Social Care Terms

Definitions of some commonly used terms:

Care OrderSection 31 of the Children Act 1989.  A care order places the child in the care of the local authority, with parental responsibility being shared between the parents and the local authority.  A care order can last until the child is 18 or an alternative order is made (e.g. adoption or special guardianship) or the court decides the order is no longer necessary.
Child in Care (or Looked After Child)

A child is in care of the local authority if he or she:

  • has been provided with accommodation for a continuous period of more than 24 hours;
  • is subject to a care order;
  • is subject to a placement order.
Corporate ParentThe local authority assumes the role of corporate parent for all children in care therefore it is the collective responsibility for all those employed by the local authority to provide the best possible care and safeguarding for all children in care. 
Interim Care OrderSection 31 of the Children Act 1989.  An interim care order places the child in the care of the local authority (for up to eight weeks in the first instance) and allows the court a period of time to decide whether or not a full order should be made.
Placement OrderThis court order allows a child to be placed for adoption even if the parents don't agree, if it considers this is the best for the child.
Special Guardianship OrderThis is a legal order which says that a child will live with someone who is not their parent on a long-term basis.  It gives the special guardian parental responsibility for the child.
Voluntary Accommodation  Section 20 of the Children Act 1989.  Parents retain parental responsibility with the local authority acting as "corporate parent".  The person with parental responsibility can remove the child from accommodation at any time.

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