Cafcass’ role in care proceedings
If a local authority has serious concerns about the safety or welfare of a child, it can apply to the court to take the child into care.
The court will then usually request for Cafcass to become involved in the case. Cafcass’ job is to review the local authority’s plan and ensure that decisions are made in the child’s best interest.
When working on care cases the Cafcass worker is known as a children’s guardian (‘guardian’).
The guardian is the independent voice of the child in court. Our guardians are all qualified and experienced social workers. They are independent and do not work for the local authority or for the court.
The guardian’s most important role is to make sure children are safe and to help make sure that the decisions made about them are in their best interests.
In care proceedings, their job is to check the local authority’s care plan and make sure that it is the best possible for the child. It is also to let the court know what they think should happen.
What will the guardian do?
The guardian will:
- appoint a solicitor to represent your child;
- advise the court, at the first court hearing, on what work needs to be done before it can make a decision about your child’s future;
- (where this is possible) talk to your child to find out their wishes and feelings, and let the court know these
- tell the court during the case what they think is best for your child.
From the start, they will be analysing the local authority assessment and care plan to make sure it is right for your child. If they disagree, they will propose an alternative.
Who will the Cafcass guardian speak to?
The guardian will talk to you and may talk to other people who know your family, such as teachers, social workers and health visitors.
It’s very likely that the guardian will see your child.
What will happen in the end?
It is the court’s job to decide what will happen to your child and the judge will listen to everyone involved in the case including you, your solicitor, the local authority social worker and the guardian before making a decision.
The guardian’s role is to recommend what he or she thinks is best for your child based on their assessment.
If the judge is satisfied that it is safe to do so, children will go back home. For others, the local authority will find them a new home. That may be with other members of their family or with friends, or it may be with a new family.
Throughout the whole process the guardian will try to answer any questions you may have about the case, although they cannot give you legal advice. You have a right, free of charge, to get specialist legal advice through a solicitor.