At the end of March 2011, there were 65,520 looked-after children and young people in England and therefore many professionals are needed to keep up a good quality of care for every single child who is to be looked after. The health and wellbeing of looked-after children and young people (their physical health, social, educational and emotional wellbeing), comes from their quality of life and/or care.
Some looked-after children and young people have positive experiences in the care system and gain good emotional and physical health, do well in their education and go on to have good jobs and careers but the start to this is from the arrangements made in order to receive good quality care. It is the government or council’s responsibility to decide who looks after the child, where they will live and also how they are educated.
It is important when choosing a carer for a child that they will perhaps have things in common or are at least not the complete opposites to each other as that may lead to bad quality care and a low emotional well-being. If given the responsibility of looking after a child it is officially that carer’s job to provide a home for the child and protect and maintain the child. They are also responsible for disciplining the child, choosing and providing for the child’s education, agreeing to the child’s medical treatment, naming the child and agreeing to any change of name looking after the child’s property.
Parents have to make sure that the child is supported financially. At the start of care proceedings, the council asks the family court to make a temporary court order, called an ‘interim care order’. If the court agrees, the council can take the child into care on a temporary basis. This can sometimes be for up to 8 weeks at first. After that, it can be renewed every 28 days. It can take up to a year for a court to decide what should happen to the child.
Sometimes it can take even longer than this. During this time a social worker and other people will be trying to understand the reasons why the child may be at risk. They will also look at what can be done to keep them safe. They will talk to the parents and the child regularly. They may talk to other family members or friends about looking after the child if they can’t safely live at home. The parents might also get support and in many occasion the parent is often seen to first.
The social worker will write a report for the court. These will outline what they think should happen to the child. Once all the information has been gathered, there will be a court hearing. The judge will look at the reports, and listen to everyone involved in the case, including the child, the parents, solicitors representing parents and children and the council social worker. The child will go back home if the judge decides that they’re safe. If not, the council will find them a new home.
That may be with other members of their family, friends, a new family or children’s home. In care proceedings, a Children’s Guardian from Cafcass represents the rights and interests of the child. They spend time getting to know the child and their family before the hearing. The Children’s Guardian appoints a solicitor for the child, advises the court about what needs to be done before it can make a decision and writes a report for the court saying what would be best for the child – including the child’s wishes and feelings.
The child, once in their new home will receive a care plan which includes how they will be educated. Most of the decisions about the child’s welfare will be taken by their social worker and foster carer (or residential care worker). The parent may also be involved depending on the circumstances. The social worker is responsible for making sure said child can achieve their potential when educated.