If the Local Authority are involved with your family and decide to take your case to court because they are worried about the safety of your children, we understand that you may be feeling anxious as to what this means for you and your child.
Our Child Care solicitors can explain what this order is, why it may come into effect, and what the next steps are, ensuring you’re equipped with the knowledge and information you need to navigate this process.
What is an interim care order?
An interim care order is a holding order, not a permanent order, and allows the Local Authority to share parental responsibility with the parents when there is a concern regarding a child's welfare. It is a solution to provide protection and temporary care either with a family member or with Foster Carers for a child whilst assessments of the parents and the home situation are conducted.
How long does an interim care order last?
In typical circumstances, an interim care order will usually last until the end of the proceedings or until a different order is made.
Does an interim care order remove parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility includes the rights and duties of a parent towards their child, such as providing a safe home, meeting the needs of their child, and providing proper arrangements for their care, education, and health.
An interim care order does not remove a parent’s parental responsibility, however, this can be limited by the Local Authority should this be necessary for the child’s welfare as the Local Authority will share Parental Responsibility with the parents and can make decisions about the child, although the Local Authority should always consult with the parents. If there is a disagreement between the Local Authority and the parent, then in the majority of cases, the Local Authority will have the final say.
When is an Interim Care Order made?
An Interim Care Order can only be made if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm or the child is considered to be beyond parental control. This means that the parent is failing to provide care or will be unlikely to do so in the future, which would be reasonable for a parent to give their child, or because their child is beyond parental control The Court should only make an Interim Care Order and remove the child if it is necessary to keep the child safe because the child is at imminent risk of serious harm and decisions about the child cannot wait until the final hearing when all the evidence is available. The Judge must also consider the Welfare Checklist and the parents’ and the child’s human rights, because the child’s welfare is the court’s priority, along with any safety measures that could be put into place to prevent the child from being removed from the parents’ care.
Therefore, the Local Authority can only apply to the court for an Interim Care Order to be made when there are serious concerns about the safety and well-being of a child. Significant harm can include physical, emotional, sexual harm and neglect.
Physical harm is when the child has sustained injuries in the parent’s care and the Local Authority is concerned that the parent has either caused the injuries or has failed to stop someone else from hurting their child.
Emotional harm can mean that the parent is not giving their child enough love and attention and is not there when the child needs them, or the child is allowed to witness domestic violence arguments or shouting and threatening incidents.
Neglect involves parents failing to meet their child’s needs such as failing to make sure the child is fed and their home is stable, clean and tidy and free from risk of harm, failing to protect the child from the risks that other people may present, failing to supervise the child properly so that they harm themselves, failing to take the child to school regularly so that they fall behind and failing to take the child to medical appointments and to provide emotional support.
Sexual harm is when the child has been abused by the parent or the parent has allowed someone else to sexually harm the child whilst they are in the parent’s care, or it could mean that the child has watched sexual activity.
Other reasons for an interim care order being issued include:
Parental incapacity or absence
When a parent is incapacitated due to various factors such as illness or imprisonment.
Voluntary accommodation breakdown
In some cases, a child may have been voluntarily accommodated by the local authority with the parents' consent. If this agreement has broken down, an interim care order may be sought.
What happens once an Interim Order is made?
The Local Authority will assess the parents and any family members put forward within the care proceedings to see if they can provide safe long term care for the child. It may be necessary for independent evidence to also be provided. The Local Authority have a duty to arrange reasonable contact between the child and the parents. The Guardian who is independently appointed by the court, will as part of his or her enquiries, want to meet with the parents and the child as the Guardian will need to file a report setting out the child’s wishes and feelings but also what the Guardian thinks should happen at the conclusion of the case.
The Local Authority will also arrange meetings for all professionals to attend along with the parents so that information can be shared about how the child is and an Independent Reviewing Officer is appointed to review whether it is still in the best interest of the child to remain in care and separated from his or her parents.
Can you appeal against an interim care order?
In very rare circumstances, an appeal against an interim care order can be explored. A parent will have 21 days from the date the order is made to appeal the order.
This is different from discharging an order – you can only discharge an order once it has been made and in place for a period of time.
Can you get legal aid to discharge a care order?
Whilst legal aid for discharging a care order is not automatically available, there may be limited circumstances where it can be provided taking into account whether your application is likely to succeed and your individual financial circumstances.
How can Smith Partnership’s child law solicitors help you?
With an expert team of child law solicitors at hand, we can support parents when the Local Authority is involved and with interim care order proceedings.
We understand that these can be difficult times for families, and so our team acts with care and compassion whilst providing sound, up to date legal advice.
Get in touch with us today to find out more about our services and how we can help you.