Requests to Remove a Child/Young Person from Care


This chapter focuses on removing a child/young person/young person from care.


This chapter was updated in March 2023 and should be re-read in full.

1. Accommodated Children/Young People

Authority to remove a Child/Young Person

The basis and procedure for a Local Authority to cease caring for a child / young person varies according to the child/young person's age, and whether or not there is a Child Arrangements Order in force in respect of the child/young person.

Young people aged 16 or over may remain accommodated if they so wish despite a request for their return by their parent (see Children Act 1989).

The following persons may remove a child/young person from accommodation without notice:

  • A person with a Child Arrangement Order in their favour (provided that any other person who has a Child Arrangement Order in their favour agrees); or
  • Where there is no Child Arrangement Order in force, any person with Parental Responsibility (regardless of the wishes of any other person with Parental Responsibility).

A parent who does not have Parental Responsibility may request the child/young person's return to their care. They may not remove the child/young person, however, there is an obligation to consider their request. The child/young person should return to their care if:

  • No person with Parental Responsibility objects; and
  • The arrangements are practical and appear consistent with the child/young person's welfare.

Response to a request to remove a Child/Young Person from Accommodation

If the allocated or a duty Social Worker is faced with an unplanned request to remove a child/young person from accommodation that has been provided under S20 they  must:

  • Confirm that the person does have Parental Responsibility;
  • Establish from the case record who else (if anyone) also has Parental Responsibility and what the agreed Care Plan is;
  • Consult parents, and others who have Parental Responsibility (and in particular anyone who holds a Child/young person Arrangement Order) about the proposal;
  • Seek the views of the child/young person (and attribute a weighting to them according to their level of understanding and age);
  • Discuss with the person seeking the child/young person's removal the immediate and longer term consequences of such an event;
  • On the basis of the above actions determine if there is any reason to suspect that the child/young person would be at risk of significant harm if removed - if so consider appropriate child/young person protection action;
  • Seek to make an agreement about future social work support;
  • Make a recommendation to the Team Manager or in their absence to the relevant Service Manager;
  • Make the practical arrangements to end the placement as positively as possible.
Wherever possible, unplanned endings for placements should be avoided. Where such a move is anticipated or has occurred abruptly consideration must be given to convening a planning meeting or a Child Looked After (CLA) review.

2. Children/Young People in Care

Legal Position

A Local Authority is entitled (when it is satisfied that it is in the interests of the child/young person to do so) to determine the extent to which parents who have Parental Responsibility may exercise that responsibility.

The Local Authority may only allow a child/young person to live with a parent or other person who has parental responsibility if certain criteria are met.

Under s49 of the  Children Act (1989) a person shall be guilty of an offence if, knowingly and without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, they:

  • Take a child/young person to whom this section applies away from the responsible person;
  • Keep such a child/young person away from the responsible person; or
  • Induces, assists or incites such a child/young person to run away or stay away from the responsible person.

This section applies in relation to a child/young person who is:

  • In care;
  • The subject of an Emergency Protection Order; or
  • The subject of Police protection.

The responsible person means any person who for the time being has care of them by virtue of the Care Order, the Emergency Protection Order, or s46 as the case may be.

Requests to remove a Child/Young Person from Care

The allocated or duty Social Worker who receives a request from a parent or other person who has parental responsibility to remove and take on or resume the care of a child/young person must:

  • Inform the person that such a decision is normally made at a review meeting at which all relevant wishes and feelings, including those of the child/young person, are taken into account;
  • Draw the person's attention to the existing Care Plan which should clarify the current intentions with regard to a return home;
  • Remind the person that, unless a Court has indicated otherwise, or less than six months have elapsed since their last challenge (when they would need to seek leave to do so), then they are entitled to seek a revocation of the Care Order.

Refuse the Request

If the child/young person is removed without the consent of the Local Authority, it may be appropriate to apply to Court for a Recovery Order and the Social Worker should discuss the need for this with their Team/Service Manager and seek advice from CLU.

Unplanned removal of a Child/Young Person

Where any child/young person is removed from the responsible person (foster carer, residential unit or other responsible person) the Social Worker must be notified without delay.

The Social Worker must consult with their Team Manager and draw up a strategy to seek the return of the child/young person. This may involve negotiations with the Police, CLU and the relevant Head of Service and consideration being given to seeking a Recovery Order.

In any event the Police and other appropriate authorities must be notified without delay in line with the normal procedures for reporting a child/young person in care as missing (see Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures Manual, Children Who Go Missing from Home or Care, or Who are Vulnerable to Sexual Exploitation Procedure).

When the removal occurs outside of office hours the Out of Hours Social Worker must be notified without delay.

The parent and/or carer must be notified as soon as possible.

An emergency meeting must be held within 8 working days to include parents (if appropriate), Social Worker, carers and the Police.

Where there are grounds to fear for the safety of the child/young person a Recovery Order must be considered.

Where a child/young person is missing for 7 days a report must be prepared for the Operations Director detailing the circumstances of the removal and the steps taken to try and secure the return of the child/young person. The Operations Director will consider what further steps may be taken, including notifying other authorities and the use of publicity.

A further update report will be required 2 weeks later and again after a further 4 weeks.

A decision will be taken by the Operations Director about any further reporting requirements.

Where the child/young person is subject to a child/young person protection plan all members of the core group need to be updated and asked for any information they have about child/young person/ren's possible whereabouts - and anything learnt should be passed to the Police.

All relevant other Local Authorities must be notified.

It may be helpful to bring forward the review child protection conference so as to update all agencies and to revise the protection plan (in this case, the Police officer in the case should be asked to attend).

Where the child/young person is in care as a result of abuse or there are grounds for believing the child/young person is at risk of significant harm, consideration must be given to convening a child protection conference (See Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Child Protection Procedures, Child Protection Conferences Procedure).