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Cafcass and the Family Justice Young People’s Board (FJYPB) have together created a glossary of the more commonly used terms and words in family proceedings.

Adjournment – A decision made by the family court to hold the court hearing at another time because things are not ready or people need more time to do something.

Adoption Order – A type of order made by the family court which transfers parental responsibility to new, adoptive parents and means that a child or young person is no longer legally the child of their birth parents. It allows them to start a new family.

Agency staff/workers – Social workers who do not normally work for Cafcass but will sometimes do work for Cafcass during busy periods.

Area Quality Review (AQR) – A way of measuring how well an area is working. People involved include the Assistant Director/heads of service in that area. The AQR findings help form the action and development plans for that area.

Application – This is how a person asks the family court to help them.

Barrister – A legally trained person who advises people going through the family court and speaks for them in court hearings.

Bank workers – Social workers who do not normally work for Cafcass but will sometimes do work for Cafcass during busy periods. These workers do not come through an agency.

C100 form – This is the form used to apply to the courts for a contact or child arrangements order.

Cafcass worker – Depending on what the family court has ordered Cafcass to do, the Cafcass worker (sometimes known as a practitioner or officer) can be known as a family court adviser or a children’s guardian (for more detail, look for their descriptions).

Care order – An order made by the family court when the local authority can prove that a child or young person living in their area is not being looked after properly.

Care and Supervision (section 31) application duration – Average duration of all Care and Supervision (section 31) applications completed in defined period. The duration is defined by the number of calendar weeks between the application being received and the application being completed. Where the application does not have a completion date on Cafcass’ system, the closure date of the case is used.

Case Management Conference – This is a hearing where the major issues for a child or young person are talked about and the judge sets out how the child’s case in the family court is going to proceed.

Child Contact Intervention (CCI) – CCIs are short-term interventions of supervised contact. They are designed to help adults and children establish safe and beneficial contact when this is difficult to do on their own.

Child contact centre – This is a safe place where children and young people can see a parent who they do not live with. Usually, this allows for direct contact, supervised contact or supported contact.

Child arrangements order – When people can’t agree on where a child might live or who they should see, the family court might be asked to decide. The judge will look at what is best for the child or young person and make a decision setting out what people must do.

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) – This is an organisation which works with children and young people and their families, and then advises the family court on what it considers to be in the best interests of each child.

ChildFirst – Cafcass Electronic Case Management System which stores Cafcass’ information about the children and families we work with including feedback and complaints.

Children’s guardian – Sometimes when the problems within a family are really difficult then the family court will ask for a children’s guardian to help them. The children’s guardian is an independent person who is there to keep the court focused on what is best for the child or young person. They will also appoint a solicitor to act for the young person in court.

Child’s record audit – Internal audits which are completed by Cafcass managers to ensure consistency and best practice.

Consent order – Made by the court where all parties in the child’s case have agreed to what it says.

Direct contact – When a child or young person spends time with someone that they do not live with.

Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programme (DAPP) – A structured course that aims to help people who have been abusive towards their partners or ex-partners to change their behaviour and develop respectful, non-abusive relationships.

Early intervention teams (EIT) – EIT operate in service areas, with Cafcass workers carrying out safeguarding checks to inform the safeguarding letter we provide at the First Hearing.

Family assistance order – An order which the family court can make to provide short term (usually six months) support to a family who agree to it. This can be from a Cafcass worker or a social worker from the local authority.

Family court – This is where important decisions are made about children, young people and their families. It is different to criminal courts where people go when they might have done something wrong. Decisions in the family court are made by judges or magistrates when people can’t agree about what is best for a child or young person.

Family Court Adviser (FCA) – Sometimes the family court may ask an FCA to meet with a child or young people to talk about their wishes and feelings and to make sure the family court hears what they have to say. The FCA also gives their view to the court about what is best for the child. FCAs do not need to meet all children and young people because sometimes families can agree themselves on what is best.

Family Group Conference – All of the important people in a child’s life get together to check that they are safe. It means that everyone knows what is happening and keeps them safe.

Final order – This is the last order made by the family court. The court expects all the people named in the order to keep to it and do as it says and can punish adults if they don’t.

Foster carer – People who give a home to children and young people who need a safe place to live. They 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.

Guardian’s report – The family court will ask the children’s guardian to write a report to help it make decisions about a child or young person. The report will include information on their wishes and feelings and a recommendation from the children’s guardian on what they think is best for the child. The report will also include information from the other people involved such as the parents and any other individuals such as experts.

Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) – IROs help to make sure the best decisions are made for children looked after by the local authority. Their main focus is to make sure that the care planning process for each child or young person is meeting their needs, and to ensure that his/her current wishes and feelings are given full consideration.

Indirect contact – A child or young person can use forms of contact such as letters, cards or gifts to communicate with a parent where the court considers it is safe and beneficial for them to do so.

Interim care order – This means that the local authority makes decisions about a child rather than their own parents for the short term, before the family court makes a final order. The child will get a social worker to make the decisions day to day.

Issues Resolution Hearing (IRH) – This is a special hearing where the family court decides which issues need to be sorted out and hears arguments about which is a true version of events.

Judge – Sometimes families have problems which they might find too hard to sort out by themselves. A judge works in a family court, listens to everybody and then decides what is best for the child or young person involved in the case. They have the final say and will make the decision about that child or young person’s life.

Level 1 check – A Police Criminal Record Check which is completed by Cafcass’ Police National Computer (PNC) team.

Legal Adviser – A legally qualified person who helps magistrates in the family court apply the law. They do not play any part in the decision-making process but are there to advise.

Litigants in person – A party in a case who is self-representing i.e. they don’t have legal representation/lawyer.

Local authority (also known as children’s social care or social services) – This organisation is responsible for making sure all children and young people in their local area are kept safe by the people who care for them.

Magistrate – This person is a member of the community who volunteers to make decisions that affect families, children and young people. They are similar to a judge but are not legally qualified. They are advised on the law by their legal adviser.

Mediation – When people can’t agree, they go to another person to help them sort it out (a mediator). The mediator talks to everyone and tries to help them find an outcome that they are all happy with. This might mean that they don’t have to go to the family court.

Non-molestation order – This is a type of order the family court uses to keep adults, children and young people safe from someone who has been abusive toward them.

Parental order – An order which transfers legal parenthood from a surrogate to the intended parents.

Parental responsibility – Parental responsibility means all the rights, duties, and responsibilities that a parent has to a child or young person. A person or the people with parental responsibility can make decisions about a child such as who they will live with and what school they will attend.

Placement order – An order which allows the local authority to place a child with suitable adopters following care proceedings (even if the parents do not agree).

Pre-proceedings – Work that is carried out by the local authority (sometimes involving Cafcass) before a decision on making a care application is made.

Private law – These cases are brought to the family court by private individuals, generally in connection with divorce or parents’ separation. The family court may make a child arrangements order, prohibited steps order or a specific issues order or no order at all.

Prohibited steps order – A parent can be prevented by the family court from doing something the other parent does not want them to do. The most common type is where one parent is stopped from moving abroad with the child or young person.

Public law – Public law cases are brought to the family court by local authorities where they are worried that a child or young person is not being looked after safely. The family court may make a care order, a supervision order, or no order at all.

Relinquished babies and children – term used to describe where parents feel that adoption may be the best option for providing a permanent, safe future for their child (the child is ‘relinquished’).

Rule 16.4 cases – These are particularly difficult or complicated family court cases where the judge decides to make the child a party to the case under rule 16.4 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010. A Cafcass guardian will be appointed to represent the child in the case.

Safeguarding letter – This is a letter that a Cafcass worker will write and send to the family court. They will speak to the parties (usually the parents) and ask about the child or young person’s safety and any worries that they might have.

Section 37 report – The family court orders a local authority to produce this report because they are worried about a child or young person and want to make sure that they are safe. It will involve a social worker usually visiting the child and ensuring everything is okay at home.

Section 7 report – This report is ordered by the family court and makes either Cafcass or the local authority investigate all the circumstances of the family, often including the wishes and feelings of a child or young person, and send a report to the court.

Section 16A risk assessment – a duty held by Cafcass officers to undertake a risk assessment whenever they have cause to suspect that the child concerned is at risk of harm.

Self-employed contractor – social work staff who are offered work on a case by case basis to assist in providing additional capacity and have a contract for services for each individual case.

Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) – A course which helps parents to understand how to put their child first while they are separating, even if they are in dispute with their former partner.

Sessional workers – former Cafcass staff who stay to complete case work which occurs after their departure from the organisation, for example by attending a final hearing and/or closing an existing case rather than having to reallocate that case to a new worker.

Social worker – These specially trained people help to make sure children and young people are safe and properly looked after. They will work with families to help make it possible for children to stay safely with them. If the family court decides that it is not possible, they will help to make sure there is somewhere else that is safe where a child can live.

Solicitor – A legally trained person who provides advice to people going through the family court and can speak for them in court.

Special guardianship order – This family court order allows another person to become a child’s ‘special guardian’. It is for children who cannot live with their birth parents and gives parental responsibility to the special guardian so that they can make decisions alone about the child’s life.

Specific issue order – This order is made by the family court when there is an important issue to be resolved but parents can’t agree on it. For example, which school a child should go to.

Supervised contact – This is a type of direct contact which requires a supervisor to make sure that the child is safe with the other person. This may be done in a contact centre.

Supervision order – A supervision order makes the local authority take responsibility for advising, assisting and befriending a young person, and ensuring that the child or young person is kept safe in the care of their parents.

Supported contact – This is direct contact whereby a child contact centre worker gives some support to the adults so that they can meet the needs of their child.

Webinar – Webinars are interactive seminars or other presentations taking place via Skype for Business to support staff learning and engagement. They are open to all Cafcass staff and focus on family justice and social work practice topics. They give staff a forum to have a two-way discussion about their ideas, experiences, challenges, best practice and innovation in a creative and informal environment.