Many people worry that their child will be taken into care if they are parenting with a mental health problem. This can be upsetting, and can increase stress and worry for you and your family. This section explains more about when children could be taken into care and what would happen.
What is safeguarding?
'Safeguarding' is a term that you might hear professionals using.
Safeguarding is the term given to the action that is taken to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm. It aims to protect children from abuse, prevent harm to their health and development, ensure they have safe and effective care, and that they have the best outcomes in their lives.
Safeguarding applies to all children aged up to 18. Everyone who works with children – including teachers, medical staff and social services – has a responsibility to safeguard them.
If you are concerned that your child might be taken into care
There are several important points to remember:
- Children are only taken into care in extreme circumstances – this will only happen if other forms of support haven’t worked, or if social services feel you cannot keep your children safe.
- Being in contact with social services doesn’t mean your child will be taken into care – social services can provide a wide range of support to help you look after your children yourself. For many parents, this is a positive experience.
- If your child is taken into care, it doesn’t mean it is permanent – care is often temporary until you are well enough to look after them yourself again.
- Unless it's an emergency, your child cannot be taken into care straight away – you would receive many warnings and be given months of notice that the care process is beginning.
For more information on what would happen if a child was going to be taken into care, see Citizens Advice.
Getting support throughout the process
It is really important that you don't go through this process alone. There are lots of things to think about and different types of support that can help you through it.
- Make sure you are aware of your legal rights – information is available on the GOV.UK, Citizens Advice or Family Rights Group websites.
- Get a solicitor who specialises in children/childcare law to help you with the legal process – ask your social worker how to do this or check the GOV.UK website. You will be able to get free advice and representation from a solicitor, no matter what money you have coming in, what savings you have or whether you own your home.
- Make sure you get continued mental health support to manage your mental health – talk to your GP or community mental health team (CMHT) about what might help.
- Make sure that you understand any treatment plan your social worker has given you. Talk to your social worker, GP or a mental health worker if you don’t understand or disagree with any part it.
- You may want to contact a support charity for families involved with social services, such as the Family Rights Group, for information and advice.
- You may also benefit from a talking treatment to help you deal with any difficult feelings you have.
Sometimes I worry about how my mental health issues affect my ability to parent my children – and then I look at them and see how tolerant and kind and caring and understanding they are towards others. It's then that I remember I've still done a good job!
This information was published in August 2016. We will revise it in 2019.