Keeping you safe
Sometimes families have problems that they can’t sort out by themselves and people like your family and friends or social workers can become worried about your safety. They want to make sure that you have somewhere to live where you’ll be safe and looked after. Remember, none of this is your fault.
To help make things better, they may ask a family court to help. A family court is very different to a criminal court where people go when they might have done something wrong. The judge in the family court listens to what everyone has to say and it’s their job to make these big, important decisions for you and your family.
Because children usually don’t go to court, it’s important that there’s someone there to tell the judge your views and how you feel. This is where your Cafcass worker (sometimes called a 'Children's Guardian') can help. A Cafcass worker is different to a social worker. You can talk to your Cafcass worker about what you’d like to happen, and they’ll make sure that the family court hears what you have to say.
They can help by:
- making sure you are kept safe and well.
- talking with you to find out what you think and how you feel about everything.
- speaking to other people who care about you like your parents, family and sometimes your teachers and social worker.
- telling the judge what your wishes and feelings are and what they think will be best for you.
The Cafcass worker will write a report to explain what you, and the people who care about you, have said. It will include everything about you – your needs, wishes, and feelings, why the local authority is worried about you, and what they think will be best for you. The report will be shown to other people involved, including your family and anything you tell the Cafcass worker may be included in the report. If you are worried about this, make sure you tell your Cafcass worker so they can help.
The judge will listen carefully to what everyone has to say, including your views, and then make a decision on what’s best for you. After the meeting at court, your Cafcass worker will make sure someone explains what the court decided and how it affects you. Through it all you can choose to have your say but no one should put pressure on you. If you need help and support, your Cafcass worker will make sure you get this.
Find out more
What are care cases?
Sometimes people become very worried that a child or young person is not being looked after properly or may be at risk of harm. If this happens the local authority may start care proceedings to make sure the young person is kept safe. As part of this they will ask the court to decide whether or not a young person should go into care.
Young people are only go into care when people are really worried that they are not being looked after properly or might be harmed.
If the court decides that a young person is not safe at home it will ask the local authority to make sure there is somewhere they can stay that is safe and where they are properly looked after.
Sometimes young people are allowed to go on living at home. However it is more usual for young people who are taken into care to have to leave their home at least for some time.
If you have to live somewhere else, your social worker will try to see if you can stay with someone you already know. For example, this might be your grandparents, an uncle or aunty, or some friends of your family. If that is not possible you may have to go and live with people called ‘foster carers’. All the people involved will try to make sure brothers and sisters can stay together if at all possible. They know most brothers and sisters want to stay together, even if they argue sometimes!
Even if you are not living with your parents you should still be able to see them unless the court decides they are likely to hurt or upset you. The court can also decide how often you should see your parents and where you should see them. This might be where you are living, or it might be at another place such as a family centre.
What are social workers?
Social workers help to make sure young people are safe and properly looked after. If they think young people are not safe or properly looked after they must take action and may ask a family court to decide whether they should go into care. They will work with your family to help make it possible for you to stay safely with them. If the court decides that is not possible, they will help to make sure you there is somewhere safe where you can live.
Foster carers are people often chosen by the local authority to give a home to young people who need a safe place to live. Foster-parents may have children of their own, or other foster children living with them, in which case you would all live in the same house together.
Children and young people in care cases also have a solicitor to help them. The solicitor is a lawyer who works with the Cafcass worker to make sure the best decisions are made for children.
It normally takes about nine to twelve months for a court to decide what is going to happen. During that time a lot will be happening. Lots of people will be working with the family to try to make it safe for children to stay with them. This may mean trying to help families to look after their children better and helping to put things right.
Only the court can decide what will happen in the end. Lots of different things are possible. Everyone will try to make it possible for children to safely stay at home but sometimes children go to live somewhere new. This could be with other members of their family or with friends, or it may be with a new family or foster carers.
If I want to talk about something, who can I talk to?
There are a lot of people you can talk to and you should choose whoever you feel most comfortable with. You could speak to your social worker, your Cafcass worker or your solicitor.