Advice For You

Child Care Glossary of Terms

Legal words can often be confusing and difficult to understand.

We have collected the main ones you are likely to come across and will try to simplify the meanings as much we can.

Glossary of Terms


When a person takes or sends a child out of England or Wales without the permission of those with Parental Responsibility or permission from the court.

Absent parent

The parent who is not living in the same household as the child

Accommodated children

Parents may agree to having their child removed or ‘accommodated' by Children's Services under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, while an investigation and assessment is carried out.


A legal process by which a child becomes a permanent and full member of a new family. The biological parents lose Parental Responsibility and the new parents obtain Parental Responsibility for the child.


The role of an advocate is to make sure a young person can make their wishes and feelings known, attend decision making meetings on behalf of, or with the young person, provide unbiased information to the young person, support the young person, make sure that the young person's legal rights are upheld and that they are fairly treated, and help the young person to make a complaint if they wish to do so.


This is short for “Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service”. They are an organisation who provide specialist social workers who are experienced at dealing with family problems. They carry out safeguarding checks and can prepare a report dealing with the best interests of the child(ren) involved in court proceedings.

Case Management Hearing

The Case Management is a court hearing where directions will be set as to how the case will progress. The Court gives detailed case management directions, including identifying the key issues, identifying the evidence necessary to enable the court to resolve the key issues and deciding whether there is a real issue about threshold to be resolved

Care Order

Where a child is at risk of significant harm and a parent cannot meet the child's needs, the Local Authority can apply for a Care Order to acquire Parental Responsibility for the child. An interim Care Order can be made to place the child in Local Authority care whilst other investigations are made.

Care orders last until either the child’s 18th birthday, an order is made giving parental responsibility to another person - eg through adoption or special guardianship or the court lifts the order (this is called ‘discharging’ the order). A child can only be taken into care if they are under 18.

Child Arrangements Order

An order to decide who a child is to live with, and who the child should have contact with/spend time with and when this should occur. This replaces orders previously known as 'Contact' and 'Residence' orders.

Child Arrangements Order Allowance

A person who is named in a Child Arrangements Order can ask the Local Authority to provide financial support through a Child Arrangements Order allowance. You should check your Local Authority policy on Child Arrangements Order allowances for further details.

Child in Need

Under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, Local Authorities have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area if they are in need. A child is in need when they are disabled or they are unlikely to achieve a reasonable standard of health or development or if a child's health or development is likely to be significantly impaired if services are not offered to him or her.

Child Protection

The actions and measures taken to protect a child from abuse or ill-treatment.

Child Protection Case Conference

A conference used to establish whether the child should be subject to a “child protection plan” and to decide whether future action is required to safeguard and promote the child's welfare. It should include relevant family members, the child (where appropriate) and supporters, advocates and relevant professionals.

Child Protection Plan

For all those children who have been identified at a Child Protection Conference as being at a continuing risk of significant harm, a Child Protection Plan will be created. This is a plan setting out what steps and provisions are needed to safeguard a child’s welfare and minimize all risks of harm to a child.

Children's Services

The body responsible for carrying out the child protection functions of the Local Authority, used to be known as Social Services.

Clare's Law

Also known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. An individual has a right to ask the police whether a current partner represents a risk of violence.

Common Assessment Framework

This is a standardised framework for practitioners to use to assess a child's needs to determine if any additional support should be put in place to meet these needs. Parental involvement is encouraged and parent's consent should be obtained before an assessment is carried out.

Contact centre

A child contact centre is a safe environment where children of separated families can spend time with one or both parents and sometimes other family members. If there are concerns about the non-resident parent having unsupervised contact with a child, contact centres can be used for supported contact, supervised contact, escorted contact and in some circumstances handover.

Contact order

A legally binding order requiring the resident party/parent to make the child available for contact with the person named in the order.

Contempt of court

The offence of (1) disobeying a court order, (2) abusing a judge during a hearing, or (3) interfering in the administration of justice.


Discharge (of an order): A person can apply to have an order discharged so that it is no longer in force.

Disclosure of the child’s whereabouts

A person can make an application to ask the court to make an order allowing steps to be taken to locate a child’s whereabouts. The court will contact Police and Children’s Services to take steps to trace the child and this will be disclosed to the applicant if in the child’s best interests.

Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme (DVPP)

A programme aimed to help people who have been abusive to their current or ex-partners to change their behaviour and develop respectful relationships. The court can order that a party attend this course as part of an Activity Direction in a private law case about contact and residence arrangements. In this situation there is no cost and the service is provided through CAFCASS.

Domestic Violence Protection Notice

The police can issue this notice to protect a person from immediate violence or threatened violence.

Domestic Violence Protection Order

The Magistrates Court can turn a Domestic Violence Protection Notice into an order lasting between 14-28 days.

Emergency Protection Order

A short term order to remove a child from immediate risk of harm and allow the Local Authority to investigate. It lasts 8 days and can be extended for a further 7 days. The holder of this order would temporarily get Parental Responsibility for the child.

Exclusion order

An order Children's Services can apply to the courts for, to have a person removed from the family home for a child's safety if there is an interim Care Order or Emergency Protection Order.

Family Group Conference

A formal meeting between family members and other officials such as social workers and police in regards to the care and protection of a child.


Sending documents to the court.

Final Hearing

The Final Hearing is the last hearing in the case. If an agreement cannot be reached, a Judge may need to make a decision in your case. This will involve hearing evidence from the parties and sometimes the Cafcass officer, the Judge will then make a decision based on what they consider to be in the child(ren)'s best interests.


When the care provided to a child is provided by someone who is not related to the  child legally or by blood.

Guardian (also called a Children’s Guardian)

A Guardian can be appointed in court proceedings to act on behalf of the child who is the subject of the proceedings. A Guardian is usually a Cafcass officer who is appointed to ascertain the child's views and to conduct proceedings on the child's behalf. The court will only appoint a Guardian in particular circumstances, for example, when parents cannot represent the child's wishes, a report is insufficient or a child opposes a proposed course of action. A Guardian may also be appointed if there are serious allegations of harm.

Independent Reviewing Officer

A person employed by children's services who chairs reviews for children living in care and duty is to ensure that the care plan meets the child's needs.


A court order which forbids or requires a specified person to do something.

Interim care Order

At the start of care proceedings, the council asks the family court to make a temporary court order, called an ‘interim care order’. This is the Order which is different from the care plan.

Interim contact

Temporary arrangements for contact issued during proceedings before a final decision is made.

Issues Resolution Hearing

The purpose of this hearing is to see if the care proceedings finished early by agreement. If this is not possible, the purpose is to decide on and narrow the issues to be decided at a final hearing. Court identifies the key issue(s) (if any) to be determined and the extent to which those issues can be resolved or narrowed at the IRH


Decision issued by a court in legal proceedings.

Kinship care

Kinship care is an arrangement where a child who cannot be cared for by their parents goes to live with a relative or a family friend.


Local Authority Designated Officer who investigates allegations against staff members of the local authority.

Legal Aid

A form of funding from the government for legal representation. This is means tested in most areas, with the exception of when a child is subject to care proceedings, where legal aid is available to a parent regardless of a person's income.

Litigant in person

An individual who represents himself in court without legal representation.

Litigation friend

A person appointed by the court to make decisions about a court case on behalf of somebody who lacks capacity. This may be for an adult who lacks litigation capacity or for a child.

Local Authority

Overall Administrative Body for your geographic area.

Looked After Children (LAC or CLA)

Children in Local Authority care who are provided with somewhere to live by Children's Services. Parents can either agree to this, or a court can order children to be 'looked after'.

Non-Molestation Order

An order preventing a person from harming you or your child through violent, pestering, harassing or threatening behaviour. Breach of a Non-Molestation Order is an arrestable offence with a maximum 5 year prison sentence.

Occupation Order

An order for victims of domestic violence stating who can live in the family home and directing that another person leave the home.

Parental Responsibility

All mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent which is  known as ‘parental responsibility’. If you have parental responsibility, your most important roles are to provide a home for the child and to protect and maintain the child. You’re also responsible for making important decisions such as choosing and providing for the child’s education, agreeing to the child’s medical treatment, naming the child and agreeing to any change of name and looking after the child’s property.

Parental Responsibility Agreement

A Parental Responsibility Agreement is an agreement made between the mother and the unmarried father to allow him to have parental responsibility. It can also be entered into by a step-parent and by same-sex couples.

Parental Responsibility Order

An Order granted by the Court which in effect gives a parent parental responsibility.

Parenting plan

A written or online agreement between parents recording how you will share the care of your child now and in the future. It is not a legally binding agreement.

Party is a legal term for anyone directly involved in the case. They can be the person who filed (or petitioned) for divorce (also known as the applicant or petitioner) or the person who received the petition (known as the respondent).

Placement Order

The court can make an order under section 21 Adoption and Children Act 2002 authorising a local authority to place a looked after child for adoption with any prospective adopters chosen by the local authority. Parental responsibility is shared between the local authority and the birth parents and the prospective adopters if the child is living with them.

Pre-Proceedings Meeting

This meeting is a final attempt in preventing the matter going to court. Parents will receive a formal letter at first which will outline the concerns that children’s services have and what has been done so far to try and mitigate those concerns. The letter will invite the parents to attend the pre-proceedings meeting and this must take place within seven days of the letter being received.

The meeting will be attended by the parents, Children’s Services and legal representative on both sides. It will be made clear to the parents what is expected of them to avoid the matter going to court.

Prohibited Steps Order

An Order to prevent a parent from carrying out a certain action, i.e. to prevent a parent from taking a child abroad or from removing a child from the care and control of one parent or a third party such as a school.

Public Law Outline (PLO)

This sets out streamlined case management procedures for dealing with public law children's cases. It requires all care, supervision and certain other types of proceedings to be completed within a maximum of 26 weeks.

Pupil Referral Unit (PRU)

A centre which provides education for children who are unable to attend school.

Residence Order

An order stating where and with whom a child shall live. Any order made after 22 April 2014 will be a Child Arrangements Order.


The respondent is the person who has to respond to an application being brought by the applicant.

Sarah's Law

A law giving an individual the right to ask the police to check whether a person having contact with children poses a risk to the children.

Section 37 Report

In private family law proceedings a court can direct the Local Authority to investigate a child's circumstances where there are welfare concerns and a Care or Supervision Order may be appropriate.

Section 47 Enquiry

A comprehensive child protection investigation carried out by Children’s Services. The assessment will look at the child's developmental needs, relevant family and environmental factors and the parenting capacity of the main carers for the child.

Section 7 Report

In private family law proceedings a court can ask the Local Authority and/or a CAFCASS officer to produce a report on the child's welfare.

Section 8 Order

Orders under section 8 of the Children Act 1989. These are a Child Arrangements Order,  Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order.

Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)

Every school must have a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator. Their role is to ensure that all special needs provisions are met at the school and to ensure additional SEN support is provided to those who require extra support.

Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP)

A programme designed to help parents learn more about the challenges of post-separation parenting, including the effects on children of ongoing conflict.

For the process of delivering court documents, generally by post, but sometimes ‘in person’. Often the court will direct that certain documents must be served (sent) to specific parties and filed (sent) with the court. If Cafcass are involved, they will also need copies of any documents that are served

Special Guardianship Order

Special Guardianship is a Court order that places a child or a young person to live with someone other than their parents. The Special Guardian will get higher parental responsibility than other persons with parental responsibility for the child.

Special Guardianship Allowance

A special guardian may be entitled to a special guardianship allowance provided by the Local Authority to contribute towards special care or help with accommodation and maintenance costs. Where a special guardianship allowance is being agreed it is advisable to obtain legal advice from a solicitor and to consult the local authority policy.

Specific Issue Order

An order deciding a specific question which has arisen, in relation to any aspect of parental responsibility for a child. For example an order seeking permission to change a child's surname.

Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN)

A Statement of Special Educational Needs is a legally binding document that details a child's special educational needs and the help that they should be provided with. These have now been replaced with Education, Health and Care Plans

Supervised contact

Contact that takes place between a parent and a child where another person is present to oversee this contact.

Supervision Order

Where a child is at risk of significant harm, a Supervision Order can be made for the Local Authority to advise, assist and befriend the child. The Local Authority will not acquire Parental Responsibility for the child. Local Authority are granted the power to monitor the child’s needs whilst the child lives at home or elsewhere


threshold criteria’ are the facts that a local authority have to prove if they want the court to make a care order or a supervision order. If the facts are not found, the threshold is not crossed and the Judge cannot make any public law orders.


A formal and legally binding promise to the court to do or not do something e.g. not to visit or be within 100 metres of another person's house.


A person can apply to have an order varied where the person wishes to change the contents of an order, for example, they may wish to vary a Child Arrangements Order so that contact is supervised instead of unsupervised or to change who is to be the resident parent.


The High Court has an inherent jurisdiction to make a child a ward of court where it believes the child is at risk and needs a level of protection not provided by those with parental responsibility. If a child is made a ward of the court the court will have responsibility over the child and no key decisions can be made without the court’s permission. The application is made using form C66.

Welfare Checklist

A checklist all Judges must have regard to when deciding to make a Section 8 Order under the Children Act 1989.