Michael shares his experience of how Cafcass helped him when he moved to a foster home.
"I was 17 at the time and I knew that I was going to be moving to a foster home and I had a solicitor who was sorting everything out, but before I met Cafcass, I didn’t get what was going to happen. I knew it would involve going to court, but no one explained to me clearly what we would need to do. But that all changed once I saw my Cafcass officer, Janice.
"Janice was great. In the end she was more like a friend or a family member than anything else. She sat down with me and explained exactly what to expect. She made it really clear; she talked through the process step by step and what told me what my options were.
"I’ve got a couple of sisters and a brother and if I’m honest, I was feeling quite responsible for them. Speaking to Janice really helped because it gave them an understanding of what was going to happen and it took the pressure off. Whenever we spoke with Janice it was a really friendly atmosphere, which helped us all to relax.
"In the end we met a couple of times in the run up to the court hearing and Janice still stays in touch with me now to make sure everything’s okay. If you are facing something similar, my advice to you would be to take a step back from the situation. People get in their own heads what’s going to happen and what to expect, but often it’s really not as bad as it seems."
Hi. My name’s Kate and I’m 15 years old. Life’s been a bit crazy for me for a long time now. I’ve been in and out of foster care and children’s homes since I was about eight or nine. I’ve also lived on and off with my mum. Just recently my gran moved closer so she could look after me (and keep an eye on my mum!), so my social worker said it was okay if I lived with her.
Last year, I had a really bad time. I wasn’t going to school very often, and kept running away from home because things were so awful between me and mum. I ended up in secure accommodation because everyone was so worried about me getting into serious trouble. The way everyone carried on, you’d have sworn I was spending my days drinking, taking drugs and shoplifting! I must admit though, I’ve calmed down a bit since then. I’ve even been going to school quite often.
I guess the people at Social Services know me well by now. I also have someone called a Children’s Guardian, from Cafcass, who comes to speak to me whenever there’s a court case about me. My Guardian’s name is Gwyneth and she spends loads of time talking to me, my family, my social worker and even my teachers. She always tries to find out what it is I really want. Sometimes it’s hard though, because I don’t really know what I want myself. I used to think I wanted to be with my mum, and that’s what I told Gwyneth. But now I don’t think it is ever going to work out with my mum. I’ve spent my life waiting for mum to sort herself out so I can go back home and live with her. I’m tired of waiting now.
Things have been much better while I’ve been living with gran – except when mum comes around and causes trouble. The last time Gwyneth came to see me, we talked about me living with gran. Gwyneth told me that my gran could apply to the court for something called a Residence Order. This would mean that Social Services wouldn’t be taking care of me anymore and that my gran would be responsible for me.
I told Gwyneth that it sounded like a good idea. I was just worried that mum would think she could interfere if she knew I was living with gran and Social Services weren’t involved anymore. Gwyneth said that was a good point and she would be sure to discuss this with my social worker, gran and mum before we went ahead.
Things started moving after that. Gwyneth introduced me to a solicitor who she said would speak for me in court. I asked Gwyneth if I could go to court as well, and she said she would try and get permission for me to go along. She wrote her report after speaking to everyone and then came to tell me what she was going to say to the judge. She did tell me that my social worker wasn’t too keen for the Residence Order to be made, and my social worker would explain to the court about her concerns.
The next step is the day we go to court. Gwyneth has told me that the judge will listen to what everyone has to say, and then will make a decision. Whatever the judge’s decision, I know that I will probably carry on living with my gran, although I may still be looked after by Social Services. I don’t mind really, I’m just glad that I’m with my gran, because she’s the greatest. And I still get to see my mum, even if she does turn all our lives upside down whenever she’s around!