What is a care order and what does this order mean for a mother and her child?
A care order is a court order which places a child in the care of Children’s Services, allowing them to share parental responsibility with the child’s parents. A temporary interim care order can be made initially. Although the mother must be consulted about decisions concerning her child, Children’s Services have the final say and can make plans for the child which their mother may disagree with.
The mother can have free legal representation from a solicitor during care proceedings and it is really important that she works effectively with the solicitor to prepare her case, understand what is happening and try to make sure that all possible options are explored before a care order is made. It is more difficult to challenge any court order once it has been made.
It is possible for the mother to ask the court to end a care order but there would have to be a significant change of circumstances from when the order was made, it should be in the child’s best interests and any current risk would have to be assessed.
Find out more about the court process and how the court makes its decision in FRG advice sheet on care (and related) proceedings.
Can the mother see her child when they are in care?
The mother will usually continue to have contact with her child if the child is in care. This may be set down in a court order and contact arrangements will be recorded in the child’s care plan and reviewed at the child’s Looked After Child Review.
Children’s Services cannot stop contact with a mother unless the court allows them to so.
Children’s Services can provide financial support to promote contact between a mother and her child if the visit may not happen without their help but they do not have to. However, if the mother needs help with contact expenses to enable contact to take place she should raise this with the child’s social worker.
For more information about contact see Contact with children in care.
The mother I am working with has a child home on a Supervision Order. What does this mean?
Sometimes, the court may decide that a mother should retain parental responsibility and remain responsible for caring for her child with supervision from Children’s Services under a supervision order. In this situation Children’s Services do not have parental responsibility for the child and the mother is responsible for decisions about her child. A social worker will usually agree a supervision plan or contract with the mother setting out what is expected of the mother and what help the social worker will give. A supervision order is usually for up to one year unless Children’s Services obtain an extension from the court (for a maximum of two years).