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Looked after children (children in care)

What does “looked after children” mean?

The term “Looked After” was introduced by the Children Act 1989 and refers to children and young people:

  • under the age of 18
  • who live away from their parents or family
  • are supervised by a social worker from the local council children’s services department. 

A looked after child may either be accommodated (which means that the council is looking after them with the agreement, at the request or in the absence of their parents) or subject to a Care Order made by the Family Courts.

A child or young person can be subject to different legal rules either:

  • the parent retains full parental responsibility, or
  • alternatively, if a child is subject to a Care order, parental responsibility is shared between the council and the parents.

On this page you will find some useful information on Looked after children (children in care), including details of services available, related guidance pages and quick links to helpful websites.

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