6.1 Top TIPS: Don’t sign Section 20 or agree anything you don’t really want!

  1. Do not sign. At any point you might be asked to sign a Section 20 (S20) agreement to say you agree for the children to go with a relative or into foster care. DO NOT SIGN. Once your children are in care it is much harder to get them back. S20 is a voluntary agreement and you have the right to withdraw your consent to it at any time but it is often very difficult to do so. They might ask you to sign a Section 20 because they do not have enough evidence for an Interim Care Order (ICO), so they use S20 as a way to deceive you into agreeing to your children going into care! If you sign, they will use the fact that you “consented” to keep your children from you against your will. Many mothers who signed after being told that their children would only be in care for a few days, had to fight for years to get them back.  .  Beware that voluntarily agreeing for your baby to be “looked after” temporarily by the State can result in adoption ”by stealth” – fostering may turn to adoption against your will [ix]See useful ruling from the Supreme Court [17].
    If social services want to take your children they should get a court order, not deceive you into agreeing to hand them over.
  2. If your lawyer suggests that you sign a Section 20 agreement, you should consider changing lawyer. Many lawyers put pressure on mothers to sign. They may say, for example, that your children will be taken from you anyway and that the best you can expect if they go into foster care is to have contact with them once a month. Tell your lawyer you need time to think about this while you look for a better lawyer.. Always ask your lawyer to put any advice to you in writing. 
  3. Do not agree with a plan you consider harmful to your child.  Lawyers often tell you that Children’s Services will be more reasonable if you go along with what they want. That is not our experience. Once you have agreed to something in court it is very hard to appeal against it later on, even if you get new evidence to support your case. The fact that you agreed to it in the first place will be used against you when you want to change it. 
  4. Saying that your lawyer told you to agree to a S20 is not enough to get your children back. But if you did agree to something on their advice which you later want to take back, you should make a formal complaint to your lawyer about the way they mis/advised you [28]. Again, make sure at this point that all special occasions and religious holidays are included with any contact that you agree to.???
  5. If you have already signed a Section 20 and want your children back. By law you could go and get them from wherever they are. If you do, Children Services may say that the children are in danger and call the police to prevent you taking them back. They can also go to court for an emergency court order and do not have to inform you that they are doing this. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get them back, but if you do make sure you are prepared to make your legal arguments and have witnesses.


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