case should be asked to attend).
Where the child is in care as a result of abuse or there are grounds for believing the child is at risk of significant harm, consideration must be given to convening a child protection conference (See Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Child Protection Procedures, Child Protection Conferences Procedure).