When a court makes a care order, the local Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust becomes responsible for a child. Responsibility is shared with the parents. They decide where the child lives and the child’s school. A care order can last until a child is 18 years old.
Why care orders are made
If social services think a care order is necessary, they will ask the court for a care order to be made.
The court will only make a care order if they are satisfied that the threshold criteria is met - that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm and that the harm, or the likelihood of harm, is due to:
- the care the child is receiving
- the care the child is likely to receive if the care order isn’t made
- the child being beyond parental control
Parental responsibility is a set of legal rights and responsibilities including making sure a child:
- has somewhere to live
- is looked after
- is kept safe
Parental responsibility also gives the right to make important decisions about a child’s life like:
- who looks after them
- where they live
- how they are educated
Before a child is taken into care, the HSC Trust will produce a plan for the future care of the child. The parents and the child should be involved in developing this care plan.
The plan should show how the child’s needs will be met in care, including their health, education and contact with family members.
In most cases, decisions about the welfare of a child will be taken by their social worker, foster carer or residential care worker. The child's birth parents may be involved in those decisions.
Educating children in care
All children in care should have a Personal Education Plan (PEP) which will show clear objectives and actions to respond effectively to each child's needs and provide a continuous record of their achievements.
The social worker in partnership with the foster carer or residential care worker, needs to take decisions about what must be done to help the child achieve his or her full potential.
Their responsibilities include:
- being involved in the Personal Education Plan (PEP) process for their child and making sure they are well supported at school
- making sure the child attends school every day
- choosing and applying for a school place
- making sure that there are good links with the school
- being involved in any assessment for special educational needs
- making sure that the foster/kinship carers go to parents’ evenings and any other school events which parents would go to
You can find out more from your local HSC Trust website:
Support for parents
Parents can get help and support from Advice NI and Parenting NI.