Legal Processes - a glossary of terms

Legal Processes - a glossary of terms

Parental Responsibility (PR) - the legal rights and duties of a parent.  Mothers always have it.  Fathers have it if they are married to the mother or are named on the birth certificate.  Others may acquire it by order of the court.

Full Care Order (FCO) - an order made in care proceedings determining that the child should be placed or remain in the care of the Local Authority.  It can only be made if the court is satisfied that the following Threshold Criteria are met.

That the child must be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, and that the harm or likelihood of harm must be attributable to one of the following;

a) the care given to the child, or likely to be given if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give, or

b) the child being beyond parental control

The court will apply a welfare test and only make the order if it is better for the child than not making it.  It give the Local Authority Parental Responsibility and the ability to implement a care plan for the child.  A Care Order lasts until the child turns 18 years of age unless discharged by the court at an earlier date.

Interim Care Order (ICO) - a temporary version of the above designed to place the child in the care of the Local Authority during the course of care proceedings, before the court has made a final decision about their future.  Increasingly only made where there is an immediate high risk, such as risk of serious injury, that cannot wait until the final hearing.  Where the circumstances are chronic or long term, such as neglect cases it is unlikely that an Interim Care Order will be made.

Supervision Order - an order made in care proceedings that allows the Local Authority to advise, assist and befriend a child.  Usually made when a child remains at home with a parent but can be made alongside other orders such as SGOs (see below).  It requires the same threshold criteria a a Care Order.  It does not give the Local Authority Parental Responsibility.  Conditions can be attached requiring actions from parents.  Supervision Orders usually las a year but can be extended to a maximum of three years on further application to court.  The Local Authority may commence further care proceedings without having to prove the Threshold Criteria while a Supervision Order is in force - therefore if the parent does not maintain good enough care of the child under the Supervision Order the local authority can fast track an application for a Care Order.

Emergency Protection Order (EPO) - can be applied for at short notice where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child is likely to suffer significant harm if not removed to accommodation provided by the applicant (the Local Authority).  It is not widely used and lasts for up to 8 days.

Police Powers of Protection (aka Police Protection) - often wrongly referred to a Police Protection Order or PPO.  It is not a court order, but rather an inherent power of the police to protect children from harm by removing them to suitable accommodation.  It should only be used in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to apply for a court order.  It lasts for a maximum of 72 hours.

Section 20 (s20) - an arrangement where the Local Authority accommodates a child with the parents agreement.  No court order required.  Sometimes used in care proceedings as an alternative to an ICO, particularly if the child is placed with a relative with the parents agreement.  Section 20 should not be used as a way of managing risk for any length of time without starting care proceedings. 

Placement Order - made in care proceedings where the care plan is Adoption.  It allows the Local Authority to place the child with prospective adopters.  It allows the Local Authority to completely restrict the birth parents' ability to exercise their Parental Responsibility.  It gives Parental Responsibility to prospective adopters before an adoption order is made.

Adoption Order - establishes a permanent relationship between the adopters and the child.  They are legally recognised as the parents of the child as though they were the birth parents.  The child has the same rights as a birth child of that family.  It removes Parental Responsibility from birth parents, and anyone else, including the Local Authority.

Special Guardianship Order (SGO) - this was brought in during 2005 to provide greater permanence than remaining in care, but without severing the links with birth families to the extent adoption does.  It was designed for mainly older children who would benefit from a secure, permanent relationship with their carer but would not want to sever the ties to their birth parents.  It gives the carer Parental Responsibility and enables them to exercise it to the exclusion of others.  They can make all decisions without consulting with parents and can restrict the parents' use of PR.  It is now widely used following care proceedings to support placements with relatives.