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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). 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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Does the Family Court have to see and agree the care plan for a child in care under a voluntary arrangement?

Yes, if there are care proceedings.

  1. An interim (temporary) care plan must be prepared by children’s services when they make an application to start care proceedings.

    That plan deals with the short-term arrangements for the child. It will be in place during the care proceedings. But it may be updated during the proceedings if the needs of the child change. The Family Court must look at and approve the interim care plan. The court must do this before making any court orders that aim to help put the plan in place.

  1. A final plan, together with a supporting statement from the child’s social worker.

    This plan tells the Family Court what children’s services think the right long-term plan for the child is. The court must have a final care plan before it can make final decisions about:

  • The best long-term care arrangements for the child
  • Who the child should have an ongoing relationship with and stay in touch with. This should include who the child should see, how often and other such arrangements. This is often referred to as the arrangements for contact
  • Whether any kind of court order is needed to put those arrangements in place.A child’s care plan should be a very detailed document. But the version for the Family Court may be shorter.
  1. At the end of care proceedings, the children’s guardian should provide the independent reviewing officer (IRO) with a copy of the final care plan.

    This must be the final plan that has been approved by the Family Court.

    The independent reviewing officer is a social worker whose role is to make sure that children’s services are meeting the child’s needs. So, it is important they have a final copy of the court care plan so they can make sure the things in the plan happen.

    If children’s services change the court care plan after a care order has been made, a social worker must discuss the proposed changes with:

  • The child’s parents
  • Other people with parental responsibility
  • The child where they are sufficiently mature. Doing this is an important part of making sure the process is fair. And respecting the human rights of the child and of their parents. See our Children’s services page for more information about fair process and human rights.
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