A care order is a court order that places a child under the care of a local authority. The local authority then shares parental responsibility for the child with the parents, and will make most of the important decisions about the child’s upringing, such as where they live and how they are educated.
Why care orders are made
A court can only make a care order if it is sure that:
- the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm
- the harm is caused by the child’s parents
- the harm would be caused because of insufficient care being given to the child by the parents in the future
- the child is likely to suffer harm because they are beyond parental control
When a care order is made, it places responsibility on the localauthority to look after the child, and to provide them with accommodation and care. Theauthority is responsible for the child’s welfare while the care order is in place.
A care order can only be made for children under 17 years of age (or 16 if the child is married). A care order stops if the child is adopted, and can only last until their 18th birthday.
- What is parental responsibility?
Educating children in care
When a child becomes looked after (either because they are on a care order or are voluntarily accommodated) the local authority looking after them has a duty to make sure they get the best possible education.
All looked after children must have an overall care plan. This plan should include what is being done to ensure they receive appropriate education.In the vast majority of cases decisions about the welfare of an individual child will be taken by the childs social worker and foster carer (or residentialcare worker). Depending on the particular circumstances, the childs birth parents may be involved in those decisions.
The social worker, in partnership with the foster carer or residentialcare worker, needs to take decisions about what must be done to help the child achieve his or her full potential. Their responsibilities include:
- drawing up a personal education plan for the child, and ensuring they are well supported at school
- making sure the child attends school every day
- choosing and applying for a school place when required
- making sure that there are good links with the designated teacher at the childs school
- being involved in any assessment for special educational needs
- making surethat thefoster carers attend parents evenings and any other school events which parents would attend
The following link will let you enter details of where you live and then take you to your local authority website where you can find out more.
Who does what?
Download the following leaflets for more information on who is responsible for making decisions about the education of looked after children, and how you can support them.
- Download ‘How social workers and carers can support the education of looked after children’ (PDF, 212K)
- Download ‘Social worker or carer: who makes the decisions’ (PDF, 351K)
- Help with PDF files
Support for parents involved with social care services
The Family Rights Group Advice Service is a confidential telephone helpline supporting parents and other family members of children involved with, or in need of social services. Call 0800 731 1696 (Mon-Fri 10am to 12pm and 1.30 to 3.30pm. From Sept 2008, Mon-Fri 10am to 3.30pm).
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