The local authority will start ‘care proceedings’ if they’re worried about a child and apply to a court for a ‘care order’. This means the local authority will have ‘parental responsibility’ for the child and can decide where they live.

If the child cannot be returned home safely after efforts have been made to support and help the family, the local authority can apply to the court for a ‘placement order’.  This means that the child will be adopted and the searching for a suitable adoptive family begins.

In order for the court to consider making a placement order, a social worker, an officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) and other people will look at why the child may be at risk and what can be done to keep them safe.

The social worker and Cafcass officer will each write a report for the court. These will outline what they think should happen to the child - whether they think the child should be taken into care or stay with the family. The judge will look at the reports, and listen to everyone involved in the case, including the child and their parents. The child will go back home if the judge decides that it is safe for them to do so. If not, the local authority will find them a new home. That may be with other members of their family, a children’s home, a foster carer or an adoptive family.

The final part of the adoption process is the ‘adoption order’.  This is given when the court agrees that a child can live permanently with their approved adopters, and can only be granted after a child has lived in their prospective adoptive placement for at least 10 weeks.