solicitors Reigate Horley

Child Care FAQ

This pages deals with the issue of child care when Social Services have become involved with the care of a child. We are experienced in this area and can provide you with legal advice and representation to assist us

Below are some of the questions we are most commonly asked about child care when Social Services are involved. Click on a question to see that answer or contact us for a consultation.

What are Care proceedings?

When a Local Authority believes that a child may be suffering serious harm, or is likely to suffer serious harm, they can apply to the court for a Care Order.

If your child is subject to care proceedings by Social Services it is critical that you contact a solicitor as soon as possible to obtain advice and representation.

You will be invited to meet with various professionals to discuss the case at a Child Protection Case Conference. We can represent you at this conference and advise you and help you to understand the proceedings.

The aim of a case conference is to decide whether arrangements can be made for the care of your child without the need for the court to make a Care Order. Social services cannot take any action that you do not agree with without obtaining the court’s permission.

Your child will be represented by a court appointed guardian from CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service). The guardian does not work for Social Services and their job is to represent your child’s best interests.

The process can go through a number of steps, eventually resulting in a Care Order being made in relation to your child’s ongoing care. The type of order made will depend on the circumstances of the case. An explanation of some of the different types of Care Order’s is outlined later on this page.

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What factors does the court take into account when deciding on care for a child?

The child’s welfare is always of greatest importance in care proceedings. The court will take into account the following factors:

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What types of court orders relate to children?

The Local Authority may leave the child living at home with the parents, or with other relatives. Otherwise, they could decide that the child should be placed with foster carers or be placed in a children’s home. It is also possible that the child may be placed with potential adopters, although the child cannot be adopted without the court making an Adoption Order.

Care Orders enable the Local Authority to share Parental Responsibility for a child, which means that they are involved in making important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as where they live and who they live with.

A Care Order will normally last until a child is 18 years old although you can apply for a discharge of a Care Order before then.

Below are some of the common Court Orders available:

Supervision Order

A Supervision Order puts a child under the supervision of the Local Authority although it does not grant the Local Authority Parental Responsibility. This usually means that the child is not taken into care and remains with the parents, but is supervised by Social Services to make sure they are well cared for.

Residence Order

A Residence Order sets out where the child lives and who looks after them. Residence Orders are often made in care proceedings instead of Care Orders where a child goes to live with a relative. It would give that person Parental Responsibility for the period of the order.

Contact Order

A Contact Order sets out who can see the child, for instance if they are not returning to live with the parents. Contact Orders can be made in respect of parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, other relatives and friends. Contact with the child is always based on what is best for the us

Placement Order

A Placement Order gives authority to a Local Authority to place a child with prospective adopters. It can only be made in relation to a child who is the subject of a Care Order or where the threshold criteria for a Care Order are satisfied.

Parental consent to the Placement Order may be dispensed with by the Court on the grounds that either the parent is incapable of giving consent; or that the welfare of the child requires the consent to be dispensed with.

Further legal proceedings are required before the court can make an Adoption Order.

Adoption Order

An Adoption Order transfers Parental Responsibility for the child from the birth parents and others who had Parental Responsibility, including the Local Authority, permanently to the adopter(s). An Adoption Order can be made where the Court agrees that adoption is in the best interests of the child and Parental consent to adoption has been given or dispensed with by the Court.

Emergency Protection Order (EPO)

An Emergency Protection Order can be applied for where there is an immediate risk of significant harm to a child. A Local Authority would normally make the application, although the NSPCC, a police officer or any other person can apply for an EPO.
An EPO will enable a child to be removed to other accommodation or to remain in a place where they are being safely accommodated (e.g. a hospital or foster placement).

Special Guardianship Order (SGO)

A Special Guardianship Order offers an additional option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security without severing ties permanently from the birth family, as in adoption.

Special Guardians will have Parental Responsibility for the child. A Special Guardianship Order will replace the Care Order and the Local Authority will no longer have Parental Responsibility

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How is a Care Order ended or discharged?

Someone with Parental Responsibility can ask the court to discharge a Care Order. The court will only agree if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the order was made.

The person applying for the Care Order to be ended will have to show the court that it is in the child’s best interests. The court will then look at any current risk to the child.

The court may decide to replace the Care Order with a Supervision Order, which means the Local Authority will no longer have parental responsibility for the child but will supervise how the child is cared for instead.
If the court discharges the Care Order, the person with parental responsibility will take over caring for the child.

Contact us to arrange a consultation with one of our family solicitors.

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Two members of our Family law team are members of Resolution.resolution family lawyers
Members of Resolution are required to follow the Resolution code of practice which commits family lawyers to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational way, preserving people’s dignity and encouraging agreements.