Legal eagle: Grandchildren in foster care

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I have two grandchildren who have been taken into foster care. I am worried about them and I would like to care for them rather than them be in care. I know my daughter has had her problems but I always used to help with the children and I miss them. I want to have some contact with them and be looked at to care for them. I know that the case will be going to court and the social worker has suggested I speak to a solicitor about things. I don’t know where to start or how much it might cost!

I am sorry to hear about your family situation, it must be a very stressful time. It is not unusual in situations like this for family members to want to care for the children and there are ways in which this can be done. Your daughter will have parental responsibility for the children and she will need to discuss with the Social Worker that she wants to put you forward as an alternative carer. If she does this then you will be assessed.

The first assessment that the local authority will do is a Viability Assessment. This is a short assessment to see if there are any obvious issues which would prevent the children being placed with you in the long or short term. If this assessment is positive then a more detailed assessment will be carried out for the court. If this assessment is positive and the children cannot be returned to your daughter for the long term then the children may come and reside with you.

If the court orders that the children should reside with you then you will be granted parental responsibility for them, either as their Special Guardian or under a Child Arrangements order. Your daughter will not lose her parental responsibility and may still have some contact with them, dependent upon the final order from the court which will consider the best interests of the children.

As you do not have parental responsibility for your grandchildren you are, unfortunately, not automatically entitled to legal aid. However, you may be entitled to legal aid if the court orders that the children are placed with you during the proceedings. You may also be entitled to legal aid if the initial viability assessment is negative and you wish to challenge this.

I would advise that you speak to the social worker about being assessed and then come and speak to a solicitor about the next steps.

Ben Hoare Bell LLP has many specialist family law solicitors who can advise you on situations such as this. To speak to a solicitor please phone 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. For more information please visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk.