What Is CAFCASS And What Does It Do?
Posted on: August 18th, 2021
CAFCASS is the Children’s and Family Court Advisory and Support Service – the largest employer of qualified social workers in England. CAFCASS represents children in family court cases. It independently advises the family court on what is safe for children and what is in their best interests. CAFCASS is there to make sure the children’s voices are heard and it plays a key role in the family court setting.
A court will decide the potential position of CAFCASS in the trial at the first hearing. If there are no welfare concerns, a CAFCASS officer may still be involved to support the parties with reaching an agreement with as few court proceedings as possible.
If the parents are unable to reach an agreement because there are questions for the family’s welfare, the CAFCASS officer may be asked to carry out further work with the family and prepare a more comprehensive report on the welfare issues.
What is the Role of CAFCASS?
CAFCASS’ duty is to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are going through the family justice system. Those who work for CAFCASS are experienced family court advisors, and they may be asked by the courts themselves to work with families and then advise the court on what they consider to be in the best interests of the children involved in three specific areas. These areas are:
- Divorce and separation – these are sometimes called private law, where parents or carers can’t agree on arrangements for their children
- Care proceedings – sometimes called public law, where social services have serious concerns about the safety and welfare of the children involved
- Adoption – this can be private or public law
They also actively collaborate with partners to find ways to help minimise the increasing stresses on family courts, while improving the experiences and outcomes for children and families.
What is the Role of the Children’s Guardian?
In care proceedings, a Children’s Guardian from CAFCASS represents the rights and interests of the child involved. The Children’s Guardian spends time getting to know the child and their family before the hearing.
The Children’s Guardian can:
- Appoint a solicitor for the child
- Advise the court about what needs to be done before a decision is made
- Tell the court what they think would be best for the child, taking the child’s wishes and feelings into consideration
Typically, the Children’s Guardian will spend time with the child and their family. Before writing their report, they will notify the court if they have not seen the child. They may also speak with other people who are familiar with the family, such as teachers, social workers and health visitors.
They may also:
- Go to meetings about the child
- Check records and read the council’s case file
- Recommend to the court that other independent professionals help the court with advice. For example, they may involve a doctor or psychologist
Above everything, the main focus of CAFCASS is to provide the best possible care and environment for the child or children involved and ensure the best possible outcome for them.
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