Skip to main content

Children and young people feedback line: 0808 175 3333

I am (or may be) looked after by a local authority

A young person’s guide to care proceedings

‘People are trying to make sure I’m safe’

When people are concerned about your safety, or you have been or might have been harmed, social workers can ask a family court to decide what is best for you.

Sometimes it is not safe for you to live at home, either for a short time or for longer. This will depend on lots of different things and you will have a social worker who is talking to you and your family about what is safe and how you can be well looked after, continue to go to school and see your friends and family. The most important thing is that the arrangements and plans for you are safe. The social worker will try and find family members to look after you because being brought up by people who know you well and care for you is the best thing for you. If this is not possible, they may have to or you may want them to find a foster family or foster carer for you to stay with. Sometimes if a different family is not the right thing for you, then they might talk to you about residential care – this is often called a children’s home. Your social worker will explain. In most cases, the social worker will need to ask the family court to help. When they do this, a Cafcass worker called a Guardian will work with you to help the court decide what is safe and in your best interests.

The most important thing to remember if you are in care or might go into care is that none of this is your fault. 

Children and young people

The Family Court

A family court is very different to a criminal court where people decide if someone has committed a crime and broken the law. The role of a family court is to make decisions to keep you safe.

The judge in the family court does this by listening to what everyone has to say and then making a decision.

Cartoon of family court

Social Workers

Social workers help to make sure children and young people are safe and properly looked after. If they think children and young people are not safe or properly looked after, they must do something about it. They will work with your parents and other members of your family to see if it is possible for you to stay safely with them. 

If the court decides that is not possible, they will help to make sure there is somewhere else where you can go to live instead that is safe. 

A cartoon of a family justice professional

How we help

The court will ask one of our workers (a ‘Children’s Guardian’) to help them decide what is best for you. 

Our workers do this by: 

  • talking to the social workers who already know you and your family. They will ask them about their plans for you and what they are telling the court that they think needs to happen next; 
  • making sure you have someone to speak to the judge on your behalf, called a solicitor; 
  • talking with you to find out what you think and how you feel about everything. They will also want to understand what has happened to you, why you have not been safe and whether you are safe now;
  • speaking to other people who care about you, like your parents, other family members and sometimes your teachers. They will always talk to your social worker. The Cafcass Guardian will always explain to you what they have learned about your situation and you, and what they think they will recommend to the family court or the judge. You will have a chance to say what you think about this and the Cafcass Guardian will make sure the court knows what you have said about the plans for you. 

Once they have done this, our worker will tell the court what they think should happen to help you stay safe and well.

A Cafcass worker and young boy chat on two chairs


Children and young people in care proceedings also have a solicitor to help them. The solicitor is a lawyer who works with the Cafcass Guardian to make sure that the best decisions are made for you.  

A cartoon of a solicitor holding a report

How decisions are made

It can take a while for a court to decide what is going to happen. We know that this can seem like a very long time, so we always do our best to make sure things happen as quickly as possible. The law says that your proceedings should be completed in 26 weeks. We will try to make sure this happens and there will be a timetable shared with you by the Cafcass Guardian. During that time, a lot will be happening. The judge will listen carefully to what everyone has to say, including your views, and then make a decision about what is best for you.

Your Cafcass Guardian will make sure your voice is heard in the family court. You do not need to go to the court hearing. You can say as much or as little as you like to your Cafcass worker about what you want to happen. It is up to you, and no one should put any pressure on you about what to say or do. If you need help and support, your Cafcass Guardian will make sure you get it. 

After the meeting at court, your Cafcass Guardian will make sure someone explains to you what the court decided and how it affects you. 


What will happen after the family court hearing

Lots of different things are possible. Everyone will try to make it possible for you to stay at home safely, but sometimes children go to live somewhere new, as we have said earlier on this page. 

If you have brothers and sisters, everyone will try to make sure you can all stay together. Sometimes, this is not possible though. You should let your social worker and your Cafcass Guardian know if you are worried about seeing your brothers and sisters. 

Even if you are no longer living with your parents, you might still be able to see them. The court can decide how often you should see your parents and where you should see them. This might be where you live, or it might be at another place.

It is really important to know that sometimes the court will decide that it is not good for you to see your parents. This could be because they are worried that they might hurt or upset you. 

About us
Teenage girl smiling at woman

Feedback from a child with whom we have worked

"My Cafcass worker has helped me because she can be my voice and she can help me hopefully stay here. Just coming to see me and helping me to understand, and now she understands me better. Now she will know what to say in court and help my voice be known.”

Find out why feedback is so important to us and how to provide it here