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Care order

A care order is a court order that places a child in the care of children’s services. It normally lasts until the child reaches 18, unless the court discharges (i.e. ends) the order before then.

A care order is made under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989. A care order cannot be made for a young person who is aged 17. It also cannot be made for a young person who is 16, if they are married.

The court can only make a care order if it is satisfied that:

  • The child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.
  • And that harm is due to the care the child is receiving at home, or to the child being beyond the parents’ control.

A care order:

  • Requires children’s services to arrange accommodation for the child (e.g. with foster carers or in residential care) and to promote the child’s welfare.
  • Gives children’s services parental responsibility, which they share with the parents (or whoever else has parental responsibility). When making any decision about the child, children’s services must consult with the parents, and find out their wishes. However, children’s services will have the final say.
  • Children’s services must draw up a care plan, which is a detailed plan setting out all the arrangements for the child’s care. This will include where they will live and family contact arrangements. It will also set out all the help and support that will be provided to meet the child’s needs (including their education, health and development).

For more information see our advice pages on:

Care (and related) proceedings

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