Social Services and Care Order Proceedings
Public law care proceedings usually arise when a local authority (usually social services) becomes concerned with the well-being and safety of a child. Depending on the circumstances they may become involved with the family concerned and may initiate court proceedings.
Care Proceedings are when the Trust seeks approval from the court to protect the child from suspected harm. They will make an application to the court called a ‘Care Order’.
Issues Arising in Care Proceedings
When a Trust raises issues about child protection it is understandable that disputes can arise. The courts will be the final arbitrator in resolving care disputes.
Our solicitors will advise and represent parents/guardians while helping to protect the child’s rights at all times.
We will explain the legal complexities in the care proceedings to you in a way that is simple and easy to digest.
At P.A.Duffy and Co Solicitors our ultimate goal is to resolve any dispute and get a positive outcome for you which is in the best interests of the child.
What if the parents and local authorities cannot come to an agreement?
In these circumstances, the case may be listed for a final hearing. The judge will first consider if a Care Order is necessary to protect the welfare of the child. If the Court decides that a Court Order is required, they will then determine where the child will live.
The Court may consider various final orders. We have broken them down below:
Care Order: The Trust gains parental responsibility for the child until they are 18 years old.
Supervision Order: The appointed social worker is given the legal authority to be in close contact with and monitor the child’s needs and progress whilst the child lives at home or somewhere else.
Foster Placement/Kinship foster placement: The child lives with someone else (foster parent) who can provide them with a secure and long-term living environment as they can no longer live with their biological parents.
Adoption Order: application made by the Trust for the child to be formally adopted by foster parents on a permanent basis. The biological parents will no longer have parental responsibility after an adoption order has been granted but they may be entitled to some contact with the child.
How do the care proceedings process and hearing proceed?
You have the right to legal representation when legal proceedings are initiated, and in most cases, you may qualify for Legal Aid, regardless of your financial circumstances. Our care proceedings solicitor is available to assist you throughout the process, offering guidance, representing you at hearings, and providing advice as needed.
As a party to the proceedings, you will have the opportunity to attend all hearings and access all documents related to your case, including the evidence provided by social services in support of their claims.
You can expect to attend multiple parts of the proceedings process, including:
A case management hearing
An issues resolution hearing
A final hearing
It's important to note that not all cases necessitate going through the entire process, as a resolution may be achieved at an earlier stage. However, if your case proceeds to a Final Hearing, you will likely be asked to provide a statement, and our solicitors can assist in preparing you for this step.
The care proceedings can be expected to last around 26 weeks or 6 months. However, this is not always the case as more complex cases may last much longer.
What is a care order?
Care orders are established to facilitate shared parental responsibility between the Local Authority and the child's parents, with parents retaining their parental responsibilities in these cases.
At times, when care orders are granted, children may continue living at home with their parents, although it is more typical for children to reside in residential placements or with foster carers.
Additionally, careful consideration must be given to the proposed arrangements for parental contact with the child if they are not residing at home. When care proceedings are initiated, the Local Authority is obligated to facilitate reasonable contact between parents and children.
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