When it is considered to be ‘likely’ (which, in law, means that there is a real possibility) that a child will suffer ‘significant harm’, the court may make a care order to protect the child’s welfare.
What constitutes significant harm will be specific to the facts in each case, although the word ‘harm’ is defined in statute law.
Recently, a couple opposed to a care order being made over their child argued their case all the way to the Supreme Court. Their local council had applied for a care order over their daughter with a view to her being placed for adoption.
The girl had been in care since birth because her parents’ mental health made it unlikely that they would be able to provide appropriate physical and emotional care for her.
Although they were found to have a loving relationship with their daughter and had not caused her any harm, the Court decided that the local authority’s care plan must be enforced.
The Court recognised that placing a child for adoption against the parents’ wishes is a ‘last resort’, but the very real risk that the child would suffer emotional impairment if she remained in their care made the order necessary.