Concept for - Care proceedings - your questions answered

Care Proceedings are a form of court proceedings that are initiated by a local authority’s social services department because they are concerned that a child has suffered harm or is at risk of suffering significant harm.

Once issued, the purpose of the proceedings is to assist the court in deciding who a child is to be cared for until they are 18 years old. This could be with their parents, a family member or friend, in foster care or with an adoptive family. The court may also determine who sees the child and how often this should take place.

It can be very stressful for a parent to find themselves involved in such care proceedings and this article answers common first questions parents have.

Care Proceedings – how much will it cost?

If you are the parent of a child who has been made subject to Care Proceedings, you will automatically receive legal aid for all legal fees and other costs relating to the entire court process. Other individuals who are not the parent but who have parental responsibility for the child are also entitled to free legal aid.

Who is involved in Care Proceedings?

In all Care Proceedings the following people will be involved, each person will have a separate solicitor instructed to represent them:

  • The Local Authority – the Local Authority professional will always be the social worker allocated to the child at that time, they will be known as the Applicant.
  • The Mother of the child – usually known as the First Respondent.
  • The Father with Parental Responsibility – usually known as the Second Respondent.
  • The Child’s Guardian – usually known as the Third Respondent, in every case an independent and experienced professional is appointed solely to provide the court with information and their view about what they think is best for the child. The Guardian is always appointed from an organisation called Cafcass.

How long do Care Proceedings take?

The law says that Care Proceedings should be completed within 26 weeks (6 months). This time frame can be extended with permission from the court, however, it will only do so if it feels it is the only way that it can deal with the case fairly. An extension can be made only for a maximum of 8 weeks, however, more than one extension can be made.

At Stephens Scown we have a team of specialist lawyers who can assist and advise during the court process. If you are an individual who finds themselves involved in Care Proceedings and you would like help and support please contact our Children team and we will be happy to help.