What exactly is a voluntary arrangement? How is it different from being in care under a court order?
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Some children in England are looked after in the care system under a voluntary arrangement. It is an arrangement that can be put in place without any court oversight. This not a court order. And children’s services do not have parental responsibility for a child who is looked after under a voluntary arrangement. Children in voluntary arrangements are not described as being ‘in care’. Instead, they are described as ‘accommodated’ by children’s services. We use the term voluntary arrangement on these pages.
There are many different situations which may lead to a child becoming looked after under a voluntary arrangement. It may be that there is no one to care for them. Or, if a family is struggling, a parent with parental responsibility may ask for their child to come to come into the care system under a voluntary arrangement for a time.
There are also children who enter or remain in the care system under a court order. This is because the Family Court has decided that is in their best interests. And that children’s services should have parental responsibility for them. These children are described as being ‘in care’. See our Children in care under court orders page for further information.