If the Local Authority decide to initiate care proceedings in respect of your child, you have the right to seek independent legal advice.
WHAT ARE CARE PROCEDDINGS?
Care proceedings are initiated when the Local Authority has concerns about the safety or welfare of your child. Under section 47 of the Children Act 1989, the Local Authority are under a duty to carry out an investigation when information is given to them regarding a child’s welfare. As part of this investigation you will be asked to attend an initial child protection conference, along with other organisations involved with your child, such as, doctors and schools.
The outcome of the investigation can lead to the Local Authority making an application to the Family Court for a care (including interim care order)/supervision order.
WHAT IS A CARE ORDER?
Section 31(2) of the Children Act 1989 states “A court may only make a care or supervision order if it is satisfied-
(a) that the child concerned is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm.
(b) that the harm, or likelihood of harm is attributable to-
(i) the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him.
If a care order is granted by the Court, the Local Authority will share parental responsibility with you [the parents]. Therefore not only does it give them the power to remove the child from their home, it also allows for them to make decisions about the child that a parent would usually make.
During proceedings for a care order, upon the request of the applicant Local Authority, the court may make an ‘interim care order’. The effect of this is the same as that of a final care order, however, the order will usually last for anything up to eight weeks. Interim orders can be renewed every four weeks after this time.
WHAT IS A SUPERVISION ORDER?
These orders are made on the same basis as care orders, that the child is “suffering or likely to suffer significant harm”.
This allows for the child to remain with their family but under the supervision of Local Authority social workers. Unlike a care order this does not confer parental responsibility on the Local Authority.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CARE PROCEEDINGS ARE INTIATED?
An independent social worker (Children’s Guardian) from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) will be appointed to represent the child’s best interests during the proceedings. The Guardian will be asked to file a report with the court.
During proceedings various assessments will be carried out to establish the reasons why the child may be at risk and what can be done to keep them safe. These help the court decide whether the child can safely remain at home or whether they should be taken into care.
The court expects these types of cases to be completed within 26 weeks, although it can sometimes take up to 50 weeks in some cases and in rare circumstances, 80 weeks.
It is ultimately up to the court to decide what will happen to your child. If the Judge is satisfied that it is safe to do so, the child will remain/go back home (if subject to an interim care order).
For others, the Local Authority will find them a new home. That may be with:
1. Other members of the family
3. A new family
4. A children’s home
After a care order is made in favour of the Local Authority, they can apply for a placement order under section 21 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. The allows the Local Authority to place the child with prospective adopters. This can lead to an adoption order being made which will server all legal ties between the parent and child.
I act for a range of family law matters please contact me for further information.
All views are my own and none of the above is not to be relied on as legal advice.