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29 Care Proceedings

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1 Introduction

2. Who can make decisions about my child's care?

3. Why would social services get involved in my child's care?

4. What happens when social services start care proceedings?

5. What happens at the first hearing?

6. What orders can the court make at the first hearing?

The court can make several types of interim order:

Interim care order (ICO)

The court can make an ICO only if it decides there are good reasons to believe your child has been seriously harmed or is likely to be seriously harmed, and that an ICO is the best thing for your child. The order can last for up to eight weeks to begin with, and can be renewed for four-week periods after that.

When social services make an application for an ICO, they must have prepared an interim care plan that sets out where and with whom your child should live until the final hearing. This plan will include arrangements for contact between the child and you and other people who are important in the child’s life. Social services will ask the court to agree to this plan.

An ICO means that social services share parental responsibility for your child with you. This includes the power to decide where he or she will live, even if you don’t agree with the decision. The court can also make an ‘exclusion requirement’ alongside the ICO, which can force an adult to leave the child’s home if the court believes this person is a danger to the child. However, this can happen only if you agree to make sure the person does leave, and stays away. 

Social services must show that they have discussed the care plan with you and your child (if this is possible) and that the plan will match your child’s racial, cultural and religious heritage. If you do not agree with the care plan and you feel that someone in your family could look after your child up to the final hearing, you should tell social services, your solicitor and the court so that the court can consider what is best for your child.

Interim supervision order (ISO)

An ISO does not give the local authority parental responsibility but it does mean that social services must monitor how your child is being cared for, either by you or by someone else in the family who is looking after them. The court can make this type of order only if it decides that there are good reasons to believe your child has been seriously harmed or is likely to be seriously harmed, and that this is the best thing for your child.

Interim residence order

The court can make an interim residence order if it agrees that someone in your family can care for your child until the final hearing. You then share parental responsibility for your child with the person named in the order, and the local authority does not have parental responsibility.

Interim contact order

The court must consider what arrangements are proposed or have been made for your child to see members of his or her family if he or she is not living at home. The court must also invite the people involved to comment on the arrangements.

If there is any disagreement about these arrangements or the court is not satisfied that what is proposed is best for your child, then it can make a contact order setting out what the arrangements for contact should be. If you are not happy with the contact arrangements, discuss them with your solicitor so that your views are presented to the court.

7. Who will represent my child during proceedings?

8. What happens after an interim order is made?

9. How do I prepare for the final hearing?

10. What happens at the final hearing?

11. How does the court make its decision?

12. What types of order can the court make?

13. How long does a care order last?

14. How can I apply to end a care order?

15. Further help

16. About this leaflet

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

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