'Looked After Children' is a term used to describe children and young people who are looked after by their Local Authority - children who are often described as 'in care'.
There are lots of reasons why children and young people become Looked After. Every case is different, sometimes parents are unable to care for their children or there may be a need for specialist services which cannot be provided within the home.
If a child cannot remain at home living with their parents they could be cared for by a relative/friend or Foster Carers or may need specialised services within a residential setting.
Children may only need to be Looked After for a short period of time and then return to their family, but sometimes the arrangement is more permanent.
To help decide what is the appropriate plan for the child and their family we will carry out an assessment of needs, which will include the views of the child the parents.
What is a care plan?
Each child who is Looked After will have a plan. We have a duty to draw up a plan in writing for a child whom we are proposing to become Looked After, this is called a care plan. Each care plan must be written in consultation with the child, parents and other important individuals and agencies in the child's life.
The care plan explains what we're going to do to support the child's needs in relation to contact arrangements, health, education, religion, culture and hobbies. A copy will be provided for the child, parents and foster carers so everyone is clear.
A care plan is reviewed on a regular basis consulting with the child, their parents and all the professionals involved in the care of the child to ensure that we continue to support the child's needs.
What is a social worker?
Every child or young person Looked After has an allocated worker; this may be a social worker, a senior practitioner or a children's services support worker.
- The social worker will work with the child and their family to achieve the care plan.
- He or she will visit the child regularly and provide their contact details so they are easily contactable.
- The social worker will ensure each child has a copy of the Looked After Children Information Pack.
- The social worker will listen to the child's wishes and feelings.
- The social worker will ensure that the child's needs are being met.
- The social worker will explain the care plan to the child and talk about what will happen in the future.
Family placement or fostering is where a young person is cared for by another family. Foster carers are all people who wish to care for children and young people. Before we agree to allow anyone to foster, very careful enquiries are made about them.
Our Fostering website provides more information about foster care.
Your rights as a child or young person
All children and young people have rights. With these rights come choices, as well as responsibilities. It is always someone's responsibility to help you keep safe and healthy.
If you wish to talk to someone about your rights, contact our Children's Rights Officer.
A care order automatically ends when you reach 18 years of age. You will not have to return to the court for this to happen. However, specialist services have to continue to offer you help, for example with finding somewhere to live, until you are 21 years old.
Our Leaving care page provides more information about what to expect when you leave care.