The first indication that you may get that the local authority intends to pursue care proceedings against you is a Letter Before Proceedings.
As the name suggests, this is your formal notice that the care proceedings process is about to be started against you. Within this letter it should set out the reasons why the local authority believe that you are not caring for your children to the appropriate standard and that consideration is being given to whether an application for a Care or Supervision Order is to be applied for by the local authority in respect of your children.
The letter will be a final notice to you and you should follow the instructions in the letter otherwise you may have to go to Court and your child could be taken into care.
What Should You Do on Receipt of a Letter Before Proceedings?
It is important that you do not ignore the letter. It will ask you to attend a meeting – a pre-proceedings meeting. The letter will tell you when and where it is. This meeting will give you chance to go over with the local authority their concerns over the welfare of your child. It is also your opportunity to make it clear that you intend to fight for your child.
If you disagree with what the letter says, you will have a chance to say why at the meeting. You can have your say about how your child should be looked after and put your side of the story across. Read carefully what your local authority has said in the letter about why they think your child is not being looked after properly, and decide whether or not you agree with them. If you agree, think about what you could do to change. If you don’t agree, you will need to say why.
The receipt of a Letter Before Proceedings is your indicator that it is time to contact a Care Proceedings Solicitor. They will attend the Pre-Proceedings Meeting and help you to negotiate with the local authority to try and prevent an application for care proceedings being made to the Court.
If you don’t attend the pre-proceedings meeting, the local authority will almost certainly apply to the Court to start care proceedings. You need to show that you are prepared to work with the local authority. Failing to attend this meeting does not show that you are committed to working with them and in the best interests of the children.
The letter – and the pre-proceedings meeting – give you a chance to show your local authority that you are willing to agree to make changes to the way you look after your child. You need to show to your local authority that you are willing to work with them to take steps to change the way you look after your child.