Child protection in Scotland Care proceedings

Unless the level of risk requires the courts to get involved immediately, care proceedings will only start after extensive efforts to keep the child with their family. If it is decided that a child needs to be taken into care, a legal order can be made.

In Scotland there are two different ways a local authority can ask to take a child into care:

  • if the child is in immediate danger the local authority can ask a sheriff court to grant a child protection order (CPO)
  • otherwise the local authority can refer the case to a children's reporter. The reporter will decide if it's necessary to refer a child to a children's hearing for compulsory measures of supervision.

A child can be subject to an order from the children's hearing and an order from the sheriff court at the same time.

In all cases, if a child is old enough they should be given the opportunity to give their views.

A child's social worker will make a child plan, sometimes referred to as a care plan, setting out how they think the child should be cared for.

Care plans

Before a child is taken into care the local authority will produce a plan for the future care of the child. The parents and the child should be involved in developing the care plan (also known as a child plan in Scotland).

The plan should show how the child’s needs would be met in care, including their health, education and contact with family members.

Legal definitions for the 4 nations:

The children's hearing will make a decision about the care of the child based on the child's protection, guidance, treatment or control needs:

At the children’s hearing, the court will decide whether a compulsory supervision order is needed for the child’s protection, guidance, treatment or control.  Under a supervision order a child can either live away from home, in foster or residential care; or continue living at home under the supervision of the local authority.

Once a supervision order has been made the child plan will be carried out, regardless of where the child is living.

A compulsory supervision order lasts for one year unless the hearing decides it should be reviewed earlier than this. After three months a parent or a child can ask for the children’s hearing to review the supervision order. A social worker can ask for a review at any time.

If the local authority believes it would not be safe to return a child home, the court can make a permanence order. These orders remove parental responsibility from parents and give it to the local authority.

If adoption is not seen as the way forward the local authority can then delegate parental responsibility to the child’s foster carers; whilst it remains the legal parent of the child.

If adoption is seen as the best option, the local authority can apply for a permanence order with authority to adopt.  This means the local authority can place a child with prospective adoptive parents without the birth parent’s consent. 

Parental responsibility

Parental responsibility is a set of legal rights and responsibilities, including making sure a child has somewhere to live, is looked after, and kept safe.

Parental responsibility gives the right to make important decisions about a child's life like:

  • who looks after them
  • where they live
  • how they are educated.

Legal definitions for the 4 nations:

Once a permanence order has been made, prospective adopters can apply to the court for an adoption order.  Once an adoption order is granted parental responsibility is transferred to the adoptive parents.

Under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 local authorities have a duty to assess the needs of care-leavers in order to provide advice, guidance or assistance to them until the age of 21.

See our children in care pages for more information.

Legal definitions:

Children in care

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