What does a care order from a court mean for me and my children?

editorial image

Q. Social Services have been investigating myself and my children following reports made by my ex-partner’s family. Even though these reports are not true, a care order has been mentioned. Could I please have more information on what this is?

The trust can apply to the court for a care order. First, however, it will investigate the child’s circumstances and may start these investigations for any of the following reasons:

l when directed to do so by the court;

l when the child persistently fails to comply with an education supervision order;

l when it suspects that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm;

l when a child is in police protection;

l when a child assessment order has been made;

l when an emergency protection order has been made, to protect the child from harm by removal from a place or the requirement to stay in a specific place.

When the trust has investigated your child’s circumstances, it will work with your family to resolve the problems by providing support services to the child and you as a family in the community. It will also discuss with you and your child the possibility of accommodating the child for a limited period until the problems can be resolved.

If, having tried to resolve the problems in the ways outlined above, the trust believes that the child is still at risk, it will apply to the court for a care order.

The application is made to the family proceedings court of the magistrates court. The court will appoint a person to look after the child’s interest during the court proceedings.

If the court decides that the child is at risk, it may make a care order, or a supervision order which requires a child to be supervised by a social worker for up to a year.

It could also make a residence or contact order instead of a care order. A residence order says who the child should live with, and this could be with just one parent or with both parents. If it’s with both, the residence order will say how much time the child should live with each one.

A contact order says who the child should have contact with and what sort of contact this should be, for example, visiting, telephoning or writing letters.

Anyone involved in care proceedings should seek legal advice from a specialist in child law. Any appeal must be made within 21 days of the order being made. You, your child or the trust can apply to end the order or change it to a supervision order at any time. The care order can last until a child is 18.

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens’ Advice at www.citizensadvice.co.uk or for further information go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland