"When times seemed hard and apparent incompetence of others around us seemed to far outweigh our own resources, it was a breath of fresh air to have you dealing with this important issue on our behalf. Your enthusiasm and professionalism knew no boundaries along with your sense of humour, which I remember has been tested to certain limits, but at least we could smile whilst making progress."
Simon & Liz, Carmarthen
Public Law Care Proceedings
Robert North leads the Child Care Department at Sinclairslaw in our Penarth Office and our Jane Williams and Greg Evans undertake Child Care Matters where the Local Authority are involved in our Cardiff offices.
EMERGENCY PROTECTION ORDER (C.P.0)
This allows the Local Authority to have parental responsibility vested in it and allows the Local Authority to remove the child or place restrictions upon any attempt to remove a child, for instance from hospital if it is in the paramount interest of the child. The duration of such an Order is for a maximum of 8 days.
A Care Order if granted by the Court gives the Local Authority parental responsibility for a child until the age of 18. This allows the Local Authority to place the child in its care until the child is 18 and means that the overall decisions for the child is made by the Local Authority.
INTERIM CARE ORDER
Where there is an application for a Care Order or Supervision Order, or the Court may make a Temporary or Interim Order to allow the child to be placed with the Local Authority and give that Authority temporary parental responsibility whilst the child’s circumstances are being investigated.
This places the child under the supervision of the Local Authority and allows the Authority to befriend or assist the child and to take such steps as are reasonably necessary to effect the Order. The usual length of time for such an Order is 12 months but this can be extended to 3 years if necessary.
Even if an Interim Care Order has been granted, if the Court feels that it is in the interests of the child, having weighed up all the evidence, the Court may make No Order on an application and as such the Local Authority will have no further involvement.
When an application is made, the Court will appoint a Guardian (Independent Social Worker appointed by Cafcass) to act for the child to ensure the child’s interests are safeguarded.
To obtain an Interim Care Order, the Court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the threshold criteria will be made out. To obtain a Full Care Order, the Court must be satisfied that the threshold criteria is met.
The threshold criteria is defined as “That the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and that harm is attributable to the care given or likely to be given if the Order was not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him or the child is beyond the parent’s control.”
This allows the Local Authority to place a child for adoption. It is not adoption, only the right to place a child with the relevant Adoption Agency to seek an adoptive placement. A Placement Order can be done with parental consent, provided the Court is satisfied that the withholding of the consent is unreasonable.
SPECIAL GUARDIANSHIP ORDER
This allows a person to be a child’s special guardian, which allows that person to have parental responsibility to the exclusion of anyone else with parental responsibility. This Order is greater than a Residence Order but less than a Care Order and adoption. A Special Guardianship Order (“SGO”) usually provides for the Local Authority to provide and offer support to the guardian, including financial support and respite care. There are restrictions to a “SGO”. It does not allow a child’s name to be changed and nor can the child be removed from the jurisdiction. A person who is entitled to apply or has been granted leave by the Court to apply for a SGO, must give notice to the Local Authority who then have usually 3 months to provide the Court with a Report as to whether an SGO should be made or not.
Since October 2007, the Legal Services Commission will no longer assist in the funding of a Residential Assessment. It is now a matter for the Local Authority to provide funding for a Residential Assessment, which means that they will be harder to ask the Court to order. The Court will have to be satisfied that it is a necessary expense as it can run to tens of thousands of pounds. A Residential Assessment is where you ask the Court to place you and your child in a residential unit to fully assess that person’s parenting capacity. It is an assessment and is not therapy. The placements on average last 3 months but his is only a rough time scale, each individual case is different. It is an intensive assessment in which you are monitored 24 hours a day.
Under S34 Children’s Act 1989, the Local Authority has a duty to promote contact to a child in care. A person is entitled to make an application for contact to a child in care. The Local Authority can only suspend a Contact Order for 7 days, after which they must make an application to the Court to have permission to terminate contact under S34(4). Such an application must be made on notice.
An Adoption Order can be made where a child has been placed for adoption under a Placement Order. This can either be with or without parental consent. If without parental consent, the Court must be satisfied that the refusal of the parent is unreasonably withheld. The child’s interests are the paramount consideration in deciding whether there should be an adoption. Adoption can be applied for by consent of the parents/parent with parental responsibility without the need for a Placement Order. For example, when a step-parent applies to adopt a child and has the consent of the parent or parents with parental responsibility. The adopters will then have full parental responsibility and the person who previously had parental responsibility will have their parental responsibility extinguished.
The Local Authority may initiate care proceedings in respect of a child or children when they take a view that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant physical or emotional harm. The Local Authority involvement with the family can be particularly stressful when there is a risk of your children being taken into care by the Local Authority.Sinclairslaw is committed to both parents and grandparents in cases of this nature recognizing the importance of the work as it involves a child’s welfare and indeed wellbeing and complete future.
Should the Local Authority initiate proceedings then it is likely to be necessary to instruct experts, often to prepare what is known as a parenting assessment. Sinclairslaw will instruct an expert who will do all possible to ensure fairness and the best possible outcome. Should it be necessary to instruct a Barrister in order to represent you at a hearing, again only those with extensive experience in the area will be instructed.
Contact us immediately if you feel we can assist as it is always better to seek advice at an early stage and Legal aid or Public Funding will always be made available for cases of this type, irrespective of financial position.
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