5.1.11 Placements with Connected Persons

AMENDMENT

Section 5, Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons as Foster Carer was revised in August 2020 to reflect required Northamptonshire DBS processes.

1. Introduction

The following procedure covers immediate placements of looked after children with a Connected Person i.e. where the carers are not already approved as foster carers. As with any placement the responsible Authority must be satisfied that the placement is the most suitable means to safeguard and promote the child's welfare, notwithstanding the Connected Person is not yet approved as a foster carer. The Authority must be satisfied that it is necessary for the child to be looked after and that the connected person may offer the most suitable placement for the child in accordance with the Regulations.

These provisions are to be used only in exceptional circumstances and where there are clearly defined reasons why a full foster carer assessment cannot be undertaken before a placement is made. There is a risk that if a child is placed before the full approval of the carer as a local authority foster carer they may not be approved at the end of the process resulting in a further move for the child.

A Connected Person is defined as 'a relative, friend or other person connected with a child. The latter is someone who would not fit the term 'relative or friend', but who has a pre-existing relationship with the child. It could be someone who knows the child in a more professional capacity such as (for example) a child-minder, a teacher or a youth worker'.

Relative is defined as 'a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent'.

A 'connected person' is someone who does not have Parental Responsibility (PR).

The procedure sets out the checks that need to be made before such a placement can be made.

It also covers the procedure to be followed to carry out the required assessment and approval of the Connected Person as foster carers if the placement is to last longer than 16 weeks.

2. Situations Where these Procedures do not Apply

These procedures do not apply where a child (under 16 years) goes to live with a relative or friend and this is a private arrangement between the parent/person with Parental Responsibility and carer.

If this placement continues for 28 days or more, the child may come within the definition of a Privately Fostered child, in which case the local authority's duties in relation to the placement are set out in the Private Fostering Procedure.

3. Approval of Immediate Placements of Looked After Children with Connected Persons (Schedule 4)

Connected People who care for a Looked After child must be approved as Foster Carers under the 2011 Fostering Regulations or hold temporarily approval as Foster Carers under the Care Planning and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

Before any placement with a Connected Person who is not already approved as a foster carer is made, the approval of the Nominated Officer is required. See Temporary Approval of a Family & Friends - Connected Person as a Local Authority Foster Carer, to enable Immediate Placement of a Looked After Child/Young Person Flowchart.

Before submitting the IVA must be checked by the social worker's Team Manager and Service Manager.

Any such approval can only be given for 16 weeks from the date of the placement. After that period of time, further assessment must be carried out and further approval sought - see Section 5, Assessment and Approval of a Connected Person as Foster Carer.

As stated in Regulation 24 (of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (2010)), matters to be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a Connected Person to care for the child are:

  1. The nature and quality of any existing relationship with the child;
  2. Their capacity to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child (or children) concerned, to provide for his/her physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care; to protect the child adequately from harm or danger including from any person who presents a risk of harm to the child; to ensure that the accommodation and home environment is suitable including, where relevant, a risk assessment of any pets, together with the environment in which the pet is kept, and a bedroom risk assessment where the child will be sharing a bedroom, in relation to the child's age and developmental stage; to promote his/her learning and development; to provide a stable family environment which will promote secure attachments for the child, including promoting positive contact with parents and other connected persons, unless this is not consistent with the child's welfare;
  3. State of health (physical, emotional and mental), and medical history including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
  4. Family relationships and the composition of the household, including the identity of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of any relationship with the connected person and each other including any sexual relationship; any relationship with the parents; any relationship between the child and other members of the household; other adults (not members of the household) likely to have regular contact with the child; any current or previous domestic violence between members of the household, including the connected person;
  5. Their family history, including their childhood and upbringing, and the strengths and difficulties of their parents or others who cared for them; their relationship with parents and siblings and each other; educational achievement and any learning difficulty/disability; chronology of significant life events; particulars of other relatives and their relationships with the child and the connected person;
  6. Any criminal offences of which they, or any adult in the household, have been convicted or in respect of which they have been cautioned. This will involve a Police National Computer (PNC) check and if information is noted on this PNC Check, a Risk Assessment will need to be completed and signed off by the Nominated Officer;
  7. Past and present employment and other sources of income;
  8. Nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and the Connected Person.

These matters are dealt with as part of the IVA.

In the event that an emergency IVA is required, i.e. one where the child needs to be placed on an emergency basis, the assessment will be undertaken by the child’s social worker only and they can consult with the connected persons team to ensure fostering regulations are met.

Upon completion of this assessment it will be forwarded to the social worker’s Team Manager and Service Manager for their review, comments and signatures, as well as to the Connected Persons Practice Manager or Team Manager before being forwarded, if it is considered positive, to the relevant child care team Strategic Manager, whose role it is to consider regulating the placement.

Once this process has been completed successfully the Strategic Manager will forward the completed IVA to the Connected Persons Practice Manager for processing the paperwork within the Fostering Service including the setting up of fostering payments and the allocation of the case for a further full assessment. In all cases where a full assessment is required the primary focus should be a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) assessment unless there is a clear rationale for progressing the assessment as a full Connected Persons assessment.

In terms of non-emergency IVAs a joint home visit must be undertaken by the child's social worker and Connected Person social worker in order to complete the IVA – see Temporary Approval of a Family & Friends - Connected Person as a Local Authority Foster Carer, to enable Immediate Placement of a Looked After Child/Young Person Flowchart.

Upon completion of a positive joint IVA the same process as with the emergency IVA will be followed in terms of ‘sign-off’ by relevant Practice, Team and Service managers. If the child then requires to be placed prior to the full assessment being undertaken then that IVA must also be authorised by the relevant child care team Strategic Manager.

Where the social workers are in any doubt or disagreement as to the suitability of the placement, the Initial Viability Assessment – Disputed Outcome Resolution Process (Local Resources) should be followed.

The child's wishes and feelings (subject to age and understanding) must be ascertained and recorded and wherever possible, an opportunity must be provided for the child to visit the home before the decision is finalised.

The views of parents/ those with Parental Responsibility must also be obtained.

The proposed carer should be given information about the assessment process which will follow when the placement is to last longer than 16 weeks, including the need for a full Health Assessment, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and other agency enquiries on all members of the household aged 16 and over, as well as interviews with referees, adult children and ex-partners, which will be part of any such fostering assessment.

Where the placement appears suitable and is approved by the Nominated Officer, a written Placement Agreement should be completed by the child's social worker with the proposed carer within three working days of the placement.

The prospective carers need to be made aware that any approval is only temporary and does not imply continued approval beyond the sixteen weeks.

The placement may only continue after sixteen weeks if the carer is approved as a foster carer - see Section 5, Assessment and Approval of a Connected Person as Foster Carer - in exceptional circumstances where the temporary approval is extended or where the outcome of the assessment is concluded before the sixteen week period is reached e.g. where an SGO outcome is achieved before the period ends.

This temporary approval can be extended for a further period of up to eight weeks (if it is likely to expire before the assessment is completed) or until the outcome of an Independent Review (if the outcome of the assessment is that the Connected Person is not approved and seeks a review of the decision - see Assessment and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure). The views of the IRO and child's social worker must be obtained prior to a recommendation to extend the temporary approval is sought at the Fostering Panel. The application for an extension must be quality assured by a manager in the Connected Persons Team before it is submitted to the Fostering Panel.

Before deciding whether to extend the approval, the Local Authority must consider if the placement is still the most appropriate placement available, and it must be considered by the Fostering Panel before the above approval is given by the Nominated Officer.

As the Connected Person will be temporarily approved as a foster carer, the Connected Person will be required to sign a foster carer agreement. A Connected Person approved under these regulations will be entitled to the same support and services including allocation of social worker, allowances as a foster carer and training opportunities.

4. The Placement

A Placement Planning Meeting should be held before the placement or, where this is not possible because of the urgency of the placement, within three working days of the child being placed.

On the placement of the child, the child's social worker will ensure the child's Care Plan and the written Placement Plan is given to the carer.

The child's social worker must complete a Change of Circumstances form (on CareFirst), once completed, notification will be sent to the Independent Reviewing Officer Service and a Looked After Review will be arranged.

If the child was already looked after, the social worker will send notification of the placement to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

The child's social worker must visit and see the child alone in the placement (unless she/he refuses) each week until the first Looked After Review and thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks during the period of temporary approval. The visits are to be fully recorded as statutory visits.

Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the relevant local Children's Services Department if the placement is in a different local authority area.

The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.

These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the person with whom the child is to be placed. They must be sent before the placement wherever possible or within 5 working days of the placement.

The child's social worker should also notify - in writing - all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including nursery/school, GP and any health professional or Youth Offending Service worker actively involved with the child.

It will be necessary for the child's social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to him or her (which is preferable) or in the area where they are placed.

If this is a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to arrange a Health Assessment - see Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure.

The child's social worker must also arrange for the completion of a Personal Education Plan - see the Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure. Every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are reasons which would be detrimental to his or her well-being.

5. Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons as Foster Carer

The SGO or full Connect Person fostering assessment process should commence as soon as possible after the placement is made and the IVA is signed off by the Nominated Officer.

In exceptional circumstances, this temporary approval can be extended for a further period of up to eight weeks (if it is likely to expire before the assessment is completed) or until the outcome of the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) (if the outcome of the assessment is that the Connected Person is not approved and seeks a review of the decision - see Assessment and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure).

Before deciding whether to extend the approval, the Local Authority must consider if the placement is still the most appropriate placement available, and it must be considered by the Fostering Panel before the above approval is given. The views of the IRO and child's social worker must be obtained prior to a recommendation to extend the temporary approval is sought at the Fostering Panel. The application for an extension must be quality assured by a member of the Connected Persons management team before it is submitted to the Fostering Panel. A decision to extend the temporary approval must be approved by the Nominated Officer.

A file will be opened for the foster carer's assessment. The allocated assessing social worker will immediately arrange for a slot to be booked on the Fostering Panel within sixteen weeks for the assessment to be considered.

If this has not already been initiated at the IVA stage which is the preferred approach to avoid any delay in the assessment process, the allocated assessing Connected Persons social worker will check proof of identity from the proposed carers and arrange for the carers and members of the household aged 18 and over to complete applications for Disclosure and Barring Service checks and consent to other agency checks.

The signed consent form and Disclosure and Barring Service forms will be forwarded to the Fostering Service Business Support Team Leader (via the SecureA&FAdmin@northamptonshire.gov.uk) who will send off the necessary checks as set out in Assessment and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure, Checks and References.

If at the conclusion of checks an email from the DBS is received that states:

"Disclosure Status: Please view applicant certificate and seek HR advice."

The DBS Risk Assessment Process must be followed.

The allocated worker will explain the assessment process to the carers and provide them with written information.

If and when the carers are approved as connected person's foster carers, the procedures in relation to support, supervision and review of the foster carers are the same as for all approved foster carers (see Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure and Review Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure).

6. Ending the Placement

When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic record and send notification to the finance section so that payments to the carer/provider will cease.

The social worker will also send copies to those notified when the placement was made.

Where appropriate, consideration may be given to holding a Disruption Meeting in which case the procedure set out in Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure should be followed.

In the event that the placement ends due to the applicants withdrawing from the assessment The Connected Persons SW will arrange for the applicants to be sent a withdrawal letter and will also complete a Short Report for Fostering Panel.