Before Care

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Why do children become looked after – who decides?

You may of seen a social worker come to visit your house before you came into care. They would have talked with your parents as they may have had concerns. They may also have spoken directly with you.

If the social worker offers support and this support is not taken and they continue to be worried about the care you are receiving there is a chance that you will come into care.

Sometimes there are other reasons why children come into care too. If you are unsure about why, speak to your social worker, IRO or contact an advocate.

Read on to learn about the whole process.


Letter before proceedings

Local authorities send a letter before court proceedings to parents when they are worried about how a child is being looked after. It is often sent after the local authority has drawn up a plan for the child to be kept safe but they are still concerned. The letter is a final notice for parents. If it is not followed, your parents may have to go to court and you could be taken into care.


Pre-proceedings meeting

The letter asks your parents to a pre-proceedings meeting with your local authority to talk about the situation. At the meeting, your parents will talk about how to change the way they look after you and how the local authority can support them to do this. If your parents agree to some changes, these will be written down in a formal agreement that the local authority have to follow. If your parents don’t agree, your local authority will probably ask the court to take you into care.


Keeping to the agreement

Your parents must keep to any agreement made at the pre-proceedings meeting and the local authority should keep to any agreements they make too. Your parents will probably be asked to go to review meetings to check they are keeping to the agreement.


Going to court

If your parents don’t keep to the agreement or there are still serious or new concerns, your local authority will apply to a court to start care proceedings. Your parents will have to go to court – possibly several times until the court makes its decision about your future.

If your local authority thinks your situation is urgent, they may ask the court to make a decision about you sooner, without doing any of the above.

At the end of this process, one of these things will happen.


You stay with your parents under a new agreement about how you will be looked after

If your parents keep to the agreement, you should stay with them. But if they don’t look after you, they may have to go back to court and that is when you could be taken into care.


You could move in with a friend or family member

This can be for a short time to help your parents make changes to their life so that they can look after you better: or it can be permanent.


You could move in with a foster carer or into a residential home

If your parents can’t agree how to change the way they look after your and there’s no suitable friend or family member, the court will tell the local authority to find a place for you to live and this will most likely be with a foster family.

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