12: Can I have contact with my children in care?

If your child is removed from your care, the court should specify how much contact you can have with them, where it should take place, whether it should be supervised (and if so by whom) or unsupervised and this will also include indirect contact such as phone calls, letters and gifts. You should be given a written contact agreement which spells out how you are expected to behave during contact, any issues you are not allowed to discuss with your child and whether you can take photos, where contact is to take place and what you can bring with you. It’s important to try to stick closely to the contact agreement because if you don’t, it can be used as an excuse to reduce contact or stop it altogether. Make sure to always ask for a copy of the “contact notes” and check them for accuracy. If you think they are wrong, correct them immediately in writing to the social worker. 

It is vital that you go to every contact appointment, arrive on time and stay focused on your children. When contact is supervised, the supervisor will look out for how focused you are on the children’s needs during the visit. Respond to what your children need and want at all times, even though it’s a very artificial and uncomfortable setting. It’s important not to take phone calls during the visit and not to get into disagreements with the person supervising or anyone who has dropped them off. (If you want to raise anything with them, wait until the contact has finished.) Do not discuss the case with the children and don’t say negative things about either the foster carer or anyone looking after the children. Remember that everything you say and do is being written down by the contact supervisor, so don’t give Child Services (CS) the opportunity to stop your contact! Once stopped it is much harder to get back. 

The contact supervisor will take notes and is supposed to send them to you, but it is often very difficult to get them and you may want to ask for an order to be made in court for you to get them. Read them carefully every time. Check the notes are accurate and challenge in writing anything that is inaccurate and ask that the notes be corrected

If CS changes the contact arrangements which were agreed in court you should immediately write to them and ask them to put in writing why they have made this change. You should also raise this at the six monthly looked After Child (LAC) review meetings (see 6.1) and make clear that you want the court order to be followed. If you want more contact than the court order gave, and the social worker won’t increase it, you can go back to court to apply for a contact order [26]. Do not accept “lack of resources” (eg shortage of contact supervisors) as an excuse for reduced contact. Contact is also possible on holidays such as Christmas and birthdays but you have to insist on these as it is costly to CS. 

Unsupervised contact is a crucial step towards getting your children back. If your contact is supervised ask for it to be unsupervised as soon as possible and for an increase in how much contact you have. 

If and when there is a change in your circumstances you can apply for the court to discharge the care order [25]. You may be able to get a solicitor to make this application for you but it depends on your means and also whether they think you have a good chance of succeeding. You can make the application yourself and it is really important to show how your circumstances have changed and how the situation the children are in is damaging/detrimental to their well-being. If CS are very hostile to you, ask the judge to order a report by an Independent Social Worker who can interview you and your children. 

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