Children and Family Reporters are officers of the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass). They work with families who have trouble deciding on arrangements for the care of the children. Their main interest is to protect the welfare of the children and they provide the family courts with advice on this subject. However, Children and Family Reporters are independent of the court. In addition, although they are trained in social work and have experience working with families and children, they are independent of social services, health and education authorities and all other similar authorities.
The family courts encourage families to decide for themselves the best and most suitable arrangements for the care of the children within the family. This can be done informally or through the use of family mediation which family lawyers can organise. If the families are unable to come to a practical and realistic agreement, they can apply to the family courts to make the decision instead. The family courts are able to make orders that determine how the children will be cared for, and before the family courts make those orders they may enlist the help of a Children and Family Reporter. The role of the Children and Family Reporter is to work with both parties to the dispute and attempt to reach an agreement without the involvement of the court.
If the parties are still unable to reach an agreement with the Children and Family Reporters help, there are a number of things that the Children and Family Reporter can recommend to the court. They can recommend that the court delay the proceedings so they continue to work with the family in order to reach an agreement, or so that they can write a full welfare report for the court.
A welfare report is a report that contains the Child and Family Reporters recommendation on what is best for the children. In order to write this report they will need to speak to the children in question and both parties involved. They are also able to speak to other people who can provide information on the situation, such as doctors, social workers and relatives. The process of writing a full welfare report can take up to ten weeks. For more information on this contact family lawyers.
The family court will carefully consider the opinion of the Children and Family Reporter and their full welfare report when making their decision.