This page will detail the key phrases that our experienced care proceedings solicitors in will use:

Abuse- The law says there are four types of child abuse: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. If a child is being abused in any of these ways, the local authority will take action and will think about taking the child into care.

Adoption- A child becomes adopted when a court makes an adoption order. The order can be made even if the child’s parents do not agree. The adoption order removes parental responsibility from the child’s parents and passes it to the adopters. They become the child’s parents and are responsible for all aspects of the child’s care and for making all the key decisions about them.

Assessment- A court can order assessments to take place as part of making its decision about how a child should be looked after. These assessments involve professionals such as doctors, psychologists or counsellors meeting a child or the child’s parents and finding out information to report back to the court.

Care -Care normally refers to what happens when a court decides that the child should not live with their parents. The child goes into care and lives in either a foster home or children’s home. It can be for a short while or for some years.

Court order- A court order is something a judge or magistrates can make. It can be about all sorts of subjects from where a child should live to who is allowed to have contact with a child in care. Examples include: an interim care order or an interim supervision order.

Emergency Protection Order (EPO)- This is an order made by the Court when a child is in immediate danger and needs to be taken away from their home quickly for their own protection.

Harm- If a child has suffered significant harm (ill-treatment), or is thought to be at risk of significant harm, the local authority will get involved in the child’s life to try to protect them. This can be the start of care proceedings.

Interim Care Order (ICO) - This is a temporary order to allow your child to be placed in the care of the local authority (usually foster care). Legally social services will share parental responsibility with you, but in reality they will always do what they think is best. You are able to disagree whit what they think is best and allow the Court to decide on the majority of issues. If your child is subjected to an ICO then they become a “looked after child”.

Interim Supervision Order (ISO) - An interim supervision order does not give the local authority parental responsibility but it does mean that they must monitor how your child is being cared for either by you or someone else in the family who is looking after them.

Letter before proceedings- A letter before proceedings is a formal letter. It invites you to come to a meeting with your local authority because they are worried about your child.

Long-term fostering- This is when a looked-after child stays with a foster carer until they reach adulthood.

Neglect- Neglect is when a child does not get the care they need. That includes food, warmth, safety, education and general attention.

Parental Responsibility- Parental responsibility is the legal right to make decisions about your child’s life. A child’s mother gets parental responsibility when their child is born. If the child’s father is married to the mother they will have parental responsibility or if they are named on the child’s birth certificate and the child was born after 1st December 2003 they will have parental responsibility too (see page 7 for more information). Sometimes a local authority will ask a court to give them parental responsibility for a child who they may or may not then take into care.

Residence order- This is a legal document from a court which says who a child should live with. That person will have parental responsibility for the child. It will usually last until the child is 18.

Special Guardianship- A family member, family friend or the child’s foster carer can ask the court to become the child’s Special Guardian. A Special Guardian has parental responsibility for the child. They become responsible for everything to do with the child’s care and for taking decisions to do with their upbringing. However, they cannot consent to the child’s adoption, give them a new name or remove them from the UK for longer than 3 months. A Special Guardianship Order lasts until the child turns 18.


Legal Aid is available in most circumstances and we are able to do a free assessment of this for you.

If you are worried and need advice or are anxious that the local authority may be going to apply to remove your children from your care, then don't delay and contact us immediately so that we may help you. In these cases you will be able to get legal aid.

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