Care Proceedings

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Nigel-Priestley, Care Proceedings, Care Order and Grandchild careIf the Local Authority wish to remove a child from their parents without their consent, they must issue Care Proceedings and obtain a Care Order for the child. Grandparents and Grandparents childcare is not automatically considered. The parents of the child are automatically involved in those proceedings in order to have their say in what should happen to the child.

Unless you have Parental Responsibility for your grandchild by way of a Child Arrangement or Special Guardianship Order, unfortunately grandparents are not automatically involved within the care proceedings.

Grandparents childcare and Grandparents rights to see grandchildren can be affected.

Call us now on 0843 2897130 for expert advice on Child Care, Child Arrangement Orders, SGOs and Care Orders.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

The right to decide how a child is raised and cared for rests with the people who have parental responsibility for the child. This can be the child’s mother and the father provided he has parental responsibility, adoptive parents, and other people caring for the child if they obtain a court order. For example, the local authority will get parental responsibility if it obtains a care order from court.

Social Services are responsible for making sure that children are safe and are well cared for by their parents or the person looking after them.

Sometimes social services may receive information that makes them worried about a child’s welfare. When this happens they are under a duty to take action to protect your grandchild.

If social services believe that your grandchild is suffering serious harm or is likely to suffer serious harm, then they can apply to the court for a care order.

Before this happens, social services may call a ‘child protection case conference’ to see if your grandchild could be properly protected without a care order being made. All professionals involved in your grandchild’s life will attend the meeting. It may be that as a grandparent you could attend this meeting if it is agreed with everybody else. For this to happen usually you would have to show that you have been involved with your grandchild’s care or that you are there to support the parents.

Social services may take a number of steps to protect your grandchild in an emergency.

This can include:

  • Asking the person they believe is a danger to your grandchild to leave the home or keep away
  • Having your grandchild looked after by the local authority
  • Ask the police to take your grandchild into police protection for up to 72 hours
  • Apply to the court for an emergency protection order, which will last initially for up to eight days. Social services can ask the court to extend this for up to seven more days.

You may be told that care proceedings are going to start by social services as they may want to place your grandchild with you as the alternative could be foster care. The Local Authority have a duty to try and place the child in a safe family environment. If this is not possible then they will resort to foster care.

The new government guidance, which has now been incorporated into the Children and Families Act 2014, has changed how care proceedings are to be dealt with by the Court. The emphasis is now on the Local Authority to complete as much work as possible before proceedings are issued.

If proceedings are issued then they should take no longer than 26 weeks to conclude. If the case is complex then the proceedings can be extended for up to eight week periods at a time. This can only be granted if the Court feel it is necessary. The case will be considered complex if there are a number of issues relating to medical evidence, if there is an international element, parents have a disability which requires specialist assessment or treatment or if something unexpected happens part way through the proceedings.

The court will not make any final decisions at the first hearing. At the hearing the court must:

  • Decide whether to make an interim order (an order that will say where the child shall live and who will look after them until the final hearing
  • Decide whether the case should be transferred to another court
  • Decide how the case should be prepared for the final hearing

Interim Orders

If proceedings are issued by the Local Authority then they can seek the following orders:-

  • Interim Care Order
  • Interim Supervision Order

The Court could also make a child arrangement order if it feels it is appropriate.

Interim Care Order

An interim care order is order which means social services share parental responsibility for your child with you. This includes the power to decide where the child will live, even if you don’t agree with it. Social Services must have an interim care plan that sets out where and whom the child shall live with and arrangements for contact with members of the child’s family. If you do not agree with the care plan and you feel that someone in your family could look after the child, then you must tell social services, your solicitor and the court so that they can consider what is best for your child.

This order lasts until a final order is made at the end of the proceedings.

Interim Supervision Order

This does not give the Local Authority parental responsibility for your child but it does mean that social services can monitor how your child is being cared for. It allows the Local Authority to befriend, advise and assist the child.

Child Arrangement Order

This is an order which replaces residence/contact and custody/access orders. It is an order which will state where the child should live and what contact the child is to have with the non-resident party.

Process

When the Local Authority makes their application it will be assessed by the Court in relation to its complexity. They will then decide which Judge will hear the application. This could be Magistrates (formally the Family Proceedings Court), District Judge or Circuit Judge (formally County Court).

If the Local Authority are seeking an urgent order and you do not agree with that order, then the application will be listed for a hearing as soon as possible.

If the Local Authority is not seeking an urgent hearing then the first hearing will take place 12 days after the application was issued. The hearing must, however, take place before day 18. This hearing is called a Case Management Hearing.

Case Management Hearing

A case management hearing is where the parties and the Court decide how the case is to progress. Assessments of the parents and other potential carers will be given dates for when they are to be made available to all parties.

If it is felt that any experts are needed, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist then these should be agreed at this hearing.

A further hearing will also be listed called an Issues Resolution Hearing.

Fact Finding Hearing

If there are issues which need to be determined before the assessments can be concluded such as who caused the injury to the child, then it is possible that a fact finding hearing will be listed to determine this. This is a hearing where the court will hear evidence from all the parties and make a conclusion based on what they have heard/seen as to who caused the injuries.

Issues Resolution Hearing

An issues resolution hearing is a hearing which will take place towards the end of the proceedings. If all parties are in agreement at this hearing then mattes can be concluded if the Court agrees. If there is no agreement then the matter will be listed for a final hearing which will usually take place over a number of days as evidence from the parents/experts is likely to be needed.

Final Hearing

This is where the Court, after considering all the evidence will make a final decision as to what should happen with the child in terms of where they should live and what contact there should be, if any.

The final orders the Court can make are:-

  • Care Order
  • Supervision Order
  • Child Arrangement Order
  • Special Guardianship Order
  • Placement Order

Care Order

This order places your child in the care of a particular local authority and gives parental responsibility to that authority. This does not mean that you lose parental responsibility but it does mean that the local authority can override your wishes if it believes this would be best for your child.

The local authority should support you so that, unless the risks to your child are too high he or she can be returned to your care, or to the care of other members of your family if that is not possible. Case reviews must be held every 6 months to consider their plans and you should attend. If you cannot attend the local authority should give you the information on the decisions made.

The law on adoption changed at the end of 2005. Since then, local authorities can place your child for adoption only if they have a care order, and: you give formal consent to the placement; or the court makes a placement order

A full care order lasts until the child is 18 years old unless the court,

a. Makes a residence or special guardianship order

b. Ends (discharges) the care order when it decides it should not continue

c. Makes a supervision order instead

d. Makes an adoption order

You can ask the court to discharge the care order. If you have already asked in the last six months but want to ask again, then you must get the court’s permission.

You will have to show the court that it is in your child’s best interests for the care order to be discharged. If the court agree and discharge the care order then you and any other person with parental responsibility will take over caring for your child.

Supervision Order

This means that you will be responsible for your child’s care but social services have the power to ‘supervise’ how you care for your child and the order can last from 1 to 2 years.

Child Arrangement Order

This is an order which replaces residence/contact and custody/access orders. It is an order which will state where the child should live and what contact the child is to have with the non-resident party.

Special Guardianship Order

This is an order that the court can make to place a child for longer periods of time with someone who is not their parent. It is meant to be more permanent than a residence order because a parent cannot apply to revoke or cancel the order without the court’s permission. However, a special guardianship order does not break the legal relationship between a parent and child.

The special guardian will gain parental responsibility for him or her and although you will still have parental responsibility as well, the special guardian has the right to override your wishes if you cannot agree.

Placement Order

This is where the Local Authority feel that nobody in the family can care for the child, therefore the best plan for that child is adoption. The placement order allows the Local Authority to look for an adoptive family.

A full care order lasts until the child is 18 years old unless the court,

a. Makes a residence or special guardianship order

b. Ends (discharges) the care order when it decides it should not continue

c. Makes a supervision order instead

d. Makes an adoption order

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