If your child is taken into care by your local council
If a court makes a care order for your child, your local council will take on responsibility for deciding things like:
where they live
who looks after them
how they’re educated
You can find out more about care orders.
Although your local council will make these decisions, you’ll have the chance to say what you think.
Deciding where your child will live
If your child is going to be adopted, they’ll live with the people who are going to adopt them.
If your child isn’t going to be adopted, your local council must see if they can live with:
you, their other parent or both of you if you live together
someone who’s already been agreed under a child arrangements order - find out more about child arrangements orders
someone else who has has the legal right to look after them and be responsible for their welfare - this is called having ‘parental responsibility’
If someone has parental responsibility, it means they’re responsible for making important decisions about a child’s care and how the child is brought up. It also means they have the legal right to make these decisions.
If your local council decides none of these options are possible, they’ll try to arrange for your child to live with a relative, family friend or someone else they know. This type of arrangement is called ‘kinship care’ or ‘family and friends care’.
The person your child lives with will be registered as a foster carer with their local council. You can find out more about kinship care on the Family Rights Group website.
If your child can’t live with someone they know, they’ll usually either stay with a local authority foster parent or live in a children's home.
Making sure your child’s needs are met
Your local council will decide where your child lives. They should ask you and your child what you think, but they still make the final decision.
Your local council must also consider your child's religion, race, cultural background and first language.
Your local council must try to make sure:
your child lives near their home
your child's education or training isn’t disrupted
your children can live together if there’s more than one of them in care
where your child lives is suitable for their needs if they’re disabled
Seeing your child and staying in touch while they’re in care
If your child isn’t living with you while they’re in care, you should be allowed to have contact with them.
Your local council should also allow contact between your child and other family members and friends.
Contact with your child can include:
visiting your child at their new home
your child spending some time at home, including overnight stays
meeting up at a friend or relative’s home, including overnight stays
having a day out together
phone or video calls
social media messaging, texts, emails or letters
If you visit your child you should be allowed to get involved in their daily activities, for example taking them out, going shopping, bathing and putting them to bed.
Your contact with your child might be supervised by a social worker or foster parent.
Arrangements for contact will normally be agreed between you, your child and your local council. If you can’t agree , the court can decide what contact your child should have with you and other people.
You won’t be able to have ongoing contact with your child if they’re a baby or very young and they’re going to be adopted.,
If you can’t afford to visit your child
You can probably claim expenses if you visit your child and you’d struggle to cover the costs yourself.
You can make a claim for things like:
Let your social worker know if you need to claim expenses. If they don’t think you can do this, tell them it’s under paragraph 16, Schedule 2 of the Children Act 1989.
If your local council wants to change or stop contact
A social worker must talk to you about any changes in the arrangements for contact between you and your child.
Your local council can stop contact between you and your child if they:
get a court order - if this happens the court can stop your contact for as long as they think is necessary
think the situation is urgent - if this happens they can stop contact for up to 7 days without a court order
If your local council stops you having contact with your child you can apply to the court to have contact again. You should speak to a solicitor if you want to do this.
Find a solicitor who has 'Children Law Accreditation' - this means they're specialists in legal issues to do with children. You can find a solicitor with Children Law Accreditation on the Law Society website.
You can get legal aid to help pay for a solicitor - find out more about legal aid for family matters on the Child Law Advice website.
Appealing a decision about contact with your child
You can appeal against a decision of the court to refuse or grant a contact order. You should speak to a solicitor if you want to do this.
Checking how your child is getting on
Your local council must hold review meetings to check how your child is doing while they’re in care.
The people at the review meetings will discuss your child’s care plan and check that it’s working for your child. If they decide to make any changes to the plan they should discuss them with you first.
You, your child and their other parent can usually go to the review meetings.
The following people also go to review meetings:
an independent reviewing officer who chairs the meeting
a social worker and a senior social worker
the person who’s looking after your child
anyone else who the local council thinks should be there
The first review should happen within 4 weeks of the date your child is taken into care. The second review should happen within 3 months of the first review. Further reviews should happen at least every 6 months.
You can claim expenses if you need to pay for travel and childcare so you can go to the review - speak to your social worker.
Complaining about your local council
If you’re unhappy with how your local council has acted towards you and your family you can make a formal complaint.
Page last reviewed on 22 November 2021