"What do childcare lawyers do?"

Key Facts...

Childcare lawyers can act on behalf of social services (usually such lawyers will work for local authorities) or they can act on behalf of parents and/or other family members of the child. 

Disputes relating to childcare can occur between parents (this is very common!) and between local authorities and parent(s). The latter usually happens when the local authority becomes concerned over the welfare of the child(ren) in question. 

Childcare covers all aspects of child welfare, care proceedings and adoption. 

Child Protection Process...

In the event that the Children's Services think a child may be at risk, they will investigate and take action to ensure the child is safe. 

The investigation may involve the following:

  • if they receive a referral and decide to make enquiries, they'll let the parents known and a social worker will assess the situation to see if the child is suffering or likely to suffer harm 

  • children's services may want to see the child alone if that is reasonable in the circumstances 

  • initiate child protection measures and call child protection conferences where parents, families and professionals are invited - these conferences are to recommend measures to ensure child safety, provide parents with advice, assess the parents' abilities or suggest the local authority takes the matter to court and issue care proceedings

The local authority can start 'care proceedings' if they are very worried about a child. At the start of the care proceedings, the local authority can apply to the family court to obtain a temporary court order called an 'interim care order'. This will give the local authority parental responsibility for the child and determine where the child can live on a temporary basis. This can be granted for an initial 8 week period. 

It is also possible for the local authority to apply for a 'placement order' if they believe the child should be adopted. 

Once care proceedings have begun, it can take up to 26 weeks for a court to decide what should happen to the child (if it's a complex case it can take even longer). 

During the 26 week period:

  • an officer from CAFCASS (Children and the Family Court Advisory and Support Service) will:

    • investigate the reasons why the child might be at risk and what can be done to keep them safe

    • talk to the parents and the child

    • potentially talk to other family members and friends to see if there are alternative arrangements for the child

    • write a report for the court

  • the social worker involved will also write a report for the court 

  • both the CAFCASS report and social worker report will outline what they think should happen to the child 

Once all the information has been gathered, there will be a court hearing

Typical tasks of an Childcare Lawyer...

Typical tasks of a childcare lawyer include: 

  • advising clients on the grounds to issue an application

  • obtaining evidence from everyone involved

  • issuing proceedings / defending proceedings 

  • drafting papers for court

  • reading psychological or psychiatric reports

  • reviewing medical records and reports 

  • attending meetings with parents and/or their legal representatives 

  • conducting hearings in court 

  • being on duty to provide advice in relation to emergency situations 

Skills to be a Childcare Lawyer

  • well organised with the ability to prioritise competing deadlines 

  • ability to work under pressure 

  • great attention to detail 

  • ability to think on your feet and be proactive 

  • a people person - the ability to build good relationships with people and manage people during difficult times

  • interest and skill in advocacy - there'll be lots of advocacy in this role so if you like the idea of being a barrister and solicitor this is a good in between!

  • ability to read lots of information and translate what you've read into concise and simple language