A care order is a court order that places a child in the care of a local authority children’s services. They can be made on an interim basis, which means whilst care proceedings are ongoing, or as a final care order at the end of court proceedings.
Care orders are made under s31 of the Children Act 1989, only a Judge or Magistrates’ sitting in the Family Court can make a care order. A care order can only be made if a court is satisfied that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm and that harm is due to the care the child is receiving or the child being beyond the parent’s control.
If a care order is made it gives the local authority parental responsibility for the child. This means they will share parental responsibility with the child’s parent(s) and anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child. The local authority will be able to make decisions for the child once they have a care order, they must consult everyone who has parental responsibility about the decisions they wish to make and find out their position but the local authority will have the final say on decisions.
The local authority has to promote the child’s welfare when the child is in their care. They must also draw up a care plan which is a document that sets out the arrangements for the child whilst he or she is in the local authority’s care. This will include decisions about where the children will live, the help they are going to access, how the child’s education, health and development needs will be met. The plan will also set out what time they will spend with their parents if the children have been removed from their parents care.