A large number of public law cases are care proceedings. If a Local Authority suspect that a child is at significant risk of harm they can apply to the Court for a care order.
What is a Care Order?
An order of the Court placing a child in the care of a local authority.
When will a Court make a Care Order?
The Children Act 1989 states that a court may only make a care order or supervision order if it is satisfied;-
(a) that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and
(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 to him; or
(ii) the child being beyond parental control.
The parents of a child should seek legal representation as soon as they are made aware that the local authority is considering making an application for a care order. If a care order is made, the Local Authority will make most of the important decisions about the child’s upbringing including where they will live, who will look after them and how and where they are educated.
What will the Court have to consider?
During the course of the proceedings there will be meetings between a social worker and the parents and other family members to try and establish why the child is at risk and what action should be taken. The Court will order that there be reports setting out the outcome of those meetings. The Court may also order that other expert evidence should be provided. The parents will also have the opportunity to give their written evidence.
Ascertaining the wishes and feelings of the child in care proceedings is essential. A Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) guardian must be appointed in most kinds of public law proceedings unless the court is satisfied that this is not necessary in order to safeguard the child’s interests. A children’s guardian should normally be appointed as soon as practicable after the commencement of proceedings. The guardian will also be asked to provide a report to the Court.
If your child or a child for whom you have parental responsibility becomes the subject of care proceedings you are likely to be entitled to Legal Aid.
If you would like further information about care proceedings, please contact us.