Me and Being in Care
So I'm 'in care' - what does that mean?
The words in care mean that Bristol City Council has a say about who looks after you, where you live and what happens to you. It will mean that you will have a social worker and that you may be living away from home. There are over 700 children 'in care' or looked after in Bristol - so don't worry, you're not the only one.
Some children go into care when they are babies, some are a bit older and some people spend a short time in care before going back to live with their parents. It all depends on your situation. If you don't go home then you can be in care until you are 18 years old. When you are 18 you are an adult and you become a 'care leaver' which means help from Bristol City Council will continue until you are 21 or 25 if you go into full time education like University.
There are two different ways to come into care:
A care order - the court will have decided this.
Accommodated - your parents will have agreed to this
Care Order - decided by the court:
Sometimes Bristol City Council will be so concerned about your health and your safety that they will ask a court to make a decision about whether you should live away from home or not.
If the judge agrees with the concerns then you will be put on a 'Care Order' which means that Bristol City Council is now responsible for your safety, health and happiness.
If this happens your social worker will now be the person who has the final say on what is best for you - they will help you sort out where you are living, help you keep in contact with your family, decide which school you will go to and hopefully makes sure that you have a safe and happy childhood. It is your social worker's job to make the final decisions about your life BUT you should always be asked about what you think and you should always have a say about what happens to you.
If you don't feel that you have a say and that nobody listens to you then you could get in contact with an advocate. Read about 'Me and my Advocate'. Your review is YOUR meeting about what is happening in your life and it is a place where you have your chance to have your say.
Accommodated: an agreement with your parents
The second way that children and young people come into care is called 'being accommodated' and this is where your parents have agreed for you to be in care or have asked for this to happen. This can happen for a number of different reasons and it may be a short term or long term agreement with Bristol City Council.
Being accommodated seems the same as being in care - you may be in a foster placement, a residential home or a boarding school the same as children that are on a full care order. So what's the difference? Well....it's a legal difference and it's to do with something called 'parental responsibility'. When you are accommodated your parents still have the final say on things that happen to you - your social worker will have to get your parents' permission for a lot more things.
If you are unsure about whether you are on a full care order or accommodated then you should ask your foster carer, key worker or social worker. They will be able to tell you. Either way you still have the same rights – so you can have an advocate if you want one and Bristol City Council has made the same promises as laid out in the Pledge.