We often hear of children being taken into care, but the process by which this occurs is not well known. The Children Act 1989 lays down the circumstances under which it is appropriate for a child to be taken into care or a supervision order made. The necessary criteria, somewhat rephrased, are:
- that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and
- that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to the care given to the child (or which would be given if a care or supervision order were not made) and is not what could be reasonably expected of a parent, or that the child is beyond the control of the parents.
In order to determine whether these criteria are met, a thorough fact-finding exercise must first be carried out. One common difficulty arises when the proceedings to take a child into care are based on an expectation that the child may be harmed in the future, rather than on the basis of harm having been done to the child in the past. In such cases, the local authority is required to prepare a clear written analysis of the facts on which the authority’s decision to apply to take the child into care is based. This analysis should be divided into three stages:
- an establishment of the primary facts;
- an assessment as to whether the criteria outlined above are met; and
- an overall assessment of what action is likely to be in the child’s best interests.
There is more information on this topic on the CAFCASS website.
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