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Grandparents rights with Social Services

Posted: 16 February 2024

Unless you have Parental Responsibility for your grandchild through a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order, then you are not automatically involved in care proceedings concerning your grandchild.

Social Services, also known as the Local Authority, may have requested that your grandchild is removed to temporary foster care, or your grandchild may already be in foster care. Often, grandparents are left out of the process of removing a child into care. As a result, you may have very little information about what has happened to lead to this decision.

Grandparents Rights with Social Services

How can I care for my grandchild?

Social Services first consider if a child can live with their birth parents. If that is not possible, then they look to the wider family network. To consider whether there is anyone else in the family that may be able to look after them. This can include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and adult siblings.

If you want to care for your grandchild, you can let the child’s social worker know. A Family Network Meeting or Family Group Conference should take place which will look at what support is available within the wider family. This is a good opportunity for you to state that you wish to look after your grandchild.

Initial Viability Assessments

Once you have notified the children’s social worker, an assessment is completed to consider whether you are a viable option for your grandchild. This is known as an Initial Viability Assessment, or “IVA”.

This assessment involves police checks and a search of any involvement that social services may have had in the past with your own children. It is very important that you engage in the assessment and share as much information as you can.

What if Social Services refuse to assess me, or I fail the assessment?

If you are refused an IVA then you can apply to the Court for an order to state that assessment must be completed.

If you fail the assessment, you must also apply to the Court to challenge the negative assessment.

These applications usually need to be made within 7 days of the decision so it is very important that you make the application as soon as possible. Our team of dedicated children’s solicitors can help you with that. Plus, free Legal Aid is available in some circumstances.

What if I pass the assessment?

If the IVA is positive, then this is likely to continue to a Full Connected Persons or Kinship assessment. This is a more detailed assessment that considers whether you can be a long-term carer for your grandchild.

Passing an IVA or a Full Connected Persons assessment does not mean that your grandchild will immediately come to live with you. The care proceedings will continue and this assessment will be considered by the Judge. At the same time other assessments in the case will take place. These include; a parenting assessment of your grandchild’s parents being able to meet their needs.

What happens if the Full Connected Persons assessment is negative?

You also usually have 7 to 14 days to challenge the outcome of a negative Connected Persons assessment. It can be very helpful to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity to challenge any negative assessment.

If you are not eligible for Legal Aid, we can also provide cost effective advice where needed. You do not have to be legally represented but even advice on the process can be helpful.

What happens if the Full Connected Persons assessment is positive?

If the assessment is positive, then your grandchildren could be placed with you under a family placement. This is not likely to happen immediately. There are different types of Court Order that could be put in place. Such as under a Care Order, Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order. The type of order will depend on what is best for your grandchild, as well as your circumstances such as your finances. As well as the relationship with your grandchild’s parents.

A Special Guardianship Order is often the most appropriate order for your grandchild. If their parents cannot demonstrate that they are able to provide good enough parenting. This will provide you with overarching Parental Responsibility so that you could make decisions about your grandchild’s welfare to the exclusion of their parents.

What about seeing my grandchild?

It may be helpful to your grandchild to have ongoing contact with you throughout the care proceedings, or afterwards if they are placed in long term foster care. The relationship between children and their grandparents can be considered an important one. Particularly if there is a close loving bond between you. Your relationship with your grandchild provides important links to their birth families and can often be a source of support for a child in care.

If you feel that you need some advice about your options, including whether to seek to care for your grandchild, then our team of specialist children’s solicitors can provide advice by contacting 01245 493959 option 3 or by email.

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