Looked after children

‘Looked after children’ means children under the age of 18 who are being cared for by the local authority, or by someone other than their parents. This includes children who are being cared for by relatives, foster carers and residential children’s homes. 

How do children become 'looked after'?

Many children who come into care will have a history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Some may have suffered the death of a parent, or have parents who can’t look after them properly because of illness.

Children usually come into our care by one of two routes: 

  • because the parents have asked for this help: where parents have asked for our help, because for some reason their child can no longer stay at home, we will find suitable accommodation for the child. Parental responsibility stays with the parent or guardian. 
  • because the child is at risk of harm: if the child is in danger of being harmed, the court will make a care order. The court will take all the circumstances into careful consideration before doing this. Where a care order is made, the council takes on parental responsibility, and becomes a legal parent alongside the child’s parent or guardian.

What happens when a child is taken into care?

We will assess the child and their circumstances, and will agree care arrangements with the child (if the child can understand) and their family. These arrangements can include a plan for the process of returning the child to the family home.

Care arrangements are set out in two documents:

  • a care plan: this describes how the child’s health, education and welfare will be supported, along with how to maintain contact with family and friends.
  • a placement agreement: this covers living arrangements, including travel, and any restrictions that might be placed on the child.

Where can I get advice?

If you are the parent of a looked after child, you can find information and advice on the Citizens Advice website (external website) and GOV.UK (external website)

Guide for a child/young person who are looked after (PDF, 145KB)