Home > The Court Process > When Children are Taken into Care: A Guide

When Children are Taken into Care: A Guide

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 18 Jan 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Care Foster Care Child Protection

Children may be taken into care as the result of a care order or by your agreement that your child will be 'looked after'. If a care order is in place, your local council will share parental responsibility with you, and so share responsibility with you for making important decisions about your child's life. These decisions will include: Where they will live, who they will live with and where they will go to school.

If no care order is in place and your child is in care by consent, you will retain parental responsibility. However your local council will still be responsible for ensuring that an appropriate standard of care is provided, and that those looking after your child are capable of doing so.

Your child may be placed with other relatives, foster carers, or in a children's home. Your local council will be able to discuss this with you. Clearly there is a preference that other relatives look after your child, and often they will receive better care with a relative, simply because there are less children to look after. However this will not always be possible or appropriate and so cases are looked at individually to decide where best to place a child.

What is a care order?

A care order is an order made by the court under the Children Act 1989. This order gives your Local Council parental rights and so allows them to make decisions about your child's upbringing. The difference between a Care Order and a Supervision Order is that under a Supervision Order, your Local Council will advise you what is best for your child, whereas under a Care Order, they will tell you what is best.

In order to obtain a Care Order, your Local Council must prove on the balance of probabilities to the court that your child is suffering, or at risk of suffering, significant harm.

The order will last until:

  • The child's 18th birthday
  • The court discharges (cancels) the order
  • Or an adoption order is made

The process

1) If your Local Council is worried about your child's care and are considering applying to court for your child to be taken into care, you will receive a "Letter before proceedings". This letter invites you to go to a meeting to discuss concerns about your child's care. If you do not do so, the Council may apply to the Court without discussing their concerns further with you - the letter is a final notice to parents. You may want to seek legal advice at this point; your local town will have a family law solicitor who will be able to discuss payment.

2) At a pre-proceedings meeting, the Council's concerns about your child's care will be discussed. You will consider with the Council how you can change the way that you look after your child, and how the Council can assist you to do this. Any plans will be formally recorded in a written agreement that both you and the Council must stick to. If you refuse to make any changes, the Council is likely to apply to the courts for a care order. If you would like to find out more details about this meeting, a useful guide can be found at www.justice.gov.uk .

[Note that in cases where the Local Council is concerned about an immediate and serious risk to your child, they may make an emergency application to the courts and not follow all of the above steps.]

3) If your Local Authority remains unhappy, they can apply for an interim care order. This allows them to take your child into care on a temporary basis, for up to 8 weeks. This eight week period may then be extended for up to 28 days. There is no limit on the amount of times a temporary order can be extended, though if multiple extensions are sought, your Local Council is likely to consider applying for a longer term care order.

4) The court may then consider a longer term or permanent care order. It usually takes the court between 9 months and a year to decide a care case. During this year, a social worker, and an officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) will speak to you and your family about your child, to assess any risks to your child. Both the social worker and CAFCASS officer will prepare a report for the court. These reports will state whether they think the child should be taken into care, and whether they consider that it would be appropriate for them to live with a relative.

5) If the court decides that you will never be able to have your child back, they may make an adoption order. This will sever any legal links you have to your child. If your child is adopted, you will no longer have any parental responsibility for them and will not usually be able to see them. If your child is adopted, usually you will not be allowed to contact them at all; if your child wishes to see you, they will be given details about you once they reach 18 years old.

'I really need help, my daughter will be 13 in July, and I haven't seen her since 2001. I'm not an innocent party; my partner at the time slept with my friend and I beat him up really badly. They ran off together and my ex started using drugs. My daughter was taken off her and placed into care and later adopted. I'm mad with myself for not doing anything sooner, but I want to be a dad to my daughter.'

The decision to make an adoption order is not taken lightly as it is a permanent order; once your child has been adopted, the order cannot be reversed. An adoption order may be made with your consent. Alternatively, the court may make the order against your wishes if they consider that this is in the best interests of your child.

Normally you will be consulted about this decision. However you will not be able to have any say about your child's future unless you have parental responsibility. You will have parental responsibility if:

  • You and the child's mother were married at the time the child was born
  • Your name is on the child's birth certificate
  • By agreement with the child's mother (e.g. if you have joint custody of your child)
  • By order of the court

If you think that you should have parental responsibility for a child on the child protection register or who is in care, seek independent legal advice (from one of the sources at the end of this article) urgently. You will not be kept updated regarding decisions made about your child if you do not have parental responsibility.

Concerns about your child in care

If your child is placed with foster carers or in a children's home, you will naturally want to ensure that your child is being properly looked after. All children's home workers and foster carers are CRB checked and receive training relating to looking after children, particularly those who are especially vulnerable.

The Local Council will have an education plan for your child. This will include what school your child will attend, and the longer term plans (such as which secondary school they will attend). The social worker is responsible for ensuring that your child is supported at school (the school will have a designated teacher who oversees the education of children in care), and that they attend school every day.

Your child's carers will also attend school events such as parents' evenings. If you would like to see a copy of your child's school reports or hear what their teachers said at parents evenings, ask your child's social worker; it will often be possible to facilitate this and keep you involved.

If you are concerned about your child's education or other aspects of their care whilst they are subject to a care order, you can complain.

  • 1) Speak to their social worker or carer about your concerns
  • 2) If you remain unhappy, complain to your Local Council. You can find your Local Council's "Let Us Know" form at www.gov.uk

The Child Protection Register

The Child Protection register is a confidential list of all children in a local area who are known or believed to be at risk of significant harm. A Child Protection Conference by your Local Council may decide to put a child's name on the list, which will only be disclosed to relevant professionals such as teachers, police officers, doctors and social workers.

Once a child's name is on the list, it will not necessarily stay on the list permanently. A Review Conference will review whether your child's name should be on the list 3 months after it is first put there. If they agree, the list will be reviewed again 6 months after the first Review Conference. Your child's name will only remain on the list until your Local Council consider that they are no longer at risk of harm.

'Please can anyone help, my 2 yr old was placed in foster care due to a police protection order due to his mum's drug and alcohol problems. He was returned to his mother after promises that she would change her behaviour. A year later his school report told me he had 80 percent absenteeism and only attended on Mondays. After a urgent call from the headmaster to ask permission for a school nurse to examine him I raced to school to find a child protection team there and nurse who told me child had been clawing at his groin area and complaining to teacher so an immediate examination was done at hospital revealing a STD.'

The above is a classic example of when a child would be placed on the child protection register. If the child remained with their mother, they would likely stay on the register. However if custody has now been awarded to the father who is a responsible parent, the child may be removed from the register after a short period of time; every case is assessed individually to ensure that the child is adequately protected.

Further help

You can get further help in dealing with a care case from the following sources:
  • A legal aid solicitor (who will often be able to provide free advice paid for by the Government)
  • Family Rights Group - a charity assisting parents with a child in care. Freephone 0808 801 0366 (Lines open 10am-3:30pm Monday to Friday). www.frg.org.uk
  • Citizens Advice Bureau - www.citizensadvice.org.uk
  • Parentline Plus - a charity working with parents. www.parentlineplus.co.uk Call 0808800 2222 - lines open 24/7.

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[Add a Comment]
Zsa.si - Your Question:
HiMy partner's child is in foster care (grandmother), he and the child's mum has only supervised contact with the child. He pays csa but the mum doesn't? Can he apply for csa to the grandmother from the mum?

Our Response:
Yes, if the mother is earning and is not the primary carer of their child, then child maintenance should be paid mutually via each parent.
SeparatedDads - 19-Jan-17 @ 1:39 PM
Hi My partner's child is in foster care (grandmother), he and the child's mum has only supervised contact with the child. He pays csa but the mum doesn't? Can he apply for csa to the grandmother from the mum?
Zsa.si - 18-Jan-17 @ 6:39 PM
Sj - Your Question:
I need help advice fast , my granddaughter was placed in care , I stepped up to have her here , social services came to vet me , but that was a joke , not only did they keep on about how many times iv moved this I may add was due to my ex husband military job , they called me a different name several times in the report mixing me up with my granddaughters mothers name , said I'd been married 3 times when it was twice , went on and on that did I feel my son the father of my granddaughter turned out because of me , I must say I have 7 children all nothing like this my son has mental health issues and also took drugs , I'm lost how where to go , was told it would cost ten thousand to get this report and care order overturned, I need advice please please help

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. In can only suggest you seek legal advice to see whether you have a case. You may be able to self-litigate, please see link: Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself, here which would cut down on legal fees. Due to the fact Social Services have made a decision it is rare the courts would overturn this, so legal advice would be needed.
SeparatedDads - 29-Nov-16 @ 2:44 PM
I need help advice fast , my granddaughter was placed in care , I stepped up to have her here , social services came to vet me , but that was a joke , not only did they keep on about how many times iv moved this I may add was due to my ex husband military job , they called me a different name several times in the report mixing me up with my granddaughters mothers name , said I'd been married 3 times when it was twice , went on and on that did I feel my son the father of my granddaughter turned out because of me , I must say I have 7 children all nothing like this my son has mental health issues and also took drugs , I'm lost how where to go , was told it would cost ten thousand to get this report and care order overturned, I need advice please please help
Sj - 29-Nov-16 @ 10:19 AM
royston - Your Question:
My common law son in law has taken away from my daughter there son.he won't let her contact or see him.she has gone from 9 stone to just under 7.i have always been neutral but now I have to speak he's beaten the child his say his mum wants to kill him.she has lots of photos of where he's beaten her he has threatened me and my other 2 daughters if we try anything he's going to put petrol through our letter box to burn us to death.he is a nasty piece of work and the only reason he is doing it is to use there son as a weapon.my daughter has as I say recordings and pictures of his brutality.i called the police the other night because he came around threatening me then grabbing my grandson son screaming he was holding onto me saying please grandad I want to say so he grabbed him by his ankle outside screaming it was a cold evening and he refused to put his coat on.when I called the police he already ran to the police station to say it's all lies and threaten his son who is six.but surely my daughter has rights to speak or see him.she can't afford court because she's unemployed and he's laughing because he will get legal aid because she wants to take him to court to see her son.as I say I worry about my grandson and have kept neutral worrying about him.but he is such a monster.he says to her he's been sleeping with other women then when she reacts he sneaky records her on his fone so I told my daughter to do same.and she has lots.he got her a rested one night after saying stuff like that.so she retaliated buy throwing pop in his face so he stamped on her head blood and stitches on her head in foots as prove.but all he does is go around to tease her with you will never see him again.can someone please help.

Our Response:
If your daughter wants her child back, she can either contact the police and if her ex does not have parental responsibility for the child, then the police can intervene and return her son. Otherwise, she will need to take it through court, please see link: When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access here and apply for an emergency contact order. If she is not eligible for Legal Aid, then she can self-litigate, please see link: Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself, here. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 18-Nov-15 @ 2:28 PM
My common law son in law has taken away from my daughter there son.he won't let her contact or see him.she has gone from 9 stone to just under 7.i have always been neutral but now I have to speak he's beaten the child his say his mum wants to kill him.she has lots of photos of where he's beaten her he has threatenedme and my other 2 daughters if we try anything he's going to put petrol throughour letter box to burn us to death.he is a nasty piece of work and the only reason he is doing it is to use there son as a weapon.my daughter has as I say recordings and pictures of his brutality.i called the police the other night becausehe came around threatening me then grabbing my grandson son screaming he was holding onto me saying please grandad I want to say so he grabbed him by his ankle outside screamingit was a cold evening and he refused to put his coat on.when I called the police he already ran to the police station to say it's all lies and threaten his son who is six.but surely my daughterhas rights to speak or see him.she can't afford court becauseshe's unemployed and he's laughing becausehe will get legal aid becauseshe wants to take him to court to see her son.as I say I worry about my grandson and have kept neutralworrying about him.but he is such a monster.he says to her he's been sleeping with other women then when she reacts he sneaky records her on his fone so I told my daughter to do same.and she has lots.he got her a rested one night after saying stuff like that.so she retaliated buy throwing pop in his face so he stamped on her head blood and stitches on her head in foots as prove.but all he does is go around to tease her with you will never see him again.can someone please help.
royston - 18-Nov-15 @ 12:19 AM
I'm going through courts against my daughter dad and reely need help because my solicitor isn't fighting my case I've done absolutely everything and more and still getting no were I am at my wits end and it has been going on for 15 months
Jord - 14-Oct-15 @ 1:02 PM
@Charles - I have included a link to our partner article: Relationship Breakdown: 'Lies' About Behaviour, here which may help.
SeparatedDads - 24-Jun-15 @ 1:41 PM
My ex has been telling lies about me to the Social Services saying I regularly beat my daughter at my house. The Social Workers are listening to him now and she is on the Child Protection Procedure. When I have difficulties managing her behaviour and I have shouted at her and tried to stop her from just walking out to play with her friends she becomes angry, and I grabbed her to stop her having a tantrum. She has told the Social Worker and they have warned me to stop hurting her. I am not beating hitting and kicking her as they say I am struggling at times to manage her and he is feeding her with lies. He is a manipulative man and asks her when I have done something ring Daddy so she rings him to complain. I had a visit from a Policewoman and Senior Social Worker warning me that if anything like this happens again my daughter will be taken off me by the Police. He is getting away with lieing to the authorities and making me out to be something Im not. He called the Police and told them I,d hit her and they came rounda few weeks ago. I defended myself and said Ihadn,t done that. I am a very scared Parent t the moment and they the authorities that my daughter could be taken into care and are looking at legal procedures. Please could someone give me some advice on what to do next because if feels that Im in a War right now.
Charles - 22-Jun-15 @ 11:14 AM
IWhat if they really don't have any decent reason to keep my daughter away from me and now cutting down grandparents time with her in preparation to go court for permanent review if I don't agree to my rights being took off me and my daughter adopted can I still win a fight without a lawyer as kinda too skint for one and can I find alternative to the foster carer at present as she is a nasty piece of work who is clearly in it for the money rather than the care
kaz - 18-Oct-14 @ 5:52 PM
mygrandchildren were taken into care and no warning letter ,no offer of a family conference meeting .If it takes the rest of my life i will fight for our little ones to be returnedhome to family,
DJA1969 - 24-Aug-14 @ 10:25 PM
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