Child protection measures
Child protection register
In Wales the child protection register (CPR) is a confidential list of all children in the local area who have been identified as being at risk of abuse, neglect or harm under one or more of the following categories:
- physical abuse
- emotional or psychological abuse
- sexual abuse
- financial abuse
The CPR allows authorised individuals to check if a child they are working with is known to be at risk.
If a child is added to the CPR the practitioners working with them have a duty to inform the child’s social worker if there are any significant events or changes to the child’s circumstances.
The child must also have a child protection plan, which sets out what action needs to be taken by whom and when, in order to safeguard the child and promote their welfare.
If the local authority believes that a child is at risk of significant harm they may take the child into care to keep them safe.
Unless the level of risk requires the courts to get involved immediately, extensive efforts will be made to keep the child with their family.
A child can be taken into care voluntarily or under a care order.
A child may be taken into care voluntarily through Section 76 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.
A local authority must provide accommodation for children who do not have anywhere suitable to live. This includes children who have nobody to look after them or whose parents are unable to look after them for a period of time, due to illness or other problems.
Under Section 76 a parent retains all their legal rights and can require the child’s return at any stage.
Going to court
Care proceedings are usually held in the Family Court and more complex cases may be held in the High Court.
The court will make sure the child has a children's guardian. The guardian's job is to look after the child’s interests. If the child is judged to be mature enough they will also be allowed to appoint their own solicitor to represent their wishes.
The child's social worker will make a care plan to help the court decide how the child should be cared for.
If the courts agree that it's necessary, they can make an order giving the local authority parental responsibility for a child.
Interim care order
After the initial hearing the court may decide that an interim care order is needed to set out what should happen to the child during proceedings.
This is awarded for eight weeks initially and must be renewed every four weeks, allowing for investigation and further plans to be made. The social worker and an officer from the Children and Family Court advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) among others will try to understand why the child might be at risk and what can be done to keep them safe.
The social worker and Cafcass officer will then produce reports on what they think should happen to the child, after consulting with the parents, child and family and friends.
This will include whether they think the child should be taken into care or stay with the family.
The court will only make a full care order if they are convinced:
- the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm
- making an order would be better for the child than making no order
and that harm is due to either:
- the care the child is receiving or likely to receive if the care order isn’t made; or
- the child is beyond parental control.
A care order gives the local authority shared parental responsibility with the parents, but the local authority has the power to decide how much involvement a parent should have with their child.
Once a care order has been made, the child’s care plan will be carried out.
This allows a child to be placed with prospective adopters prior to an adoption order, should the local authority believe this is the best option for the child.
This transfers parental responsibility to the adoptive parents. It’s only made by a court following extensive enquiries, based on the best interest of the child.
At the point of adoption the care order ends and the adoptive parents take over the sole parental responsibility.
Care order duration
Unless an adoption order is made or the child returns home, care orders last until the child turns 18. Local authorities have a duty to continue to promote the welfare of care-leavers until the age of 21.