If social services have concerns regarding a child, they can make an application to the Court for a Care Order. When a Care Order is granted by the Court it gives social services parental responsibility. It does not take away the parental responsibility that the parents may have but the parental responsibility of social services overrides that of the parents.
A Court will make a Care Order in respect of a child if social services satisfy what is called the threshold criteria. In order to satisfy the threshold criteria the Local Authority have to establish to the Court the following;
1. The child concerned is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and that harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to the care the child is currently receiving or is likely to be given if the Order were not made.
2. The child is beyond parental control.
Harm is defined as the ill treatment or impairment of health or development including impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another and includes emotional harm as well as physical harm. In considering whether the child has suffered harm, that child should be compared to what could reasonably be expected of a similar child. If social services make an application for a Care Order, all of the circumstances in respect of that child needs to be investigated properly and you will be given the opportunity to look at the evidence the Local Authority intends to rely upon and put your version of events. We will also need to consider any additional evidence you would wish to put forward.
It is standard procedure that any Court application for a Care Order, is dealt with by the Court within 26 weeks. In that 26 week period the Court can make an Interim Care Order so that the Local Authority have parental responsibility and are able to remove a child from their parents care whilst the Court investigate the allegations that are being made and determine whether or not to make a Care Order long term.
It is vital that if the Local Authority serves you with a Care Application you must consult MSB immediately.
Legal aid is available for you to be represented.