If children’s services are particularly worried about the health and wellbeing of a child, the Local Authority can apply to the court to begin care proceedings.
Care proceedings are intended to determine ensure the child’s safety and facilitating their growth and development within a safe and secure environment. This may include placing the child with family or foster carers.
You can find out more about what happens during care proceedings here.
The outcome of care proceedings will be decided by a Judge at a final hearing. Until this point, a child can remain at home with their parents until a decision is made.
However, in some situations a Local Authority may feel that it is necessary to intervene earlier in the process – at the first hearing – to ensure a child is properly cared for during proceedings. This is known as an ‘Interim Care Order’, and may be used when:
● A child is believed to be at immediate risk of harm within the home
● A child has already experienced harm within the home
● Parents are unable to meet a child’s needs during proceedings
● A child is considered to be beyond parental control
What is an Interim Care Order
An interim care order is an interim/temporary arrangement that ensures a child is safe and well cared for during care proceedings, which can often be a difficult and upsetting time.
When an interim care order is applied for, the Local Authority will be required to detail what their plan is for the child, which will need to include placement (where they will live) and contact. If an interim care order is sought, the plan is often for placement in foster care, but it can also be with other friends/family members. In some cases, the child can remain at home under an interim care order.
In some circumstances, a child may be permitted to remain with a parent or parents, with exclusion requirements in place that prevent certain individuals from entering the home or seeing the child, if the court considers that they pose a risk of harm.
Interim care orders are initially put in place for a specified period of up to a maximum of 8 weeks, after which point it will be kept under review.
Regardless of whether a child is removed from the home or not, every interim care order that is put in place will temporarily change who has responsibility for the child.
Interim Care Orders and Parental Responsibility
When a child is born, the mother is automatically provided with parental responsibility. Fathers are also given automatic parental responsibility if they are married to the child’s mother, or if they are listed on the birth certificate. Parental responsibility includes:
● Providing accommodation for the child
● Protecting the child
● Disciplining the child
● Making decisions regarding a child’s education
● Agreeing for the child to receive necessary medical care
● Caring for property belonging to the child
When an interim care order is in place, those who have parental responsibility for the child must share this responsibility with the Local Authority. Parental responsibility does not shift entirely to the LA; it is shared between the parties. This means that should the Local Authority wish to make a decision relating to the child, they must discuss this decision with the parent(s) and consider the parent’s wishes and views. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the Local Authority will have final say on the matter.
The sharing of parental responsibility with the Local Authority will remain in place until the interim care order is removed. Removal of the order can happen for two reasons:
1. During care proceedings, the Judge deems that the interim care order is no longer necessary, and determines that the child can be cared for at home.
2. A decision for the child’s future is made at the final care proceedings hearing. This will usually be a care order, a supervision order, or a special guardianship order.
Challenging an Interim Care Order
It’s important to remember that an interim care order will not be made unless there is a very urgent need to protect the child from immediate harm or suffering. These orders are always made in the best interests of the child. However, as a parent, you have a right to challenge an interim care order if you feel that it is not best for your family.
If you are worried about an interim care order being granted, want to discuss the possibility of having an interim care order discharged, or if you are concerned about what will happen to your child during care proceedings, we’re here to help answer any questions you may have. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation with our team of family law experts.