Commonly used terms

Child protection applies to young adults

Child protection applies to young adults


A child can be defined differently in different legal contexts.  Section 93(2)(a) and (b) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 defines a child as anyone below the age of 16 or a child between the age of 16 and 18 who is still subject to a supervision requirement by a Children’s Hearing. The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 states children can be someone over 16 when certain criteria are met.  Although the differing legal definitions of the age of a child can be confusing, the priority is to ensure that a vulnerable young person who is, or may be, at risk of significant harm is offered support and protection.  In Fife we have transitional arrangements for children with disabilities and those children that leave the looked after system.


For the purposes of Human Trafficking, a child is any person under 18 years of age.


For the purposes of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 the age of a victim is categorised as either Adult, Young Children or Older Children;

  • The term ‘Young Child’ refers to a child who is under the age of 13 at the time of the offence; and
  • The term ‘Older Child’ refers to a child who is aged 13, 14 or 15 at the time of the offence.

This guidance is designed to include children and young people up to the age of 18.  However, as noted above, the protective interventions that can be taken will depend on the circumstances and legislation relevant to that child or young person.


A parent is defined as someone who is the genetic or adoptive mother or father of the child.  A mother has full parental rights and responsibilities.  A father has parental rights and responsibilities if he is or was married to the mother at the time of conception or subsequently, or if the child’s birth has been registered after the 4th of May 2006 and he has been registered as the father of the child on the child’s birth certificate.  A father may also acquire parental responsibilities or rights under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 by entering into a formal agreement with the mother or by making an application to the courts.


Parental rights are necessary to allow a parent to fulfil their responsibilities, which include looking after their child’s health, development and welfare, providing guidance to their child, maintaining regular contact with their child if they do not live with them and acting as their child’s legal representative.  In order to fulfil these responsibilities, parental rights include the right to have their child live with them and to decide how their child is brought up.


A carer is someone other than a parent who has rights/responsibilities for looking after a child or young person.  ‘Relevant persons’ have extensive rights within the Children’s Hearing system, including the right to attend Children’s Hearings, receive all relevant documentation and challenge decisions taken within those proceedings.  A carer may be a ‘relevant person’ within the Children’s Hearing system.


A kinship carer can be a person who is related to the child or a person who is known to the child and with whom the child has a pre-existing relationship.  (‘Related’ means related to the child either by blood, marriage or civil partnership).  Regulation 10 of the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 provides that a local authority may make a decision to approve a kinship carer as a suitable carer for a child who is looked after by that authority under the terms of section 17(6) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.  Before making such a decision the authority must, so far as reasonably practicable, obtain and record in writing the information specified in Schedule 3 of the Regulations and, taking into account that information, carry out an assessment of that person’s suitability to care for the child.  Local authorities have to provide necessary support to kinship carers to offer protection and care for the child or young person.


Informal kinship care refers to care arrangements made by parents or those with parental responsibilities with close relatives or, in the case of orphaned or abandoned children, by those relatives providing care.  A child cared for by informal kinship carers is not ‘looked after’.  The carer in such circumstances is not a foster carer, nor is assessment of such a carer by the local authority a legal requirement.


Private fostering refers to children placed by private arrangement with persons who are not close relatives.  ‘Close relative’ in this context means mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandparent, of full blood or half blood or by marriage.  Where the child’s parents have never married, the term will include the birth father and any person who would have been defined as a relative had the parents been married.


A Glossary of Terms for child protection, adult protection and offender management can be accessed at the link below.



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