A young person’s guide to care proceedings

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


When people are concerned about the safety of a child, their local authority might begin care proceedings with the family court. Care proceedings or a care order is something that the family court can put in place to keep a child safe.

Children and young people only go into care when people are really worried that you are not being looked after properly or might be harmed.

The most important thing to remember if you are in care proceedings is that none of this is your fault.


Court building illustration

What is a family court?

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. It’s their job to make safe decisions for you and your family.

What are 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 take action. They will work with your family to see if it is possible for you to safely stay with them.

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

Illustration group of adults

Illustration of family and professional

How does Cafcass help?

The court will ask a Cafcass worker (sometimes called a ‘Children’s Guardian’) to help them decide what is best for you.

They will do this by:

  • looking at what the social worker is planning for you and telling the court what they think needs to happen next
  • making sure you have a special legal adviser, called a solicitor
  • in most cases, talking with you to find out what you think and how you feel about everything
  • in most cases, speaking to other people who care about you, like your parents, family and sometimes your teachers and social worker
  • telling the court what they think will help you be kept safe and well.

What does a solicitor do?

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 you.

Illustration female adult

Illustration adult man writing at desk

How are decisions made?

It normally takes about 26 weeks for a court to decide what is going to happen. 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 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.

What will happen in the end?

Lots of different things are possible. Everyone will try to make it possible for you to safely stay at home but sometimes children go to live somewhere new.

If you have to live somewhere else, your social worker will try to see if you can stay with someone you already know, like someone in your family. If that is not possible you may have to go and live with people called ‘foster carers’.

Everyone will try to make sure brothers and sisters can stay together. Sometimes this isn’t possible though. You should let your social worker and Cafcass worker know if you are worried about seeing your brothers and sisters.

Even if you are not living with your parents you might still be able to see them. 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.

It’s really important to know though 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.

Asian teenage girl thinking

What does ‘going into care’ mean?

Going into care means that the local authority is responsible for making sure that you have somewhere to live that is safe and where you are properly looked after.

Sometimes children and young people are allowed to go on living at home. However, it is more usual for children and young people who are taken into care to have to leave their home, at least for some time.

If there are any words on this page that you don’t understand you can hover over them if they are underlined for an explanation or look them up in our glossary.

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