Children in Care

What is a Looked After Child

'Looked after children' (LAC) means children in public care, who are placed with foster carers, in residential homes or with parents or other relatives. 

Children become looked after when their parents are unable to provide ongoing care in either a temporary or permanent capacity.

Children can either be looked after as a result of a voluntary agreement by their parents or as the result of a care order made by a court. Children may be placed with family members, friends or foster carers depending on individual circumstances.

Wherever possible, the local authority will work in partnership with parents. Many children and young people who become looked after keep strong links with their families and many eventually return home. 

Definition of a Looked After Child

Children (under 18) may be 'looked after' by local authorities (e.g. Isle of Wight Council) under a number of legal arrangements:

Looked after children subject to some form of legal order:

  • All children who are subject to a care order (Children Act 1989, section 31), interim care order (Children Act 1989, section 38) or emergency protection order, where the local authority has parental responsibility for that child.
  • Children under a (criminal law) supervision order with a residence need to live in local authority accommodation.
  • Children who have appeared in court and have been bailed to reside where the local authority directs - and are being provided with a local authority funded placement.
  • Children who are remanded to the local authority where release on bail has not been granted.
  • Children under a court ordered secure remand and held in council accommodation.
  • Children who are subject to a secure accommodation order where the local authority is funding the cost of the secure placement. They are not looked after if the young person is in secure accommodation due to their offending, and the cost of the placement is funded by the home office.

Accommodated children:

  • Children voluntarily accommodated under the Children Act 1989.
  • Children in a placement that is either directly provided by the local authority or by an approved agency on behalf of the local authority.

Unaccompanied asylum seeking children

Following LAC (2003) 13 Guidance and the Hillingdon Judgement there is a clear legal need to respond to unaccompanied asylum seeking children as 'looked after children' under the Children Act 1989 .