Frequently Asked Questions

What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility is defined as all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authorities which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property. Aspects of parental responsibility would include determining a child’s education, religion, naming a child, appointing a Guardian for the child, consenting or not consenting to medical treatment, protecting and maintaining the child, administering the child’s property, having physical possession of the child and allowing confidential information relating to the child to be published.
 
What is a Section 8 Order?
A Section 8 Order is an Order designed to provide practical solutions to questions which arise in respect of a child. There are four types of Section 8 Orders including Contact Order, Residence Order, Prohibited Steps Order and Specific Issue Order.
 
What is a Child Arrangements Order
A child arrangement order is an order regulating arrangements with whom and when a child is to live, spend time with or otherwise have contact with any person.
 

What is a Residence Order?

A Residence Order is an Order that was made prior to 22 April 2014 settling the arrangements to be made as to the person with whom the child is to live. A Residence Order can be shared by more than one person. The making of a Residence Order would give parental responsibility to the person in whose favour the Order has been made.
 
What is a Contact Order?
A Contact Order is an Order that was made prior to 22nd April 2014 requiring the person with whom the child lives to allow the child to visit or stay with the person named in the Order.
 
What is a Prohibited Steps Order?
A Prohibited Steps Order is an Order preventing an action being taken by a parent the kind specified in the Order without obtaining the consent of the Court.
 
What is a Specific Issue Order?
This is a kind of Section 8 Order giving directions for the purpose of determining a specific question which has arisen or which may arise in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child. Specific Issue Orders have been made in cases where parents disagree in respect of issues relating to medical treatment, education, religion amongst other things.
 
What is a Special Guardianship Order?
This Order appoints a person or persons as a child’s Special Guardian. A Special Guardian has parental responsibility which he/she can exercise to the exclusion of any person who has parental responsibility. A Special Guardianship Order is designed to be a long term Order and consequently a natural parent would have to obtain permission of the Court before being able to apply to discharge a Special Guardianship Order.
 
What is a Care Order?
A Care Order is an Order placing a child in care of a Local Authority. Whilst a Care Order is in force the designated Local Authority will have parental responsibility for the child. Under a Care Order the Local Authority has the power to determine the extent to which the child’s parent may meet his parental responsibility for him or her. A full Care Order will last until the child reaches the age of 18 years unless it is discharged earlier.
 
What are the grounds for making a Care Order?
The Court may only make a Care Order if it is satisfied that the child concerned is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and that the harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to:
  1. The care given to the child or likely to be given to him if the Order were not made not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him, or
  2. The child being beyond parental control.

The above grounds are sometimes described as being ‘threshold criteria’.

What is a Supervision Order?
A Supervision Order is an Order which places a child under the supervision of a designated Local Authority and places the appointed supervisor under a duty to advise, assist and befriend the supervised child and take such steps as are reasonably necessary to give effect to the Order. A Supervision Order can last for a period for up to one year. The supervisor may apply to extend the Order to the maximum of three years from the date on which the original Supervision Order was made.
 
What are the grounds for making a Supervision Order?
The grounds for the making of a Supervision Order are the same as those for the making of a Care Order namely; the Court may only make a Supervision Order if it is satisfied that the child concerned is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and that the harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to:
  1. The care given to the child or likely to be given to him if the Order were not made not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him, or
  2. The child being beyond parental control.

The above grounds are sometimes described as being ‘threshold criteria’.

What is an Interim Care Order?
An Interim Care Order is an Order designed to protect the child and give parental responsibility to the Local Authority for a specified period of time when an application for a Care Order or Supervision Order is adjourned to a later date. An Interim Care Order can last for up to eight weeks initially and then can be extended for periods of four weeks.
 
What are the grounds for an Interim Care Order?
The Court has to be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing the circumstances in respect of the child are as mentioned in Section 31(2) Children Act 1989. See what are the Grounds for making a Care Order?.
 
Why do you advise me to co-operate with the Social Workers when they want to take my children off me?
If the Social Workers ask the Judge to take your children off you they could either succeed or fail. If you can satisfy the Social Workers that they do not need to ask the Judge to take the children off you. You will keep them. Children are too precious to take the risk. Whilst we have assisted many parents to keep the children within the family following contested Court hearings there are many more that we have assisted to achieve this by co-operating with the Social Workers.
 
What is a Legal Planning Meeting?
This is a meeting between the Social Worker and the Local Authority’s Solicitor with a view to deciding whether care proceedings are necessary.
 
Can my child be adopted if I do not consent?
In certain circumstances the Court can dispense with the consent of any parent or guardian of a child to a child being placed for adoption or the making of an Adoption Order if the Court is satisfied that the welfare of the child requires the consent to be dispensed with or the parent of guardian cannot be found or is incapable of giving consent.
 
What is a Placement Order?
A Placement Order is an Order made by the Court authorising a Local Authority to place a child for adoption with any prospective adopters who may be chosen by that Local Authority. The Court may not make a Placement Order unless the child is subject to a Care Order or it is satisfied that the grounds for the making of a Care Order are made out or that the child has no parent or guardian. In certain circumstances a parents’ consent to the making of a Placement Order may be dispensed with if the Court is satisfied that the welfare of the child requires consent to be dispensed with.
 
Can I apply to revoke a Placement Order?
A person other than a Local Authority may not apply to revoke a Placement Order unless the Court has given them leave to apply and the child has not already been placed for adoption by the Local Authority. The Court cannot give leave unless it is satisfied that there has been a change of circumstances since the Placement Order was made.
 
Can I oppose the making of an Adoption Order if my child has been placed for adoption by the Local Authority?
A parent may not oppose the making of an Adoption Order without obtaining the Court’s leave or permission. The Court cannot give leave unless it is satisfied that there has been a change in circumstances since the Placement Order was made.
 
What is an Emergency Protection Order?
This is an Order which authorises the Local Authority to remove a child to any accommodation it provides or alternatively to prevent the child’s removal from hospital or other place where he was accommodated before the Order was made. An Emergency Protection Order may be made for a maximum period of eight days. This period may be extended for a period not exceeding seven days. The Court can make an Emergency Protection Order if it is satisfied there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if he is not removed to accommodation provided by it or it wishes to keep the child in its present accommodation the Court must be satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if he does not remain in that place.
 
What is a Police Protection ‘Order’?
In certain circumstances a Police Officer may take a child into police protection without a Court Order for a maximum of 72 hours. The Police Officer may remove a child to suitable accommodation or prevent the child’s removal from where he is being accommodated if he has reasonable cause to believe that the child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm. If it is felt necessary for the child to be accommodated after 72 hours either the police or the Local Authority would need to apply for an Emergency Protection Order.
 
What is a Section 47 Investigation?
The Local Authority has a duty to investigate and make enquiries in relation to children within its area when it has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. Normally a Section 47 Investigation would be completed within 45 working days of receipt of referral. The investigation is directed in particular to establish whether the Local Authority should make an application to the Court to exercise any powers under the Children Act 1989.
 
What is a strategy discussion?
Whenever there is a reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm there should be a strategy discussion involving the Local Authority, Children’s Social Care, the police, health and other bodies such as the referring agency. The strategy discussion could decide to initiate a Section 47 Investigation or a Section 17 Assessment of a Child in Need, a referral for the police to investigate possible crime or decide to take no further Children’s Services involvement at this stage.
 
What is an Initial Child Protection Conference?
Following a Section 47 Enquiry, an Initial Child Protection Conference brings together family members and professionals most involved with the child and family to make decisions about the child’s future safety, health and development. The Case Conference will decide whether the child should be made the subject of a Child Protection Plan.
 
What is a Child Protection Plan?
The aim of a Child Protection Plan is to ensure that the child is safe from harm and prevent him or her suffering further harm and to support the family and wider family members to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. The Local Authority will designate a Social Worker who will be the lead professional to carry out statutory responsibilities such as visits to the child. The Social Worker should complete the child’s and families in depth assessment securing contributions from core group members and others as necessary. The Social Worker also has a duty to lead core group activity.
 
What is a Core Group?
A Core Group is a group of key professionals and family members involved with the child. It should meet within 10 working days from the Initial Child Protection Child if the child is subject of a Child Protection Plan. It should develop an outline Child Protection Plan based on assessment findings and set out what needs to change by how much and by when in order for the child to be safe and have their needs met. The group must decide what steps need to be taken by whom to complete the in depth assessment and inform decisions about the child’s safety and welfare.
 
What is a Child Protection Review Conference?
A Child Protection Review Conference should be held within three months of the Initial Conference and thereafter at maximum intervals of six months. The purpose is to review whether the child is continuing to suffer or is likely to suffer significant harm and consider whether the Child Protection Plan should continue or should be changed. The Social Worker and Manager should decide whether to initiate family Court proceedings if the child is considered to be suffering significant harm. In these circumstances there may be a recommendation for the Social Worker to seek a Legal Planning Meeting.
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