The Children’s Act 1989 came into full force in the latter months of 1991 and introduced several new key principles that included:
• The concept of Parental Responsibility;
• The ability for unmarried parents to share the responsibility of caring for the child by agreement with the other parent (predominantly the father getting agreement from the mother), though joint registration at birth and a court order;
• The local authority to provide support and services to the children and their families;
• The local authority to return a looked after child to their family unless it is against their best interests, and;
• The local authority to promote contact between the looked after child and their family.
The idea of these new principles was to focus on the four P’s of the Act: Parental Responsibility, Paramount, Partnerships and Protection. The first of these – Parental Responsibility – is defined by the Act as “the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”, and encompasses who has the responsibility for that child and how one goes about registering for the responsibility if the parents are unmarried.
The child’s welfare is Paramount. When (future) parents make a court application for Parental Responsibility the court takes into account the child’s welfare and establish directions for the handling of the case so that no prejudice is put upon the welfare of the child. This is of great importance for if the child is to have the best possible upbringing and a healthy growth it needs to have a paternal bond that will enforce the internal working model and build attachments and develop