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Young parents’ involvement In the child welfare system

Established in 1974, Family Rights Group is the charity that works with parents in England and Wales whose children are in need, at risk or are in the care system and with members of the wider family who are raising children who are unable to remain at home. Our expert advisers, who are child welfare lawyers, social workers, or advocates with equivalent experience, provide advice to over 6000 families a year via our free and confidential telephone and digital advice service. We advise parents and other family members about their rights and options when social workers or courts make decisions about their children’s welfare. We also campaign for families to have their voice heard, be treated fairly and get help early to prevent problems escalating. We champion family group conferences and other policies and practices that keep children safe in their family network.

In 2014 Family Rights Group established Your Family, Your Voice (‘the Alliance’), an Alliance of parents and practitioners working together to transform the system1. The Alliance works to counter the stigma and negative presumptions about families whose children are subject to, or at risk of, state intervention. It seeks to influence law, policy, practice and service design and delivery so that our child welfare, child mental health, youth justice and education systems promote effective human functioning and healthy relationships. Alongside the development of the Alliance, Family Rights Group established and supported a parents’ panel. This is a forum where parents with experience of social work involvement in their family can come together. It provides a platform for parents to influence how services work with children.

The Young Parents Project builds upon the work and structures of the Alliance and began in June 2015. Its focus is young parents aged up to 30 years, whose children are, or have been, subject to intervention by children's services. The project has engaged parents whose children have been supported as children in need, deemed at risk or placed in care or adopted. It has gathered material about the experiences and needs of these young parents, the services available to them and the child welfare policies, laws and practices which intersect to influence their lives and the lives of their children. The overarching aim of the Young Parents Project is to enable more young parents to keep their children safely with them.

The overall aim of the research was to draw on the insights and experiences of young parents as experts in their own lives, together with the insights of practitioners to explore the following key themes with a view to making recommendations about policy, practice and legislative change:-

  • What has influenced young parents’ chances of safely raising their children?
  • What has influenced how practitioners approach working with young parentsand making plans for their children?
  • What has helped or hindered young parents in working with practitioners?
  • What support and advice do young parents need to navigate the child welfaresystem?
  • What changes in law, policy and practice are needed in the child welfare system?