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Hertfordshire County Council

Coming into care can be confusing at first and you're likely to have lots of questions.

Why am I in care?

This can be for different reasons. It can be because parents or other adults
looking after you aren't able to keep you safe or meet your needs.

Or there might be another reason which your social worker can explain to you.

It's never your fault. Whilst you're in care, everyone will do their best to make sure you're looked after in the best way possible.

New words and phrases

Here are some new words and phrases you might hear often. If there's anything you don’t understand, ask your social worker or carer to explain.

"In care"

Being in care or ‘looked after’ mean the same thing. It's when we make arrangements for you to be cared for. (It may be another council if you live outside Hertfordshire).

"Local authority"

The council that's responsible for all the children and young people in care in the area. In Hertfordshire it's us – Hertfordshire County Council.

You might sometimes hear "corporate parents" – that's just another name for the people who work for us who are involved with your care.

"Social Worker"

The person who's responsible for making sure your needs are met and there's a plan for your future.

Your social worker will visit you in the first week of being in care, and then at least every 6 weeks for the first year you're looked after.

Visiting might reduce after that if you're happy and settled.


If you live in a children’s residential home, you'll have a key worker who will work with you, your family and social worker to make sure things are as good for you as they can be.

Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs)

They work for the council but are independent of your social worker.

They're there to make sure you're being looked after in the best way possible.

They attend your care review meetings. Their main job is to make sure your care plan meets your needs.

"Designated Teacher"

The person at your school who has special responsibility for making sure your education carries on properly whilst you're looked after.

"Independent visitor"

These are volunteers who advise, assist and make friends with young people in care.

They've been trained and can visit young people regularly to help with various activities.

If you’re interested in having one, talk to your social worker.

Read more about Independent visitors

"Placement" and "Placement Plan"

Your placement is where you live when you're in care. There are different types of placement:

  • foster care – where you live with a carer in their home (who isn’t part of your family)
  • children’s residential home – where several young people who are in care live together and are looked after by carers.
  • Family and friends foster placement – where you're looked after by someone in your family (like an aunt or nan) or sometimes a family friend.

A placement plan is about your day to day life with your carers. You, your social worker and carer make the placement plan together.

A placement planning meeting is held to agree the plan. The meeting will agree who can give you permission to take part in different activities (for example, sleepovers, school trips and holidays with your carers).


You're bound to have questions about your placement. Ask your social worker or carer. Questions include:

  • What do I call my carers?
  • Can I stay at my friend’s house sometimes?
  • Who will buy me clothes, toys and other stuff?
  • Do I get pocket money?
  • Can I have a dog/cat/pet?
  • Can I have my things from home with me in my placement?
  • What if I don’t like the people I live with or the people who look after me?
  • How soon can I see my family?

Your social worker or carer will usually be able to answer your questions. If they don't know the answer straightaway, they'll find out for you.

"Care plan" and "Pathway plan"

A care plan says how you'll be looked after. You, your social worker and the important adults in your life make the plan together.

The plan will change as your life changes.

A pathway plan is for young people who are 16 and over. It shows the support you'll get as you move towards adulthood.

The legal stuff

The Children Act 1989 is the law that says when children should be taken into care. There are two ways this can happen:

  1. Section 20 Accommodation is when your parents and social worker agree that the best option is that someone else looks after you at the moment. However your parents still make decisions for you.
  2. Section 31 Full Care Order is when a court has decided that the council takes over main responsibility for your care. In this case, we (Hertfordshire County Council) have the main role in making decisions for you, although your parents will usually still be involved.

Meetings whilst you're in care


Reviews are to see how things are going for you and to check if any changes are needed to the way you're being looked after.

Your views are really important so it's good if you go to the meetings.

They should happen every 6 months.

The first 2 reviews happen sooner – within 20 days of coming into care and then again within 3 months.

Read more about your care reviews

Personal Education Plans (PEPs)

Your personal education plan (PEP) looks at how well you're doing, what you could do even better and what support you need.

Your PEP is looked at once a year (at least) at your PEP meeting.

The Designated Teacher at your school, your carer and social worker will be at your PEP meetings.

You'll also be asked to join in and it's important that you're able to say what would help you most.

PEP meetings take place in the first term every school year. They're usually held at your school.

Health assessments

This is where you have a chat with a doctor or nurse, once a year.

They'll help you understand how to keep healthy.

If it would help to make you feel more relaxed, your carer could be involved in this and the review health assessments can be held at school or at your placement. You'll be able to choose each time.


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