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Removal of a child

Published on 30 November 2017 | Modified on 14 December 2022

Written by Stacey Bennett
removal of child

In what instance could my child be removed from my care?

Here are few examples on when there is a risk of your child being removed…

Police Protection Powers:

Section 46(1) of the Children Act 1989 sets out the police protection powers.

A child may be protected from harm in an emergency situation by a Police Officer taking the child into Police Protection, without a Court Order. This can be for a maximum period of 72 hours.

This tends to be when there is an imminent risk to the child. Additionally, the referral is often made late at night or over the weekend.

They must be satisfied there is reasonable cause to suspect the child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm. This is intended to be a short-term remedy and the Act does provide for the child to be transferred to Local Authority accommodation at an early stage. When removed and taken into police protection, parents or anyone with PR for the child has no right to remove the child during the period of protection.

The police are not given PR. If the child’s continued detention is warranted, then the police may apply for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) on the Local Authority’s behalf. Once the EPO expires, if it is felt that the child still needs to be accommodated then there should be an application made to the Court for an order.

Local Authority Powers:

The Children Act 1989 places a duty on Local Authorities to take reasonable steps to identify a child in need. Once a referral has been made, the Local Authority will decide within one working day whether to take action. Where the concerns are sufficiently serious, the Local Authority must carry out an initial assessment within seven working days.

Under section 31 Children Act 1989, the Local Authority can apply to the court for a child or young person to become the subject of a Care Order.

To make a Care Order, the court must be satisfied that certain ‘threshold criteria ‘have been met:

that the child concerned is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, AND

the harm, or likelihood of harm is attributable to:

  • the care is given to the child, or likely to be given to him, if the Order were not made, not being what it is reasonable to expect a parent to give; or
  • the child being beyond parental control.

Section 20:

Basically, section 20 of the Children Act 1989  is about the Local Authority’s duty to provide a child with somewhere to live because the child doesn’t currently have a home or a safe home:

  • there isn’t anyone who has parental responsibility for him (for e.g. an asylum-seeking child who has come to the UK on his own);
  • the child has been lost or abandoned;
  • the person who has been caring for the child can’t provide him with a suitable home, whatever the reason for this and regardless of whether this is short term or long term problem

The local authority will ask parents to sign a ‘section 20 agreement’. This means the parents are voluntarily agreeing to let their children live in foster care. During this time the Local Authority carries out investigations and will encourage the parents to rectify the situation.

The Local Authority does NOT share parental responsibility under a section 20 agreement.

  • Parents must give valid consent to section 20 accommodation;
  • The parents must understand what they are agreeing to; they must have ‘capacity’
  • The parents must have all the relevant information
  • Removing a child under section 20 must be fair and proportionate
  • Parents must be told they have a right to take legal advice
  • Parents must be told they have a right to withdraw their consent

If you are presented with a section 20 agreement, please get in touch with our family lawyers immediately. Do not sign anything before seeking legal advice.


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