Care Orders and Care Proceedings
What are Care Proceedings?
Care Proceedings are Court Proceedings issued by the Social Services Department of the Local Authority where an application is made for a “Care Order” or “Supervision Order” in respect of a child.
An example of a Local Authority is Nottingham City Council.
What is a Care Order?
A Care Order is an Order, which places a child under the care of the Local Authority. This is otherwise known as a child “being in care”.
The Order is applied for by the Social Services Department of the Local Authority and gives the Local Authority Parental Responsibility for the child. This does not necessarily mean that the parent doesn’t have Parental Responsibility but the parent’s wishes can be overridden if the Local Authority believes it is in the best interests of the child
Who can apply for a Care Order?
There are several steps that have to be taken before the Court will grant a Care Order though and all other possibilities are considered before this step is taken for instance a Supervision Order may be applied for or extra support may be provided for the parent(s).
If the Court grants a Care Order, the Court will decide how much the child’s parent(s), brothers & sisters and other family can see the child. There is a possibility that the Parents can apply to the Court for a Contact Order if the Court does not grant them enough contact time during the proceedings.
What is an Interim Care Order?
An Interim Care Order, like a Care Order grants the Local Authority Parental Responsibility. This means they are able to make decisions about the child’s living arrangements and do not need the parents permission to do so.
This is an Order that is made at the first hearing after Care Proceedings have been issued. This Order can last for up to 8 weeks and can be renewed every 4 weeks after that. The Order can only be granted if the Court feels there is good reason to believe that a child may be at serious risk of harm.
When Social Services apply for an Interim Care Order, they have to have prepared a Interim Care Plan which sets out where the child should live until the final hearing. This will include contact arrangements between the parent and the child. Social Services must show the Care Plan to the parent(s) and should ensure that the plan suits the child’s cultural, religious and racial heritage.
The Court can also grant other orders at the same time as the Interim Care Order such as an Exclusion Order which forces an adult who is believed to be dangerous to a child out of the child’s home.
What is a Care Plan?
As outlined in the question above, in cases where the Social Services propose to take a child into care, they have to prepare a Care Plan. This Care Plan is reviewed regularly and will outline what has been decided on a temporary basis and what the final views of the Local Authority may be.
The Care Plan must consist of three parts:
- The aim of the plan and a summary of the Social Work timetable;
- A summary of the child’s needs and how these are to be met;
- How the plan is to be implemented and managed.
If any aspect of the Care Plan is disagreed with by the Parent(s) of the child, they should inform their solicitor.
If my child is taken into Care, can I see them?
The court should decide how often, where and when the Parent(s) of a child subject to Care Proceedings should see the child once the Care Order has been granted. If the parent is not happy with the arrangements they may be able to apply back to the court for a Contact Order.
What effect does a final Care Order have?
The legal affect is that the Local Authority will have Parental Responsibility for the child. This means that essentially they can act as a parent.
What is a “looked after” Children Reviewing Officer and what will they do?
This person would be appointed if a Care Order had been made in respect of a child. This person’s role would be to:
- Take part in any review procedure
- Monitor what the Local Authority is doing
- Refer the matter to CAFCASS if they believe this is appropriate.
What is the Review process?
If a child is taken into the Local Authority’s care, they must carry out, from time to time, a general review of the progress of the child. This would include issues such as their how they are progressing at school, how they are able to make friends with other children and whether they appear to be having any difficulties.
In addition, they must review matters if the child, their parents, anybody with Parental Responsibility or a Local Authority foster parent raises concerns. The “Looked-after” Children Reviewing Officer must take part.