Local Authority Child Care Proceedings Guide

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If the Local Authority has reason to be concerned that a child is at risk as a result of the care they are being given, they have a duty to intervene and start Child Care Proceedings. This could be for a variety of reasons, with some of the most common cases that lead to Care Proceedings being:

  • A Child Protection Case Conference is where following an investigation the Local Authority are unable to manage any risk under a Child Protection Plan.
  • A failure on the part of the parents to adhere to a Child Protection Plan developed in a Child Protection Case Conference. Alternatively a Public Law Outline Meeting will have considered that plans are not working. In this case an application is made to the Family Court and the parents are notified of the date.
  • A Police Protection Order in which the child is removed from the parents' care by the police. They can hold the child for up to 72 hours.
  • An Emergency Protection Order is obtained from the Court. Parents are sometimes notified, but sometimes this is obtained without parents being present at Court. This usually lasts for eight days while further investigations are carried out.
  • A voluntary agreement between parents and Social Services which allows Social Services to place a child with alternative carers. This is known as Section 20.

It is important that you take legal advice should Care Proceedings be started for your child. This is to ensure you fully understand the situation and its consequences, as well as to ensure your child's best interests are the priority throughout. Our expert team of family law solicitors can guide you through the process and make sure you follow the Proceedings correctly.

Pre-proceedings

Children Services will write reports to be filed with the Court outlining what they think the most suitable outcome for your child is, including their recommendations for long-term care provisions.

This conclusion will be reached by talking to parents and child and thoroughly investigating the situation, as well as taking the wishes and feelings of your child into account. At this point, they may also speak to other family members or friends with regard looking after the child should they not be able to safely remain at home.

Initial Court hearing

This will take place six days after the application for Child Care Proceedings has been made by the Local Authority. Usually, the Court will not make a final decision at this first hearing. Rather, the purpose is to:

  • Decide if an Interim Care Order needs to be made. This is a temporary court order that takes your child into care for up to eight weeks. Where a child is placed depends on the individual details of the case but they are usually placed with other family members or foster carers.
  • Appoint a Guardian and solicitor to represent your child throughout the proceedings.
  • Decide how the case should be prepared, including assessments, reports, statements and research into whether there is anyone who could become the child's carer. The Court will also direct parents to file evidence ahead of the next hearing.

Case Management Hearing

The Case Management Hearing should take place within 12 days of the application for Care Proceedings. It is at this point that the Court will ensure everything (assessments, statements, reports, evidence etc.) is prepared. They can also consider what further evidence may be needed and resolve any areas of disagreement. A CAFCASS officer will file an Analysis and Recommendations Report setting out their enquiries and conclusions.

Parents must have made a formal application for supporting expert evidence or fresh assessments of themselves or anyone in their family by this date. It is crucial to have spoken to us and any family members who may want to care for your child as soon as possible so they can be considered by this day. After this point they will usually not be considered.

Issues Resolution Hearing

At this hearing, the Court will see if an agreement can be reached between Local Authority and parents as to the long term future of your child (e.g. where they should live, what the contact arrangements should be etc.) If an agreement can be reached, proceedings will conclude at this point and the appropriate court order made.

Should the case continue to a Final Hearing, the Issues Resolution Hearing will ensure all evidence is in place and decide if further information is necessary.

Final Hearing

If the case continues to a Final Hearing, this is where decisions are made with regards to where your child will live and which court order should be made. It should take place within 26 weeks of the Proceedings being issued, and you will usually be directed by the Court to prepare a written statement. We can help with this, as well as providing any further assistance.

Care Orders

There are a variety of possible court orders that can be made at the Final Hearing. These include:

  • Care Order - your child stays in care or other placement until they are 18, unless the Order ends before then.
  • Supervision Order - your child will remain in your care, which will be supervised by Children Services, usually for 12 months unless extended after that period.
  • Child Arrangements Order- your child will live with another person such as a family member or friend for the duration of the Order.
  • Special Guardianship Order - your child will live with another person such as a family member or friend on a more permanent basis.
  • Placement Order - this gives Children Services permission to place your child for adoption, even without your agreement.

How we can help

Our expert family law solicitors have the legal experience needed to guide you through Child Care Proceedings and ensure that the best interests of your child are always at the heart of the matter.

We offer both a tailored service and a fixed fee service to suit your needs. Call us today on 0800 689 1058 or use our online enquiry form. We also welcome face-to-face consultations at our Accrington, Blackburn, Chorley, Manchester and Preston offices.

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