A Young Person’s Guide to Care Proceedings
There are many rules and laws that are in place to protect people – and especially children. Sometimes some of the people who make the rules are worried about the well-being of a child or children, and this can mean that they start something called ‘care proceedings’.
Care proceedings or a care order are put in place by a family court to help to keep young people safe. A family court is not the same as a criminal court. It is a place where everybody can give their thoughts and a judge will make the best decision to ensure that young people are safe.
Making Sure that you are Safe
When a care order is made or court proceedings take place, you will be given a social worker if you don’t already have one. The social worker is there to make sure that you are properly looked after and safe. They might also come to your house to check how you are.
A social worker will often be involved in your life if there are concerns about your safety or well-being. It is important that you are honest with them and tell them about anything that is worrying you.
Who Are Cafcass and How Can They Help?
Cafcass stands for Children And Family Court Advisory and Support Service. They are a group that is run by the government to help to make sure that the best decision is made for you by the family court. This will normally be done by giving you a Cafcass worker – or ‘Children’s Guardian’ who will look at a number of things in your family life to decide on the best way to proceed.
The Cafcass worker will look at things such as:
- How the social worker is working with you now and in the future.
- Talking to you about how you are feeling, what you think about everything that’s happening and to ask what you would like to happen.
- Make sure that you have a legal expert called a solicitor to make sure that everything is within the law.
- Talk to other people in your life who care about you, such as your parents, other family members, teachers, and social workers to see how you are.
The Cafcass worker will talk to the family court and give them their ideas about how to keep you safe and well.
What is a Solicitor and How Can They Help?
A solicitor is an expert in the law who can ensure that you are looked after and that everything is fair in the family court. They will work closely with the Cafcass worker throughout the time at the family court to make sure that you get the best outcome for you as a young person.
What Will Happen During the Process?
It can sometimes take up to about 6 months for the family court to decide what the best thing is for you. This is because they need to look carefully at everything that is happening and speak to a lot of people before they make a decision.
During the process the judge will listen to the opinions of a lot of people, including you, then decide what will happen next. The Cafcass worker will explain the decision to you once that it has been made.
It is important to remember that no-one should put any pressure on you at any time during the process. If you feel that somebody is, you should speak to your Cafcass worker and they will be able to help you.
What Happens Afterwards?
Once the judge has made their decision, it will be properly explained to you by your Cafcass worker. There could be many different outcomes to the court proceedings ranging from a social worker spending time with you and your family, to children living with a relative or foster family, depending on what the judge thinks is best for you.
If you have brothers and sisters, the judge will try to make sure that you are all kept together if this is best for you. It is not always possible to keep you together, but if you are worried about seeing your brothers or sisters, make sure that you tell your Cafcass worker.
If you do have to go and live somewhere without your parents (the judge will try to find a relative for you to live with if this happens or a foster carer) that doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to see your parents – they may be able to come and visit you at home, or perhaps in a family centre.
The most important thing to remember if you have been told that you will have care proceedings is that this is happening to look after you and to make sure that you are as safe as possible. This is the most important thing for the judge.