How can a care order be brought to an end?
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A care order lasts until the child turns 18, unless it is discharged before then. Discharged just means ended.
Reviews and looked after children
There must be regular reviews of the cases of children who are looked after under care orders (see section 26 of the Children Act 1989). These are called looked after reviews. See our Children in care under court orders page for more detailed information about these reviews and what is involved.
The law says looked after child review meeting should look at whether the child’s care plan for the child continues to be the best plan for them. And whether children’s services should apply to discharge (end) the care order. This is set out in schedule 2, paragraph 1 of government regulations called Review of Children’s Cases Regulations 1991.
Discharging a care order
The law about discharging (ending) care orders is in section 39 of the Children Act 1989. It says that an application to discharge a care order can be made by:
- Children’s services
- The child themselves
- Anyone with parental responsibility for the child. Remember, a parent or person with parental responsibility does not lose this when a care order is made, but their ability to exercise it is limited).
If a parent wants to apply to discharge the care order, they will have to show real change in circumstances since the order was made.
If an application has already been made to discharge a care order in the last six month then the court’s permission is needed before applying again (see section 91(15) of the Children Act 1989).
A placement order may have been made alongside a care order. This is done when children’s services’ plan for the child is adoption. It is an order that allows children’s services to place a child with prospective adopters. For information about challenging placement orders see our page on adoption, and our advice sheet 3b) Adoption: challenging placement orders.