If Children Services are concerned about your child, they may ask you to sign a Section 20 Agreement to place your child in the care of the Local Authority, temporarily. This will often be in Local Authority Foster Care or if deemed safe with a suitable family member or a friend. Wherever possible, in the first instance the Local authority should aim to place the child with a family member. This is often referred to as a child being Accommodated or a looked after child.
It is important to note that this a voluntary agreement and contingent on the parents’ consent. The consent can be withdrawn at any point by the parents. Voluntary agreements should only be for a short period of time.
What happens if you do not sign the agreement, or if you withdraw your consent at a later stage?
If Children Services have concerns in relation to the care being provided to your child, and due to the concerns, they want to place your child in Local Authority care, to avoid any delay, they may ask you to sign the section 20 agreement. If you refuse, then they may at that stage issue an application to the Court to obtain an order to remove your child from your care and place the child in foster care or with family members. These proceedings are referred to as “Care Proceedings”. If you sign the agreement, but later withdraw your consent, then at that stage the Local Authority may issue Care Proceedings to obtain an order from the court to place your child back in Local Authority Care.
Before signing the agreement, it is strongly recommended that you seek legal advice as to whether you should agree to this agreement or not. You should also make sure that you are able to fully understand what you are agreeing to.