Care and Supervision

The Local Authority has applied for a Care Order or a Supervision Order

What is a Care Order?

A Care Order has the effect of placing a child or children in the care of a Local Authority for as long as that Order remains in force. It means that the Local Authority will share parental responsibility and will in effect make decisions about where the child or children live.

What is a Supervision Order?

A Supervision Order has the effect of placing a child or children under the supervision of a Local Authority, which then has a duty to advise, assist and befriend them for as long as that Order remains in force. A Supervision Order can be made for a maximum period of 12 months.

Threshold

When a Local Authority (LA) applies to the court for a Care or a Supervision Order whether its aim is to remove the child from the care of the parents or to provide targeted input to the child at home, it must demonstrate that the child concerned has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm and that harm is attributable to the parenting or lack of parenting the child has been receiving not being reasonable or that the child is beyond parental control. This is called ‘threshold’.

The LA will set out a summary of its concerns in a threshold document to which the parents will then respond.

Interim Orders

The court may make an Interim Care Order (ICO) in favour of the LA to enable the child to be placed with another family member or friend or in foster care until the court is able to make a final decision about their future.

The effect of an ICO is to enable the LA to share Parental Responsibility (PR) with the parents whilst the order remains in place. The LA have a duty to consult with the parents concerning any major decisions which need to be made in relation to the child.

If the child is to remain in the care of the parents the court may still make an ICO to facilitate assessments or the court could make an Interim Supervision Order (ISO) where the LA would advise, assist and befriend the child whilst the order remains in place. The Local Authority does not have PR under an ISO.

Alternative Carers

At an early stage in the court proceedings , parents will be asked to put forward the names of any family members or friends who may be able to care for the child if they are not able to do so. The sooner the names of any alternative carers are provided the sooner they can be assessed by the LA and form part of a back-up plan for the parents if the assessments of them are positive.

Contact 

The LA has a duty to promote contact between the child and its parents if an ICO is made and the Interim Care Plan will provide for this. It is often the case that contact between the parents and the child will be supervised for assessment purposes during the proceedings.

 Any disputes between the parents and the LA regarding contact can be the subject of an application to the court within the ongoing proceedings.

The Children’s Guardian

At the beginning of the case a children’s guardian is appointed. This is not a guardian who cares for the child or children on a day to day basis, but rather they represent the interests of the child or children in the court proceedings and advise the court as to how their needs would best be met.
The guardian works for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) and is independent from the LA.

The guardian will appoint a solicitor to act for the child and to represent them at court hearings. 

At the conclusion of the case the guardian will prepare a report setting out their recommendations as to what the plan should be for the child.

Evidence and Assessments

To assist the court in the decision-making process for the child, the LA will file Statements and Assessments it has undertaken to support their proposed plan for the child.

Evidence from third parties will also be obtained, for example the Police, where relevant.

In addition to this Expert Evidence may be sought such as a psychiatric or psychological report on the parents and/or the child or there may be testing for drug and alcohol use by the parents.

Parents are encouraged to cooperate with and engage with the assessments being undertaken. If they fail to do so the court may draw a negative conclusion.

The parents will be able to file statements in response to the evidence and to set out their position in relation to the plan for the child.

The Welfare Checklist

In making its decision, the child’s welfare is the court’s paramount consideration.

The court must take into account the following factors, referred to as the Welfare Checklist:

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in his circumstances;
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the court considers relevant
  • Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  • How capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person who the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs and
  • The range of powers available to the court

Essentially the court needs to decide what is in the child/children’s best interests.

Timescale

The proceedings are expected to be concluded within 26 weeks from the date the application is issued.

Outcomes

There is a duty on the LA to work with the family.

It is the hope that children can be brought up by their parents or within the family and an emphasis from the Court on a family outcome, wherever possible. This may be achieved if necessary, with the ongoing input of the LA through a final Supervision Order.

If a child is placed with a family member or friend, it is likely that this will be under a Special Guardianship Order (SGO).

In the event that it is not possible for the child to remain with or be returned to the parents or to be placed with a family member or friend, the Court may make a final Care Order with a plan for the child to be placed in long term foster care, or in the case of a younger child with a plan for adoption.
If the plan for the child is one of adoption, the LA will make a separate application for a placement order which if granted will give it permission to place the child for adoption.

Procedure

Advice will be given about the court procedure as the case progresses.