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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Are there any duties or rules that apply when deciding where a child who is in care under a court order should live?

Yes. Section 22C of the Children Act 1989 places a legal duty on children’s services to place a looked after child with the people in a certain priority order. This duty applies then to children in care under court orders. And to children who are looked after in the care system under voluntary arrangements.

It means children’s services should:

  1. See if a child can be safely cared for by their parent(s). If not
  2. See if a child be safely cared for by someone else who holds parental responsibility for them
  3. Next look at anyone who was caring for the child under a child arrangements order just before they came into the care system
  4. They should then look at the most appropriate placements looking first to place the child with wider family, friends and other people connected with the child who are already approved by children’s services as foster carers – kinship foster care
  5. Only where this is not possible, should children’s services go on to arrange for a child to live in unrelated foster care. This could be foster care, or if not possible then in residential care (a children’s home).

This duty also means plans for where a child live/be cared for should always be kept under review.

So, even if a child who is in care is cared for by unrelated carers, children’s services should still keep their plan under review. If a parent’s situation change. Or there may now be another family member who could care the child this should be explored.

Brothers and sisters (siblings)

Children’s services also have a legal duty to make sure siblings who are looked after in the care system can live together where reasonably practicable (possible). This duty applies to all looked after children. It can be found in section 22C(8)(c) of the Children Act 1989.

A family group conference can be a good way to do this.  A family group conference is a family-led decision-making meeting. It brings together family members and others who are important to the child. Together, at the family group conference, they make a plan for the child. They are supported by an independent co-ordinator. A family group conference may be suggested by the child’s social worker. Families can themselves ask the social worker to make a referral for a family group conference.

See our:

  • Kinship carers page for more information about kinship foster care and other types of kinship care arrangements for children who cannot live with their parents
  • See our Family group conferences: advice for families page for information and advice about how a family group conference can help explore who in the family may be able to care for a child unable to live with their parents.
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