'Care’ or ‘Supervision’ proceedings are where a Local Authority has applied to the family court to protect a child when there are serious concerns about a child’s safety or welfare.
Children can be taken into care when there are serious safeguarding concerns such as they are suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm from the way they are looked after, or if they are beyond the control of a parent or carer.
The types of serious safeguarding concerns that may lead a local authority to apply to the court to protect the child include:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
The local authority will provide evidence to the court setting out their concerns for the child and a plan that details safe arrangements for the child and any assessments that may need to be undertaken.
The court will consider all of the evidence available to make a decision that is safe for the child, this includes whether an order needs to be made to safeguard the child, where the child should live and the contact arrangement with family. The court will try to make a decision about what is going to happen to your child within 26 weeks of the application being made. During this time key professionals will be carrying out work to further understand your child’s situation and will make recommendations to help the court to make final decisions about the child.
The outcome for the child will usually be one of the following:
- Returning home – if the safety and quality of parenting improves
- Going to live with a relative in the child’s extended family
- Going to live with a foster parent
- Being adopted
The role of Cafcass Cymru
We are an independent service, we do not work for the local authority or the court. In care cases the Cafcass Cymru Worker is called a Children’s Guardian. A Children’s Guardian is appointed by the court and their role is to make sure children are safe and that the decisions made about them are in their best interests.
Some of the key duties of a Children’s Guardian include:
- Appointing a solicitor to represent the child
- Analysing all of the evidence available and making recommendations to the court that are considered to be in the child’s best interests. This may be done in the form of verbal evidence or a written report at various stages within the proceedings
- Meeting with the child as part of their assessment, and sharing the child’s wishes and feelings with the court
- Meeting with key professionals as part of their assessment
- Meeting with parents / family members as part of their assessment.
The Children’s Guardian’s role comes to an end at the conclusion of the care proceedings, when the court has made final decisions about the child.
The local authority have responsibility to carry out the decisions made by the court and will remain involved with the child.
What happens in the Family Court
The family court helps solve disagreements between families and helps protect children and young people who may be at risk of harm.
Only family matters are decided at a family court. Although they look like any other court, they try to be less formal.
Some families in Wales may experience problems. If a family can’t look after their child in a safe and proper way, this is when the family court may get involved and help make decisions.
The people involved in the case
Sometimes the 'parties' (the people involved in the case, parents or the local authority) will have legal help; this can be in the form of a solicitor or a barrister. These people know about children and family law and they will speak to the judge to explain the wishes and feelings of the people they represent.
Sometimes the 'parties' will represent themselves in court. These parties are called 'a litigant in person' and they have the right to address the court in person, just as a solicitor or barrister would do. There is more information for litigants in person (LiP) in the 'Help and Support' section below.
The judges in family court have special training before they start making decisions. The judge will ask questions and listen to everybody’s views on the disagreement before making a decision and may ask experts, such as social workers and family court advisors, to help them make up their mind.
Cafcass Cymru will only ever become involved in a case if a court asks us to.
Do children go to court?
Children and young people do not normally go into the court, so it is our job to make sure that we find out the wishes and feelings of the children involved in the case so that we can make these known to the court and the judge/magistrate. This is normally in the form of a report which the judge will read and ask questions about if they need to. We also provide the opportunity for children and young people to communicate with the court by submitting one of our letter or picture templates to the judge or magistrate on the child’s behalf.
Once the court is happy that they have heard the views of everyone involved in the case and they have received all the information they need, they will make a decision based upon what they believe is in the best interests of the child in the case
Children’s Rights (UNCRC) and the law about children
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international agreement which protects the human rights of children under the age of 18. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was ratified by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1989.
There are 54 articles in the Convention.
- Articles 1-42 set out how children should be treated.
- Articles 43-45 are about how adults and governments should work together to make sure all children are entitled to their rights.
Children’s Rights (UNCRC) in Wales
In 1991 the United Kingdom formally agreed to ensure that every child in the UK has all the rights listed in the convention.
The Welsh Government adopted the Convention as the basis for policy making for children and young people in Wales in 2004.
The 'Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure' 2011, was passed by the National Assembly for Wales in January 2011.
It placed a duty on all Welsh Ministers to have due regard to the substantive rights and obligations within the UNCRC and its optional protocols.
The duty to have due regard to the UNCRC was extended further from May 2014, whereby all Welsh Ministers now need to have due regard to the UNCRC when exercising any of their Ministerial functions.
Visit the Welsh Government’s United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) website for more information.
Legal information about children
Cafcass Cymru staff cannot offer any legal advice, but to help you find legal information specifically for children and about children we have listed some links that you may find useful on external websites:
Help and support
Litigant in person (LiP)
Sometimes the 'parties' will want to represent themselves in court. These parties are called 'a litigant in person' and they have the right to address the court in person, just as a solicitor or barrister would do. If you are a LiP you may be interested in this short film produced by The Family Justice Council. The film looks at how an individual without a lawyer should represent him or herself in court about a family problem. The film looks at the questions people who have represented themselves have said they worried about most and shows simple tips for presenting your case.
Domestic abuse is the misuse of power and control by one person over another within an intimate or family relationship. It can take the form of physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual abuse, or a combination of all of these.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse you can contact the Live Fear Free Helpline: 0808 8010800 email@example.com for help, advice and information. Live Fear Free is a free 24 hour domestic abuse helpline for everybody.
What will Cafcass Cymru do?
You can find more information on domestic abuse and how you will be supported in the court in our factsheet.
If we learn there is, or has been, domestic abuse in your case, we will tell the court so the judge can make a decision about your children and prioritise their safety.
Victims of domestic abuse who meet certain criteria may be eligible for legal aid; you can find out more information on this here.
How we support diverse needs
Everyone is unique and has different needs; some of those needs may require further support from us, for example, in being able to communicate as effectively as possible.
The important thing is we will work with you and/or your children in a way that supports (and celebrates) difference and make sure all wishes and feelings are understood and heard correctly by the family court. To allow us to assign an appropriate member of staff to your case it would be very helpful if you could let us know as soon as possible if you or your children may require additional support, consideration or assistance from us.
If English is not your first language and you feel that you would benefit from an interpreter or translation of our documents, please let us know and we will try our best to make sure this happens.
Other organisations and charities
An advice service for members of the public and for professionals in Wales – providing help and information about adoption, fostering and tracing relatives to all those affected in any way.
Information, Advice and Support for Black & Minority Ethnic people in Wales.
Carers Trust Wales
Carers Trust Wales exists to provide action, help and advice to carers throughout Wales.
Contact a family
Contact a Family provides support, advice and information for families with disabled children, no matter what their condition or disability.
Parenting and family support from Family Lives (formerly Parentline Plus) through our website, online chat, helpline and parenting classes.
Families Need Fathers Both Parents Matter Cymru
We provide expert advice, practical support and campaign for single parents.
We are Wales’ leading charity for people with serious mental illness and their carers.
National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC)
Keeping parents in touch with children after separation.
Relationship Counselling, Sex Therapy and Supported Child Contact in Wales.
We are SafeLives, a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse.
Welsh Women's Aid
Welsh Women's Aid is the national charity in Wales working to end domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women.
Free, confidential online and telephone support for adults worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person.
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