Children in care and care leavers

Understanding the words we use

We've included below a list of words and terms that social workers and other professionals use. For each, we've explained what they mean. 

If you see words on the website that you don't understand, we may have included them in the list. To show the list, just click on the arrow on each tab below.

If there's anything you don't understand that's not explained below, just ask your social worker.

 A - C

Accommodated This means you're looked after and have been given somewhere to live by the council because you or your parents asked for us to help.
Adoption order The legal document issued by a court if you get adopted.
Assessment Your social worker will find out about you and your life to work out what you need while you're in care. This assessment will help them to write your care plan, which says how we'll meet your needs.
CAFCASS Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. This is an organisation that can help you if you have a serious complaint to make.
CAMHS Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services. If you have mental health problems you may go regularly to see someone from CAMHS. They'll try to help you get better.
Care order This is a legal document which a court issues if you become looked after. It says the local authority has parental responsibility for you.
Care plan All looked after children have a care plan. This is the document your social worker writes which has all the information about you, your placement and the plans for your future. It should be updated regularly as you and your needs change.
Case review This is the meeting led by your Independent Reviewing Officer. It looks at your care plan to make sure it's being followed by everyone involved with your welfare. It also checks whether any changes need to be made to it.
Child protection plan This is a plan about what to do when a the child is at risk of serious harm (for example, being abused by someone in their home). It looks at what the danger is and says what needs to be done to keep the child safe.
Children’s home This is a safe place where young people (mostly teenagers) live together.
Corporate parent When you go into care, we become your ‘corporate parent’. This means that we have a responsibility to help you as you grow so that you're healthy and happy, just like a parent should.

D - E

Delegated authority

Delegated authority is the process that enables foster carers to make common sense, everyday decisions about the children and young people they care for, such as allowing them to go to friends' houses for sleepovers, signing consent forms for school trips and even arranging haircuts. Holders of parental responsibility can delegate authority to foster carers to undertake such tasks and decisions.

Foster carers never have parental responsibility for a fostered child, so they can only take decisions about the fostered child where that authority has been delegated to them by the local authority and/or the parents. Clarifying who is best placed to take everyday decisions depends on many factors: the young person’s age, views, legal status and care plan, the parents’ views and the experience and views of the foster carers. Collaboration and consultation are essential for successful working partnerships.

Discharging the order This is a legal term which is used if a court says your care order can end and you can go home.
Emergency protection order This is a legal document from a court which gives the local authority parental responsibility for you in an emergency. It can only last for 15 days while people work out what’s best for you.

H - I

Health assessment When you become looked after, you'll be seen by a doctor who will check your health and write a report.

Health plan

After your first health assessment when you become looked after, a health plan will be written for you and will be included in your care plan, to help keep you well.

L - M

Local authority

This is the organisation (local council) which manages the services for the area where you live. It's like a mini-government, with elected politicians and paid staff including social workers, people who empty the bins and sweep the roads and so on.  It chooses the people in your area who are foster carers and gives them training and help to look after you properly.

N - O

Out of authority placement This is when you're placed in a foster home, a children's home, or a residential school that's not in your area.  Some local authorities don’t have enough placements for all the looked after children in that area. When they run out of places, they place children with foster carers or in children’s homes in other areas.  The government is trying to help councils to create more placements so that children don’t need to leave the area they're used to (unless it is safer for them to go to live in a different area, for example to get away from an abusive parent).

P - Q

Pathway plan This is a plan saying what will happen when you leave care.
Permanence plan This is a long-term plan to help find somewhere that you feel like you belong, and are happy and safe.
Personal education plan (PEP) This is a plan for making sure you get the most out of school while you're in care. It’s part of your care plan.


This is the place where you live while you’re looked after.

Placement plan

This is part of your care plan – it says why we think the particular placement you’re in is right for you.

R - S

Residence order

This is a legal document from a court which says who you should live with. That person will have parental responsibility for you. It will usually last until you're 16.


There'll be regular meetings, which you’ll be part of, to look at your care plan. This is to make sure it’s meeting your needs. These meetings are called ‘reviews’.

Short break

If you're disabled and go into a local authority placement for a short time to have a break from your family, it's a ‘short break’.

Special guardianship order

This is a court order which hands over responsibility for you from the local authority to a guardian. It's expected to last until you're 18. Your parents still have legal responsibility for you but your guardian will make most of the important decisions.
Subject to a care order but living at home This means you're on a care order and the local authority shares parental responsibility for you, but has decided you can live with your parents, with a lot of support from social workers.
Supervision order This is a court order which says you can live at home but with regular visits and checks from social care.

T - Z

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