Important decisions about how a child is raised (such as medical treatment, going on a school trip, going abroad etc.) can only made by someone who has parental responsibility for a child. So it is important that you know who has parental responsibility so you know who to ask. This will vary according to the legal status of the child.
When the child is looked after, the legal status of the child will be one of the following:
1. The child is in care:
This is when the child has an Emergency Protection Order, an Interim Care Order or a Care Order. The child’s parents and Children’s Services both have parental responsibility for the child, but Children’s Services can make important decisions about the child’s care even if the parents (and you) don’t agree. So as a foster carer, you would have to ask the social worker about any key decisions about the child.
2. The child is accommodated:
This is when the child is looked after with the agreement of the child’s parents or anyone else with parental responsibility and there is no court order. In these circumstances, the only people who have parental responsibility, are the parent, or anyone else who has already been given parental responsibility. Their agreement is needed for any important decisions about the child. But as you are a Children’s Services foster carer you must first talk to the social worker and they will then talk to the parents/others with parental responsibility to find out if they agree.
If the parents do not agree, the social worker will take advice about whether or not the question is so important that they should apply for a court order to give them parental responsibility.
3. The child is in police protection:
This is when the child was removed from their parents/carer and there is no court order. If the police have placed the child with you, they immediately hand over responsibility for the child’s care to Children’s Services. Children’s services will therefore need to assess you as a foster carer for the child to remain with you.
Once the child is placed with you by the police, you will need to discuss any important decisions about the child with the social worker.