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Speaking to a child welfare reporter

Why the reporter would like to speak to you

The adults in your life cannot agree on what's best for you, so they've asked a judge to help them decide.

It could be a decision like:

  • who you live with
  • where you live
  • when you see your family
  • how you live

To help the judge make a decision, they've asked someone called a 'child welfare reporter' (who is sometimes just called a 'reporter') to speak to you.

Reporters are checked to make sure it's safe for them to work with children.

The reporter will be a family lawyer, social worker or someone else who works with children and families.

Family lawyers and social workers

A family lawyer is an expert in the law. They can:

  • give people legal advice
  • tell people what their rights are
  • represent people in court
  • help fix problems without going to court

A social worker listens to and works with children and families. They can help people meet their needs, fix problems and protect their rights. To do this, they may also speak with:

  • other family members
  • schools
  • the police
  • courts
  • other services

What the reporter will do

The reporter will ask you if you want to tell the judge how you feel about your situation.The adults in your life will have made suggestions to the judge about what they think should happen. The reporter will also ask you about these.

You do not have to speak to the reporter or tell them what you think. Some children and young people want to keep what they think private, and that's ok.

But if you want to tell the judge what you think and feel, it's important that the judge knows that. This is because the law says that they have to take your views into account when they make a decision.

If you feel uncomfortable with the reporter, tell an adult you trust.

Who the reporter will speak to

Because the judge will want to make the best decision for you, they'll tell the reporter if there's anyone else the reporter should speak to. Tell the reporter if you think they should speak to someone else. If this is someone the judge has not asked the reporter to speak to, the reporter will need to get permission from the judge.

The judge will also tell the reporter what they need to find out about.

As well as you, the reporter may also speak to other important people in your life. For example, your:

  • parents and step-parents
  • grandparents
  • brothers and sisters
  • teachers
  • doctor
  • youth club leaders

The reporter might also want to see you with other members of your family, or when you're with a particular person.

For example, the parent, grandparent or other family member you are not living with at the moment.

After they've spoken to everyone they need to, the reporter will write a report. The report will help the judge make a decision. When the judge makes a decision, it must be in your best interests and they must take into account anything you've told them.

If you do not want to speak to the reporter

It's up to you to decide whether to speak to the reporter. No-one should make you feel like you should talk to the reporter if you don't want to.

If you decide not to speak to the reporter, you could let the judge know what you think and feel in another way. But only if you want to.

The other ways you can share what you think depends on where you live and your case. You might be able to:

  • fill out a form which the judge can send you
  • draw a picture to give to the judge
  • write a letter to the judge
  • speak to the judge yourself
  • record a message online for the judge

Where you'll meet the reporter

The judge might have told the reporter where to speak to you.

This could be somewhere outside your home where you can speak freely and without worrying about what the adults in your life might think.

If you do not want to speak to the reporter in a certain place , or with a certain person, let the reporter or an adult you trust know.

If there's somewhere you'd like to meet, let the reporter know.

The reporter might want to speak to you more than once. You can decide each time whether or not you want to speak to them.

Seeing an adult at a Child Contact Centre

A contact centre is a safe place for you to spend time with a parent or other adult.

If you're seeing a parent or other adult at a contact centre, the reporter may want to come along to get an idea of how you get on with each other

Having someone with you when you're speaking to the reporter

The reporter will usually want to speak to you without the adults who have asked the judge to make a decision being in the room.

You can have an adult you trust who is not involved in the case with you when you're speaking to the reporter. This person will be there to support you. They should not speak for you.

It's important the judge knows what you think and feel. So you should talk to reporter about this. You should not say what you think someone else wants you to say.

What the reporter might ask you

What the reporter asks you depends on the decision that the judge has to make about you and your family.

For example the reporter might ask you what you think about:

  • where you stay
  • how you're feeling about life
  • who you want to spend time with
  • where you go and what you do when you spend time with people in your family

The reporter will ask you questions. There are no right or wrong answers. You should say what you think and feel and not what you think adults want you to say. If you're scared about saying something, let the reporter know.

Remember the reporter is there to find out what you think and feel. And to write a report for the judge about what everyone thinks and what they would like to happen.

If you've got any questions for the reporter, go ahead and ask them because they're there to help you.

What to do if you do not understand what the reporter's asking you

The reporter should explain things and ask questions in a way that you can understand.

If you do not understand what the reporter is asking, you can ask them to say it in a different way. And it's ok to keep asking if you do not understand.

What will happen to the information you give the reporter

The judge will use the report along with other information the judge has been given to decide what's the best arrangement for you.

Sometimes, the judge will ask the reporter to say what arrangements they think might be good for you.

Who will find out what you say

The reporter will send the report to the judge. The adults who have asked the judge to make a decision about you will be given a copy of the report. This is unless the judge has decided they should not get a copy.

Because the report is going to help the judge decide what's best for you, it will have to say something about the things you tell the reporter.

Ask the reporter if you're not sure who will find out what you say, or if you're worried about this.

The reporter might be able to work with you to come up with some ideas that get across what you think and feel, without telling anyone exactly what you said.

Seeing what the reporter has written

You have the right to ask to see what the reporter has written about their meeting or meetings with you.

You might not be able to see the whole report because it might include private information. For example, information about your parent, grandparent or teacher.

If the reporter has been asked to get your views, you have the right to ask to see what they wrote about your views in the report.

Saying more or changing what you've said to the reporter

Let the reporter know if you want to say more or if you've changed your mind about what you've already told them. They may not change what they've already written, but they can tell the judge that you've got more to say, or have changed what you'd like to say.

If an adult bullies, hurts or threatens you or someone you live with

Domestic abuse is when an adult bullies, hurts or threatens you or someone in your family.

It can also be when an adult controls a family member's life in a harmful way. This could be controlling:

  • money
  • how someone dresses
  • who someone's allowed to see.

It's sometimes called 'domestic violence' or 'coercive control'.

Tell the reporter if anyone is worrying or hurting you.

If you've been affected by domestic abuse, the reporter will not share information that might put you at risk. This means things like:

  • your address
  • which school or college you go to
  • youth groups or clubs you're in

Get help if you or your family has experienced domestic abuse and you'd like to speak to someone who understands what you're going through. You can get help from Childline.

When the reporter might need to tell someone right away what you've said

The reporter will only need to tell someone right away what you've said if:

  • you ask them to
  • your life is in danger
  • someone else's life is in danger
  • you're being hurt by someone

If this is the case, they may tell an adult who can help, like a teacher or social worker. This is only to make sure you're safe.

Call 999 if you or someone else is in immediate danger

Complain about a reporter's behaviour

Speak to an adult you trust if you are not happy with how a reporter has behaved. For example if they're rude to you, or make you feel uncomfortable.

If the reporter is a lawyer you can complain to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

You can also complain about a reporter to the Sheriff Principal.

The Sheriff Principal is the person who looks after the courts in different parts of the country.

There are 6 Sheriffs Principal in Scotland. They cover:

  • Glasgow & Strathkelvin
  • Grampian Highlands & Islands
  • North Strathclyde
  • Lothian & the Borders
  • South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway
  • Tayside, Central & Fife

Ask an adult you trust where the judge who is making your decision is based.

If your case is being heard in the Court of Session, you should contact the Lord President (the most senior judge in Scotland).

You can write to them at:

Address
The Judicial Office for Scotland
Parliament House
Edinburgh
EH1 1RQ

Complain about a report

If you disagree with something in the report you can tell the judge. You should speak to an adult you trust about this. If you have a solicitor, they can tell the judge for you.

Get support

If you have a support worker or advocacy worker (a person whose job is to help you to have a say) you can ask them any questions you have. You can also speak to a guidance teacher.

If they do not know the answer, they can find out for you.

If you want to know more about your rights or what will happen next, you might be able to get free help from a lawyer, or from these places that can help children and young people:

The Scottish Child Law Centre 0800 328 8970 (freephone) 0300 3301421 (from a mobile)

The Scottish Child Law Centre gives free expert legal advice and information about children's right and laws about children in Scotland by phone and email.

Clan Childlaw
0808 129 0522 (freephone)

Clan Childlaw give free, confidential legal advice and representation in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Glasgow. They help children and young people up to the age of 18, or 21 if they have been looked after.

ChildLine
0800 1111 (freephone) 07527 566682 (text)

ChildLine is a free 24-hour counselling service for children and young people under 19. You can call, chat online or email if there's anything you are worried or upset about and you don't know what to do. They will listen to you and help you.

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