The Law Of…Understanding Child Orders And Their Impact
There are several different types of child orders social workers can use, each with their own specific criteria, effects and time scales.
Jenine Abdo, Family Law Associate, outlines the different types of care proceedings a social worker can apply for.
What Are Care Proceedings?
Care Proceedings begin when the Local Authority has a serious child protection concern in relation to your care of your children. This may be because your child has apparently been non-accidentally harmed or because the social worker believes there is a serious risk they might be harmed.
The process is dealt with by social workers in your area, who may apply to the court if the concerns are serious enough. Only a court may approve the removal of a child from his or her parents or carers, although the police may remove a child to suitable accommodation for no more than 72 hours if they believe the child would otherwise suffer significant harm.
Social workers may sometimes ask you to agree to your child being looked after by a foster carer or relative. This is sometimes a very good idea but you should always take legal advice before agreeing to this and your consent must always be freely given in writing.
Social Services can be involved with your family for a long period of time before they consider court proceedings, which should always be a last resort. Social workers may, however, go to court immediately if they are very concerned for the child’s safety
What Are The Different Types of Child Orders?
When any order or decision about a child’s upbringing is considered by the courts, the principle of 'what is in the best interests of the child' is of supreme importance. There are several different types of order the courts can make.
The court has to make the least intrusive order which it considers will keep the child safe. Sadly though this can mean that the court decides the child should not return home if the concerns are very serious.
The following are the main orders the court can make:
- Care Orders – The local authority shares legal responsibility for the child with the child’s parents who have parental responsibility. A full care order lasts until the child is 18 but may be ended by the court before then. The Local Authority decides where the child shall live and with whom and also has the final say on important decisions relating to the child.
- Supervision Orders – The child is allowed to stay with the parent(s) or family member, but it is the social worker's duty to the family to befriend, advise and assist them. This means the social worker will visit the family regularly, offer support and resources and may require the parents to do various things to improve their parenting. A supervision order will last for a year but the Local Authority may ask the court to extend it for up to three years.
- Emergency Protection Orders – Any person may apply for such an order but applications are normally made by social workers. These orders are rare and are only made when the social worker believes the child is at immediate risk of actual harm and needs to be removed to a place of safety. They only last for a short period of time and are normally followed by an application for a care order which will be considered within days.
- Placement Orders – These give the Local Authority permission to place the child for adoption. These orders are normally made for younger children and seriously restrict a parent’s legal responsibility for a child. The order is only applied for once the social worker is certain of the long term plans for the child.
- Adoption Order – This order completely removes a parent’s legal responsibility for the child and gives it to the child’s adoptive parent(s). This order is only applied for after the child has been placed with prospective adopters and has resided with them for at least 10 weeks. They are permanent and cannot be discharged.
- Discharge of a Care Order – The social worker may apply to court to remove a care order previously made if satisfied that the child is presently well cared for and safe.
Why Should I Do If I Receive An Application For A Child Order?
Social service's involvement with your family can be stressful and often confusing. It's important to seek out legal assistance in order to get the support and advice needed to make the situation run as smoothly as possible.
If your social worker applies to court or is considering doing so, then you could receive a letter inviting you to discuss any concerns the social worker may have. You are entitled to proper legal representation and it is important that you have the benefit of legal advice during such a time both within and outside of the court process.
Legal aid is always available free of charge for parents if the Local Authority has applied for a care order or a supervision order.
What Can Simpson Millar Do To Help Me?
Regarding what Simpson Millar can offer you and your children, Jenine Abdo comments:
"Our solicitors within our public law care team all specialise in representing children and parents involved with social services and have achieved specialist accreditations from the Law Society in that regard."
"We understand how difficult and important such proceedings are to the families involved and are able to assist you during that time. Specialist advice during this time can help reduce the stress and uncertainty involved when your child is taken into care."
"Your children are the most important part of your life. We understand that and want to help you."