Young People's Zone

I am a looked after child

CAN I SEE MY FRIENDS?

There are lots of people who are important to children in care. The law is very clear that Children’s Services should make sure that you see your family but they should also try and help you see to the friends who are important to you too. (The part of the law which says this is Schedule 2, paragraph 15, Children Act 1989).

Normally, your social worker will let your carers make the decisions about when you can see your friends. (The part of the law which says this is Delegation of authority: Amendments to the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review 2013). This is because it will depend on the other things that you have to do such as school and homework as well as what the rules are where you live about going out and what time you have to be back. This applies whether you are in foster care or living in a children’s home.

If you want to stay overnight at a friend’s house, your carers can also make this decision. A lot of carers think that they have to get police checks on your friend’s family before you can stay overnight but this is not true (The part of the law which says this is Paragraph 3.22 Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations, Volume 4, Fostering Services). What they will need to do is check that it is a safe and suitable place for you to stay, just like any other parent would do. This probably means talking to your friend’s parents and having their address and contact details.

If you are going to stay with friends on a regular basis, it’s important that it is written into your care plan so that everyone is clear about what has been agreed.

Just like a parent, your carers may say no to you seeing your friends more or staying overnight if:

  • They think that you might be unsafe or put yourself at risk while you are away
  • You have other important things to do like school work
  • You don’t stick to the rules about coming home or doing what is expected of you.

Most children have some disagreements with their parents about how much they can see their friends – this is a normal part of growing up and isn’t something that only kids in care go through.

What can I do?

Be Prepared
Before asking to see your friends more or to stay overnight it is important that you can answer the questions that your carers may ask you:

  • Where will you be going? If it is for an overnight stay, you will need to have the address and contact details of your friend’s parents.
  • Do your friend’s parents know about it and are they happy for you to visit or stay?

It is also worth thinking about whether you have been sticking to rules for going out and are behaving at school and home. If not, your carers may say no just like any other parent might.

Talk to People
The first people you need to speak to are your carers. They are responsible for what you do on a day to day basis and they will normally take any decision about seeing your friends.

If you don’t agree with your carer’s decision, you can speak to your social worker. This doesn’t mean that they will force your carers to change their minds – they may agree with the decision. What they can do though is help you talk to your carers about it to try and find a solution that everyone is happy with.

Whatever happens, it is helpful to talk about seeing your friends at your LAC Review so that everyone is clear what has been agreed and what the rules are. Your IRO (see Who’s who in the care system?, The Who Cares? Trust) will then ensure that this is written into your care plan. If you don’t agree with the decision that your carer and/or social worker has made, you can discuss this at your LAC Review or discuss it privately with your IRO outside of the meeting.

Making a Complaint
If you have spoken to everyone and you still feel that no-one is listening or that the decision is unfair, then you can make a complaint about it. To find out more about making a complaint, please click here. You will need to have really clear reasons why you think that the decision is unfair as Children’s Services will normally trust your carers to make decisions about what is good for you and they may be reluctant to change these decisions.

Get Some Help
If you still feel that no-one is listening, you can contact your local advocacy service to help you try and get this resolved. You can find your local Advocacy service by clicking here.

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