- You should be protected and looked after by your parents and your family
- Your rights mean that if this isn’t happening, you should be protected and cared for in some other way
- If you are looked after by someone else, you should still be able to have the same rights as every other child in Wales.
Although it is your right as a child in Wales not to be separated from your parents, and to be cared for by them, you also have a right to be protected from violence, abuse and neglect. Sometimes, a child or young person finds that their parents, or other people living in the same house as them don’t treat them properly. This could be because they aren’t looking after you the way they should, or because they are doing things that hurt you. If this happens to you, there are people and organisations who are there to protect you. This could be by helping your parents look after you better, or by asking someone else to look after you for a time.
In an emergency, a court may decide that it’s in your best interests for you to be looked after by someone else. Your rights should protect you throughout this process. Your views should be listened to and taken into account, and decisions should be made in your best interests - so that what happens is the best for you.
There are times when your parents may not be able to look after you, either for a short time or for longer. They can ask the local authority to help find somewhere safe for you to stay while this is happening. They might also make an arrangement with another family member or friends for you to live there. You can find out more about this in the section ‘My parents have asked someone else to look after me’
Sometimes, the local authority will be told by someone else that you are being hurt or neglected at home. A teacher could be worried about you, or a doctor. It could even be a relative, a neighbour or a friend. If the local authority thinks that you might be being hurt at home, they should investigate this and find out what is going on.
The local authority might ask a court to give it permission to look after you as part of this. It is your right to be cared for by your parents and not separated from them, so the local authority has to be sure that it would be better for you to be away from your parents. Your parents might agree that you live somewhere else for a short time while the local authority is investigating whether you should live somewhere else more permanently.
Occasionally, the court will agree that you are in so much danger that you should go and live somewhere else straight away, even before an investigation has happened.
Depending on the circumstances, if there is someone in your home who is hurting you, the court could make an ‘exclusion order’. This would mean that person would not be allowed into your home. The court would need to be sure that this would be the best way of keeping you safe.
When the Local Authority is deciding where you should stay, it has to make sure you can stay at school and carry on your education as normal. If there is an opportunity for you to live somewhere with another member of your family that would be the best for you overall, this might mean moving schools if that person lives further away. This is all part of the balancing act that has to be carried out, and your views will be taken into account in all this.
If you have brothers and sisters who are also going to be looked after, the local authority will look at whether you will be able to stay with them wherever you go to live.
This is a document that sets out how you will be looked after. You may already have one in place, in which case you should have a copy. If you haven’t got a care and support plan, the local authority has to work out what you need so that you can stay healthy and develop well while you are being looked after.
A care and support plan should normally be put together before you leave your parents. If this isn’t possible, it has to be in place within 10 days. Your care and support plan should be agreed with your parents and anyone else who has parental responsibility for you, or whoever was looking after you.
If you’re 16 or 17 and have asked the local authority to provide you with accommodation, you can agree your own care and support plan.
There are specific things that have to be in your care and support plan. It has to include a long term plan for you, and has to consider your development and education, your identity, your relationships with your family and other people and how all your needs will be met.
You should be given a copy of your care and support plan unless the local authority think you would be too young to understand it.
If it looks like you need to be looked after for a long time, the local authority should apply for a care order to make sure you have certainty and a clear plan in place.
If there is a care order in place, the local authority will share parental responsibility with your parents or the people that already had parental responsibility for you.
You should still be able to stay in touch with your parents – if you want to – unless it would be harmful for you. You may not be able to spend time alone with your parents, especially if they have hurt you - but you could see them in a safe place when someone else is there with you, or you could have contact through phone or email. Staying in touch with your parents (often called ‘contact’) is your right, and not your parent’s right. If you don’t want to see your parent, that decision should be respected.
You may stop being looked after because your parents are able to look after you again.
If you are 16 or 17 and coming up to the point where you are leaving care, special arrangements should be made to help you as you leave care. This could include an agreement that you can stay with your foster family after you are 18, until you feel ready to move on. Each local authority will have its own arrangements about how this will work in your area.
As you are getting ready to leave care, you should have a personal adviser who can give you practical advice and support and help you as you become more independent. Even if you aren’t being looked after when you are 16/17 years’ old, if you have been in care in the past, you may still get help and support as you turn 18.