When will a local authority make an application to take children into care?
The types of concerns that may trigger a local authority to apply to the court include:
When the local authority believes a child is being neglected. Neglect involves ongoing, serious failure to meet a child’s basic needs and can include:
- not taking the child to see a doctor when they need to go
- not giving the child enough to eat or drink
- not ensuring the child receives an education
- not keeping the child clean.
When the local authority is worried that a child has been, or is likely to be, abused either by their parents or carers, or other people they know. Abuse includes:
- physical abuse, which is inflicting pain or injury to a child and also includes giving a child harmful substances, such as drugs, alcohol or poison
- sexual abuse, when a child is pressured, forced or tricked into taking part in any kind of sexual activity
- emotional abuse, when a parent or carer behaves in a way that is likely to seriously affect the child’s emotional development. This can include constant rejection, continual and/or severe criticism and witnessing domestic abuse.
Role of Cafcass
We speak up for children and make sure the court hears about their experiences, wishes and feelings.
In care cases the Cafcass worker is called a Children’s Guardian. Their most important role is to make sure your children are safe and to help make sure that the decisions made about them are in their best interests.
Find out more about Cafcass’ work in care cases including what will happen after you have received a letter from us.
How long do care proceedings take?
The courts will try to make a decision about what is going to happen to your child within 26 weeks of the application being made (about six months).
During that time a lot will be happening. People, including the Cafcass Children’s Guardian and the local authority social worker, will be trying to understand the reasons why a child may be at risk and what can be done to keep them safe.
They will carry out assessments to help decide whether a child can return home or whether they should stay in care. There may also be assessments of other family members or friends who may be suitable carers if a child does not return home.
If you do not agree with the local authority’s care plan for your child
If your children are subject to care proceedings, you have the right to your own solicitor. We recommend that you contact a solicitor who is experienced in children’s family law cases and who is a member of the Law Society Children Panel.
It is important that you get advice from your solicitor and that you let the court, Cafcass and the local authority know about your objections.
Your child will also have an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) appointed to review the local authority’s care plan and you can speak to them and attend reviews to give your views.
What will happen to the child?
If neglect or abuse is demonstrated as a result of the evidence the local authority brings to court, the outcome for the child will usually be one of the following:
- going home if the safety and quality of parenting improves
- going to live with a relative in the child’s extended family or another person (a ‘Special Guardian’)
- going to live with a foster parent (being fostered)
- being adopted.