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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Child welfare during court proceedings (Cafcass officers)

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) looks after the welfare of children involved in family court proceedings. Cafcass officers are independent, qualified in social work and experienced in working with children and families. The roles carried out by Cafcass officers are listed below.

Children's Guardian

Children's Guardians represent the rights and interests of a child during cases where social services have become involved (public law proceedings) or in contested adoptions.

In particular they can:

  • appoint a solicitor who specialises in family law for the children
  • advise the court about what needs to be done before it can make a decision
  • write a report for the court saying what they think would be best for the children - this report must tell the court about the wishes and feelings of the children

To do their job, Children's Guardians spend time getting to know the children and members of their family.

Children and Family Reporter

Children and Family Reporters help families agree arrangements for their children. They will usually meet with the parents or adults to see if issues can be agreed without going to court (known as mediation). If no agreement can be reached the children and family reporter will write a report for the court. This report will explain what enquiries have been made and what they think is best for the children. Generally in these cases, Cafcass officers are the sole representatives of the child's best interests and source of independent advice to the courts.

A mediation service is not available for public law or adoption proceedings.

Officer in Adoption

The role of the Cafcass Officer in Adoption depends on whether parents agree to the adoption. If the parents agree, then the officer makes sure parents understand what adoption means for them and for the child and then writes a short report for the court. If a parent does not agree, or if there are special circumstances then a Children's Guardian will do an in-depth investigation and write a report to tell the court whether they think adoption is in the interests of the child.

Cafcass publications

Cafcass publishes packs to help children and young people understand the court process. These can be downloaded using the links below.

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