During Care proceedings if the Court decides that a child cannot be cared for by either of their parents then usually the Court will seek to keep the child within their family by placing them with a family member. A family placement would be approved following positive assessments of the prospective family carers.
If, during the proceedings the placement with the family member is successful and the child thrives in their care, then the Local Authority and the other parties will consider what the best Order will be to conclude the proceedings ensuring the child has the best possible outcome.
There are a number of possible Orders that would be considered if the plan is for the child to remain in the family placement. These include a Care Order, a Special Guardianship Order, a Child Arrangements Order or Supervision Order.
A Care Order would mean that the Local Authority would have parental responsibility for the child (shared with the parents) and they would delegate this to the family members caring for the child, who would be supported by the Local Authority as Foster Carers. The child would be known as a Looked After Child and there would be regular meetings with the Local Authority, carers and professionals involved with the child to review their progress and ensure their well-being. Significantly, any important decisions relating to the child would need the approval of the Local Authority.
A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) is a private law order but it can often be used at the conclusion of Care Proceedings. The significant difference between a Special Guardianship Order and a Care Order is that the carer for the child is given parental responsibility directly, i.e. the Local Authority do not share parental responsibility for the child. Special Guardianship Orders confer an enhanced level of parental responsibility on the special guardian meaning that they are able to overrule the parents when making decisions. Special Guardians may also be supported by the Local Authority financially and with any support or therapeutic services for the child. For more detail on Special Guardianship Orders click here.
In some cases a Child Arrangement Order (CAO) may be made in favour of the family member who has care of the child. As with the SGO the carers named on the Order will have parental responsibility for the child. The Order also directs where the child lives, when the child spends time with their parents and when and what other types of contact take place (e.g. phone calls, letters and cards or gifts). With this type of Order the Local Authority are under no obligation to provide financial or other support to the carer.
In some instances a Supervision Order may be made in favour of the Local Authority. As suggested by the name this allows the Local Authority to befriend support and assist, essentially supervise the child and ensure they are being cared for appropriately. A Social Worker will be allocated to the child for the duration of the Order and the Local Authority may seek to vary the order by extending it or to discharge the order if they feel they no longer need to be involved. Importantly a supervision order does not grant the Local Authority parental responsibility. For more details regarding Supervision Orders please click here.
Funding under the Legal Aid scheme is sometimes available for family members caring for a child, but this is means and merits tested, in some instances the Local Authority will fund initial advice for family carers in relation to the above. At Emery Johnson Astills we have an experienced Care Team who are able to provide advice to family members who are caring for children going through Care Proceedings. If you would like further advice regarding your options, please contact our Care Team in Leicester on 0116 255 4855 or Loughborough on 01509 610 312.