Child Care Terminology
Emergency protection order – A short term order to remove a child from immediate risk of harm and allow the Local Authority to investigate. It lasts 8 days and can be extended for a further 7 days. The holder of this order would temporarily get Parental Responsibility for the child.
Family court – Created on 22.04.14 the Courts which will make descisions on all applications involving children and divorce.
Family court adviser – A member of CAFCASS who works directly with vulnerable children and families and duty is to advise the family courts on the best course of action for the child.
Fact finding hearing – A Fact Finding Hearing is a type of court hearing that considers the evidence surrounding allegations, and the court will make a decision as to whether alleged incidents did or did not happen. Evidence is heard, which will normally include parties being cross-examined. After having heard the evidence, the judge will decide whether the alleged incidents happened or not.
Most commonly, these allegations concern domestic abuse. Domestic abuse includes neglect, emotional and physical harm and violence.
When making a decision the judge has to consider the allegations made by each side. It is for the person making the allegations to prove that they are true. The Judge will consider on the balance of probabilities whether the allegations are true or not. This means that the judge will consider whether it is more likely than not that the allegations are true.
In preparation for a Fact Finding Hearing the person making the allegations will be asked to send a list of the allegations to the court. The list should be:
- signed and dated
- each incident should be numbered and set out in date order stating the date of the incident and details of what happened and where
- details of any witnesses to the incident and involvement of the police and/or medical services
- the list should contain a statement that it is true.
The person against whom the allegations are made will then be asked to respond to the allegations within a set timeframe. You should respond to each allegation in turn, setting out your account of the incident or stating that the allegation is denied.
You will both be asked to make written statements based on your evidence setting out what you wish to say to the court. You can also have witnesses give evidence with the court’s permission.
Family group conference – A family group conference is a process led by family members to plan and make decisions for a child who is at risk. Children and young people are normally involved in their own family group conference, although often with support from an advocate. It is a voluntary process and families cannot be forced to have a family group conference.
Filing – Lodging documents with the court.
Final hearing – The Final Hearing is the last hearing in your case. If an agreement cannot be reached, a Judge may need to make a decision in your case. This will involve hearing evidence from the parties and sometimes the Cafcass officer, the Judge will then make a decision based on what they consider to be in the child(ren)’s best interests.
Fostering – A form of care provided to a child who is not related to the carer legally or by blood. A foster carer provides substitute family care for children. A child looked after by the Local Authority can be placed with Local Authority foster carers under s.23(2)(a).
Guardian – Where a child has no parent with parental responsibility, a person may be appointed to act as the guardian of the child. The person appointed will have parental responsibility for the child and the order will last until the child’s 18th birthday. An appointment can be made either by order of the court in any family proceedings or by written instrument. This is not to be confused with a children’s guardian who is appointed by the court to protect a child during court proceedings (see Children’s Guardian).
Interim care order – An order made by the Court under s.38 placing the child in the care of the designated local authority. There are complex provisions as to its duration, with a special initial period of eight weeks. There is no limit to the number of interim care orders that can be made.
Interim contact – Temporary arrangements for contact issued during proceedings before a final decision is made.
Issues resolution hearing – The hearing before the final hearing in public law cases where the court resolves and narrows the issues and identifies any remaining key issues needing adjudication.
Legal aid – A form of funding from the government for legal representation. This is means tested in most areas, with the exception of when a child is subject to care proceedings, where legal aid is available to a parent regardless of a person’s income.
Letter before proceedings – If it is decided that the situation is not so serious as to require immediate removal of a child, the LA will then issue a ‘letter before proceedings’ to the parents. If the LA is concerned that the parents may not fully understand the concerns, they must take this into account and consider what services are available to the parents, such as an advocate.
The letter should contain:
- A summary of what the LA is worried about, set out in simple language;
- A summary of what support has already been given;
- What parents need to do, how they will be helped to do it and how quickly they have to get it done; and
- Information on how to obtain legal advice and advocacy.
Letter of issue – Once the LA decide that progress isn’t being made, or isn’t being made quickly enough to meet the child’s needs, they will have to make an application to the court. They will then send the parents a letter to say they are going to do this, and advising the parents to seek urgent legal advice. The parents will be able to obtain free legal advice and representation throughout the court proceedings.
Again, it is vital that parents don’t delay going to see their solicitors; the lawyers can’t act without instructions.
If for whatever reason a parent does not want to involve a lawyer, it is still very important to engage and turn up to meetings and court hearings, otherwise decisions will be made in your absence and without your input.
Litigant in person – An individual who represents himself in court without legal representation.
Litigation friend – A person appointed by the court to make decisions about a court case on behalf of somebody who lacks capacity. This may be for an adult who lacks litigation capacity or for a child. If a litigation friend is appointed the party will be considered to be a protected party. Where a child is party to proceedings but not the subject of proceedings, they must have a litigation friend to conduct proceedings on their behalf. The litigation friend must not have their own interest in the proceedings and must always act in the child’s best interests. If no person is suitable to act as a litigation friend the court can invite the Official Solicitor to act as a litigation friend.
Local authority – Overall Administrative Body for your geographic area.
Local authority case summary – A summary for each case management hearing.
Looked after children – Children in Local Authority care who are provided with somewhere to live by Children’s Services. Parents can either agree to this, or a court can order children to be ‘looked after’.
Mckenzie friend – A person who can attend court proceedings with you to provide moral support, take notes, help with case papers and quietly advise on the conduct of the case but cannot speak to the Judge on your behalf.