Child in care dictionary A-M




A voluntary arrangement where the local authority cares for a young person.  This may be for a number of reasons, for example, if the parent or parents are ill or unable to cope, or if a young person arrives in the UK as an ‘unaccompanied minor seeking asylum’.  The arrangement can be stopped at any time by the natural parents and parental responsibility stays with them.  The voluntary arrangement for being looked after is sometimes called ‘section 20’.


A legal provcedure.  It is done through court and completely transfers parental responsibility from your birth parents to your new parents.


Someone who will talk or act on your behalf.


If you leave care or accommodation after your 16th Birthday, social services have to provide help and advice until you reach the age of 21, if you want it (or after 21, if you are in full-time higher education).

Assessment and action records:

These records are all about you.  We ask questions about you and the care you are receiving.


This is a term used when people are asking to start a new life in another country, because they are in danger in their home country.



When groups of people live, work or play together, sometimes someone gets picked on.  This can happen through words, by hitting or by social networking sites and texts.  It may be because the person is different in some way.  Sometimes there doesn’t have to be a reason.


Care Order:

This order is made if the court thinks that you are at risk of harm.  This means children’s services and your parents share resposibility for you.  Your social worker will try and work with your parents when making decisions.

Care Plan:

This sets out what you need, how you are going to be cared for, and why.  The plan should also say who is going to do what, and when they will do it.

Children Act:

The main act (law) for children and young people being looked after by the local authority.  It covers how you should be brought up and cared for.

Children in need:

A child or young person under the age of 18 who has a disability, or whose physical or emotional welfare is likely to be affected in a negative way if their need is not met, or if they do not receive some help or advice.

Children’s Legal Centre:

This is a national organisation which researches into the law affecting children and young people and the policies of children’s social services and others.

Children’s Rights Officer:

This officer helps to involve children in children’s services and acts as an advocate for young people.

Child protection officer:

The register is a list of children and young people who are believed to be at risk of possible harm or abuse.  The decision to place or remove a child’s name from the register is taken at a child protection case conference.

Children’s Services:

Used to be referred to as social services.  It provides services for children and young people.

Complaints Manager:

A worker who deals with complaints.  You can contact this person if you feel that something is wrong.


Keeping in touch with or seeing friends and members of your family.

Contact Order:

This order refers to who you can see while you are being looked after.  Your social worker should tell you who you can have contact with.  Contact can be made through visits, phone calls or letters.  The4 court may decide what contact you can have with members of your family.  Sometimes they may decide that you cannot see your family if they don’t feel it is safe.  Or, you may see your family only with someone from social services being there – this is called supervised contact.


If you feel sad, upset, or have other feelings you have difficulty coping with, it can help to talk about them.  A counsellor is someone who can help with these feelings.


Designated Teacher:

A teacher who has special resposibility for children in care.  This teacher is there to make sure that your rights and welfare are protected at school.  They have to make sure that you have a personal education plan (PEP).


When the police keep you in custody.  It usually results from criminal charges or being arrested.

Discretionary leave:

This is a ‘refugee status’ the Home Office will have given you if you are an unaccompanied minor.  It is for a period of up to three years to stay in the country if you are a refugee and would face serious risk to your life if you returned to your home country.  If you are granted discretionary leave you can, after three years, apply to stay in the UK indefinitely.  If you are confused about the asylum process, please speak to your solicitor or social worker, who will explain this to you.

Duty Social Worker:

A colleague of your social worker, who will be able to help you when your social worker is not available.  They will have access to your file to help you with any questions you have.



The law says that all children aged between five and 16 have to recieve full time education.  (a new law, also mean that young people must stay in education or training to the age of 17 by 2013 and 18 by 2015).  It is a young person’s right to receive an education.

Eligible child:

A 16 or 17 year old who is still in care and who has been in care for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 is entitled to a service from the Leaving Care team.


Family Group Conference:

A meeting with family members and professionals where the family decide on the best way to look after the young person.

Full Care Order (FCO):

See ‘care order’.  This arrangement for being looked after is sometimes called a ‘section 31’.


Guardian ad litem:

An independent social worker appointed by the court.  You will only have a guardian ad litem if someone asks the court to make some sort of decision about you.  For example, this may apply if social services ask the court to make a care order on you.  The guardian ad litem will investigate your situation and write a report for the court.


Home Office:

A government organisation that decides whether asylum seekers can or cannot stay in the UK.

Humanitarian leave:

This is a ‘refugee status’ given to you by the Home Office if you are an unaccompanied minor.  It is for a period of up to three years, or until your 18th birthday, for you to stay in the country if you do not have a refugee case but still need protection as a minor.  If you feel you have a case to stay in the UK, you can apply to extend the discretionary leave beyond your 18th birthday.  If you remain on discretionary leave for six years, you can apply to stay in the UK indefinitely.  If you are confused about the asylum process, please speak to your solicitor or social worker who will explain this to you.


In care:

You are in care only if a court has granted a care order. This gives joint parental responsibility to the local authority and the young person’s parents and will stay in force until the young person is 18 unless it is withdrawn before then. (In care is often used to refer to all looked-after children and young people. However, since the Children Act (a law) was passed, the technically correct term is ‘looked after’.)

Independent living:

Living by yourself in your own place or with some support.

Independent reviewing officer:

A person who makes sure that everything is alright, talks to you before your review and takes charge of the review meeting.

Independent visitor:

An adult who volunteers to spend some free time regularly with a child or young person, becoming their friend and encouraging them in their interests and developing their identity. They will usually visit about three times a month, mostly in the evening, although some will visit during the day and at the weekend.

Interim care orders:

Are sometimes made when a social worker has applied for a care order, but people are still collecting information to help the court make a long-term decision.


If your first language is not English, interpreters explain things in your language, Pictorial exchange communication system, Signing, Braille or Teach.


Key worker:

A member of staff (usually in a children’s home or residential unit)who will work with you, your social worker, family, school and anyone else involved with you. They will be responsible for many areas of your life and will work with you in making plans for the future.


Learn2Live Team:

Used to be known as the Leaving Care Team, you will be supported by this team when you turn 16. They will support you until you are 21 or 24 if you go to university.

Legal representative:

If you want asylum, you may need to be represented by a solicitor. They will help you with your application and go with you to important legal meetings.

Looked after:

A child or a young person is ‘looked after’ when they are in local-authority care or receive accommodation from social services.



An adult who offers you support and guidance.



Kevin Donovan
Children’s Rights, Participation and Engagement Manager
The Vibe, 195-211 Becontree Avenue

Phone: 020 8227 3760