The Local Authority has a duty to intervene and start Child Care Proceedings if there are concerns that a child is at risk of harm as a result of the care they are given.
The Social Services are normally the party to raise concerns over a child, and in the majority of cases social services are only involved for a short amount of time whilst a social worker help support the family and they are then left to get on with their lives. From the moment a social worker is involved everything is recorded and can be used at a later date if needed.
Child Protection Case Conference
The social services, if they deem necessary, can call a Child Protection Case Conference to determine whether the child could be protected without the need for a Care Order to be put in place. They will look at putting a Child Protection Plan in place, if they decide that this is not possible then they will issue Court Proceedings.
If Social Services suspect that a child may be in imminent danger then they can apply for an Emergency Protection Order which will remove the child from the care of the parents for up to 8 days whilst further investigations are carried out.
If a parent fails to adhere to a child protection plan then the Local Authority can make an application for Care Proceedings.
What is an Emergency Protection Order?
This type of Order provides the Local Authority with the power to remove a child from the parents care. The Court will then decide the next steps for the child which could involve the Local Authority applying for a Care Order or a Supervision Order.
If an emergency protection order is made then the Court can allow the parent to have reasonable contact with the child, it could be requested that this be supervised, it is entirely dependant on the facts of the case. The child’s welfare is the Courts main concern. If the Court grant contact then the Local Authority are under a duty to facilitate contact.
If the social services deem it necessary to issue proceedings then the party caring for the child will receive notice of the hearings. It is vital that the party contact a legal representative immediately as a hearing date will have been set, normally within 6 days of the Local Authority making the application.
Initial Court Hearing
The Court will not make any final decisions at this hearing but they will do one of the following:
- Decide whether to make an Interim Care Order (an Order that will say where the child shall live and who will look after them until the final hearing), or
- Appoint a guardian and a solicitor to represent the child in the proceedings, or
- Decide whether the case should be transferred to another Court, or
- Decide how the case should be prepared for the final hearing.
What is an interim care order?
This means that the Local Authority will share Parental Responsibility for the child in question, resulting in the Local Authority having the power to make decisions about where the child lives and the welfare of the child. An interim care order will only be put in place by the Courts if they consider it absolutely necessary, it can remove the child from the parents care and either place the child with another family member or foster carers.
Once an interim order has been made there will be a number of hearings which will continue to monitor the child’s living arrangements, who they will see and when and how the case should proceed. It can take up to 26 weeks before a case is ready for a final hearing, sometimes longer if there are complex circumstances surrounding the case.
What is a Care Order?
This would place the child in the care of a particular local authority giving that Local Authority parental responsibility.
An interim care order can last for the duration of proceedings until a final court hearing can take place. Whereas, a final care order Care Order can last until a child is 18 years old unless:
- The court makes an adoption order,
- The Court makes a Supervision Order,
- The Court discharges the Care Order, or
- The Court makes a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order.
There are a variety of Care Orders a court can make:
- Care Order – your child stays in your care or other placement such as with a family member or friend or foster care until they are 18, unless the Order ends before then.
- Supervision Order – your child will remain in your care, or other placement which will be supervised by Children Services, usually for 12 months unless extended after that period.
- Child Arrangements Order- your child will live with you or another person such as a family member or friend for the duration of the Order.
- Special Guardianship Order – your child will live with another person such as a family member or friend on a more permanent basis.
- Placement Order – this gives Children Services permission to place your child for adoption, even without your agreement.