Care Orders







In my case both me and my sister were put under a Care Order until we were both 18 years old. So what did that mean for me??

Care Orders - section 31 Children Act 1989

These orders are usually sought by a local authority (although the NSPCC can bring proceedings it is extremely rare for them to do so) in respect of children who they believe are suffering or are likely to suffer significant harm and:


    a) the harm is attributable to the care being given to the child not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him or
    b) that the child is beyond parental control.

Care orders continue until the child is 18 years, unless discharged earlier. Orders can only be obtained on children under 17 years (or 16 if they are married).

Following the application there are usually a series of interim care orders under s38 while further investigations and assessments of the situation are carried out before any final orders are made by the court.

Under Section 33 (3) while a care order is in force with respect to a child, the local authority designated by the order shall:

    a) have parental responsibility for the child;
    b) have the power to determine the extent to which a parent or guardian of the child may meet his parental responsibility for him.

These orders confer parental responsibility on the local authority and enable them to make decisions as to where the child will live and with whom, and how the child will have contact with named people.

There is a positive duty on the local authority to permit contact between a child in care and their parents. There is an expectation that there will be reasonable contact between the child and the parents. What is reasonable is sometimes in dispute and in those circumstances, the court can be asked to make specific directions about how and when contact should occur.

If the local authority want to suspend or stop contact for a period longer than 7 days they need to obtain a court order to do so. If there is a dispute between the local authority and parents about contact, either party can seek a court order to define contact.

Sometimes children who are the subject of care orders will remain at home being cared for by their parents, however it is more usual for children who are the subject of care orders to live with foster carers or in residential establishments.

Although the local authority has parental responsibility there are some things that they cannot agree to for the child, these include:

    1) agreeing for the child to be adopted;
    2) causing the child to be brought up in any religious persuasion other than that which they would have been brought up if the care order had not been made;
    3) allowing the child to live outside the UK for more than 28 days without the consent of everyone with parental responsibility or a court order.

Where the plans for the child are for adoption or to live outside England or Wales, further court orders specifically permitting this are required. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 and supporting regulations require local authorities to give early consideration to applying for a placement order or obtaining the consult of birth parents to placement. In some cases special guardianship will be more appropriate to an adoption. Such orders give additional protection to that afforded by residence orders without severing legal ties with birth parents.

Children who are the subject of care orders are the subject of regular reviews by the local authority to ensure their care is meeting their needs. Each child will have an individual care plan that sets out how their needs in relation to all aspects of their care are being met. These reviews will consider amongst other things the arrangements for contact with the family and others, as well as the child's health and educational needs. All local authorities must appoint Independent Reviewing Officers who must work to ensure compliance with care plans. In the case of local authorities who fail children in relation to their care plans, Independent Reviewing Officers must consider referring cases to CAFCASS (if there is no one else suitable to act for the child) to consider bringing court action to secure implementation of the child’s care plan.

Care orders, unless discharged, last until the child is 18. The local authority has responsibilities to ensure that plans are made and preparations in place before the child is 18, to enable the child to make the transition to independence.

Supervision Orders - section 31 Children Act 1989

These orders are made on the same basis as care orders i.e. that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm.

These orders do not confer parental responsibility on the local authority, but when there is a supervision order in force it is the duty of the supervisor to:


    1) advise, assist and befriend the supervised child
    2) take steps that are reasonably necessary to give effect to the order and
    3) where the order is not wholly complied with or the supervisor considers that the order is no longer necessary, to consider whether or not to apply to the court to vary or discharge the order.

A supervision order may require the supervised child to comply with directions given by the supervisor to do things such as:

    1) live at a place specified by the supervisor;
    2) present themselves to specific people at specific places or times e.g. to meet with the social worker;
    3) to participate in activities specified on certain days.

A supervision order can also require the child to submit to medical or psychiatric examination as directed by the supervisor. This requirement will only be included where the court has been satisfied on evidence as to its need.

Initially a supervision order lasts for 1 year. The supervisor can apply to the court to extend supervision order, but the supervision order can only be in place for a maximum of three years.

In contrast to a care order during the life of the supervision order the child is usually living at home with the parents who retain parental responsibility.


A local authority will seek a court order if your child is not receiving the sort of care it would be reasonable to expect from a parent, and this lack of care is causing significant harm. A court will decide whether or not a child is suffering harm in this way.  Essentially the local authority has legl responsibility for that child, and will decide where you should live, but this will normally be away from home.


For children living in care there are generally two options for the local authority: one being a children's home and the other being placed in foster care.








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