5.1.7 Placement for Permanent Fostering
All children need to feel secure and cared for as they grow and develop. We think families are the best place for children to receive this nurturing care and the first choice is always with their own family. When a child cannot live with his or her own family alternative arrangements need to be made at the earliest opportunity.
This chapter was added to the manual in February 2021.
1. Planning for Permanence
Every Child in Care (CIC) must have a Permanence Plan by the date of their second CIC Review. This is a parallel plan for permanence or rehabilitation depending on outcome of assessment or court. For further information on the responsibilities and the transfer process, please refer to the Allocation of Work and Transfer between Teams – Case Transfer and Closure Procedure and the Permanence Planning Strategy.
For those children aged 13 and under, the Permanence Plan and decision making should be subject to and part of an Agency Decision Making (ADM) Oversight. There might be circumstances where the child is older than 13 and this pathway is considered and agreed as part of the care plan. The following procedure outlines this process.
2. Obtaining Agency Approval for Permanent Fostering
|2.1||As soon as Permanent Fostering is the Permanence Plan for the child, as agreed at the final care planning meeting or at the CiC review, the child's social worker must complete the Placement Management Service (PMS) referral form requesting a long-term foster placement and send to the PMS Team. This needs to be done for all children irrespective of the child's circumstances. This allows for all options to be explored.|
|2.2||If not already obtained, the child’s social worker should obtain 2 certified copies of the child's full birth certificate.|
|2.3||Where one or both of the birth parents cannot be found, the child’s social worker must make extensive enquiries as to their whereabouts. The social worker should write to the parent's last known address and contact the Department for Work and Pensions and other agencies as appropriate.|
|2.4||The child's social worker must contact the child's health visitor or school health for current information in relation to the child's health and development.|
|2.5||The child's social worker must contact the child's school or the relevant local education service for current information in relation to the child's educational needs.|
|2.6||The child's social worker must ask the child's carer to complete a report on the child. (This will be required for the Fostering Matching Report.|
The child's social worker must ensure that the permanence plan addresses the issue of contact. This may include a meeting between the parents and the foster carers.If the child has siblings, the plan must analyse the relationship between each child in the sibling group and, if the decision is to place a siblings separately, (following a Sibling Assessment) address the issue of post-placement contact between them.
Using all the information obtained in relation to the above, the Supervising Social Worker and child's social worker must agree the delegation of tasks to ensure that Fostering Matching Report is completed within timescales. The Fostering Matching Report must be written by a qualified social worker with suitable experience (or supervised by a suitably qualified social worker).
The following areas must be included or addressed in the Report:
|2.9||In all cases the Fostering Matching Report and all completed paperwork must be quality assured and countersigned by the social workers’ line managers Manager prior to forwarding to the Fostering Panel Administrator at least 1 week before the panel.|
|2.10||The Fostering Panel Advisor will consider the written reports and any additional information and provide advice to the Fostering Panel whether the information provided is sufficient to enable a decision to be made.|
|2.11||If it be proposed that a child be placed in agency foster placement, appropriate financial approval must be sought.|
3. Preparation of the Child for Permanent Fostering
The child's social worker will ensure that the preparation for placement including the Life Story Work (see Life Story Book Guidance) with the child, continues throughout the process with the aim as far as possible that:
|3.2||Any discussions with the child should be fully recorded. The child's preferred method of communication should be known and there should be no assumption that a child is unable to communicate. An interpreter should be arranged where necessary to ensure that there is effective communication with the child.|
|3.3||The social worker should specifically ensure that the child's wishes in relation to permanent fostering, religious and cultural upbringing and contact with his or her birth family are ascertained.|
|3.4||Where a child's wishes are not acted upon, for example a child's wish to be placed with his or her siblings, this should be explained to the child, with reasons, and should be fully recorded.|
|3.5||The foster carers' Supervising Social Worker will support the foster carers in playing their part in the implementation of the plan, including careful recording by the foster carers of any changes in the child's behaviour.|
|3.6||Once a permanent foster placement has been identified and approved, the child's social worker is responsible for ensuring the child is properly prepared for the first meeting with the prospective family and is appropriately supported during the period of introductions.|
|3.7||As part of the preparation of the child for the placement, information will be provided to ensure that s/he has a proper understanding about the accommodation and others living at the prospective foster home, the contact arrangements with the birth family and how to contact his or her social worker.|
4. Support for Birth Parents
The child's social worker must explain to both parents (and anyone else with Parental Responsibility) the reasons for the Permanency Plan and the evidence and reasoning for this recommendation must be clearly recorded on the child's record including dates and the parent's responses. The child's social worker must also explain to both parents the key stages of the Permanence process, including the likely time-scales and possible contact arrangements.
|4.2||The child's social worker must also seek to ascertain the parent's views on the matters set out in d) and f) below. It offers the parents the opportunity to express their views in relation to the plans for the child, and to be involved in planning for the child's future wherever possible. The child's social worker should consider signposting the parents to Independent Support and Advocacy as required.|
|4.3||The specific needs of parents arising from their ethnicity must always be taken into account. An interpreter must be arranged where English is not their preferred language.|
The following matters should be discussed and parent and carers views obtained for the following:
|4.5||The social worker should arrange for photographs to be taken of the child and, if they agree, the parents and other significant people and places, for inclusion in the childcare Life Story Book.|
5. Contact and Family Time
|5.1||The child's social worker must undertake, as part of the Matching Report, a written assessment as to the best interests of the child to support any contact and family time proposals as part of a Permanency Plan, or reasons why. This assessment will take account of the views of the child, the parents, the foster carers and any other significant family members, as well as evidence of attachment and the quality of relationships, based on observations of contact and the child's behaviour before, during and after contact.|
|5.2||Where there is a sibling group, each child must be assessed separately and together as a group regarding the issue of contact.|
|5.3||The assessment should determine whether contact between the child and the parents and/or siblings would be in the child's best interests, and if so, what form it should take. The nature and frequency of contact will be influenced by the need to maintain attachments and/or long-term identity issues.|
All plans for contact and family time should address the following:
|5.5||Where contact or family time is considered to be in the child's interests, it should be part of the information shared with prospective foster carers during the matching process.|
6. Identification of Permanent Foster Placements – Family Finding Process
7. Identification of Permanent Foster Placements – Current Placement
For some children remaining with their current carers, this maybe the most suitable plan for permanence. Where the child's current carer expresses an interest in permanently fostering a child they are looking after and the care plan for the child is permanence, this arrangement is to be formally considered following the process outlined below:
- All permanence options are to be discussed with the carers including Special Guardianship Order's (SGO);
- Joint SOS mapping prior to 6 months CIC review between the child’s social worker & supervising social worker;
- Book a panel date;
- Complete Matching Report;
- CIC Review to agree plan & details the timescales for panel;
- The Supervising Social Worker will update the foster carer’s report which a part of the Matching Report papers;
- Long Term Matching Report will be updated by the child's Social Worker and presented to the fostering Panel for the match to be considered and ADM to ratify;
- If the carers as considered suitable, presentation of the match to the Long-term Matching Panel must take place within 6 months from the agency's formal approval that the child is suitable for permanence.
8. Planning the Placement
Once the match has been identified and the legal position allows it, the child's Social Worker will convene a Placement Planning Meeting:
In addition to the necessary requirements and format, additional areas to be considered at the Placement Planning Meeting include:
It will also set out the steps required leading up to the child's placement with the prospective carers, including the first meeting between the child and the prospective carer's family, the programme of and detailed arrangements for their introductions (dates, times, venues, transport and accommodation), the reimbursement of any expenses of the introductions, and where appropriate, a meeting between the parents and the prospective carers.
As part of the preparation of the child for the permanent placement, information will be provided to ensure that s/he has a proper understanding about the accommodation and others living at the prospective carers home, the contact arrangements with the birth family and how to contact his or her social worker.N.B. If the child has remained in a short-term placement which has become permanent and ratified by the ADM, a placement planning meeting is required to confirm the new status of the Placement.
|8.3||The Child's Plan will also address when the prospective carers will be supplied with all relevant written information about the child and who will provide it. Delegated authority to the carers must be agreed. (See Placement Plan Procedure)|
|8.4||The child's social worker must ascertain the child's views and report these to the meetings.|
|8.5||Those attending Placement Planning Meetings will be the child's Social Worker, the foster carers, the foster carers' Supervising Social Worker, health and education trust (where appropriate), the prospective foster carers and their Supervising Social Worker and any other worker engaged in direct work with the child.|
|8.6||The child's first meeting with the prospective carers should be on the child's familiar territory (unless the child is older and requests otherwise) and a social worker should be present. The pattern of introductory visits thereafter will depend on the child's age, needs and stage of development but consideration will be given to a gradual introductory programme involving visits increasing in length, progressing to an overnight stay, a weekend stay and in exceptional circumstances with an older child, a longer period prior to the final move.|
|8.7||The child's social worker will advise the parents of the plan. Parents should be involved in Placement Planning meetings where at all possible, providing that there is not identified risk that would require maintaining the confidentiality of the placement.|
At the mid-point of the introductions, a review of the progress so far will be undertaken by the child's social worker with the input of all those involved in the original placement planning meeting at which the following areas will be addressed:
|8.9||A further meeting can be called by any of the parties if issues of concern arise.|
|8.10||All Placement Planning Meetings should have the same people invited and take place at a venue accessible to all parties.|
|8.11||A copy of the updated Child's Plan, signed by the child's social worker, should be given to the prospective carers, their Supervising Social Worker and the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.|
|8.12||Where contact is part of the permanence plan, the proposals must be addressed in the care plan to be signed by the birth parents and the prospective foster carers.|
|8.13||If the placement is ended in an unplanned way, the Fostering Team Manager should consider the best way to conduct a disruption meeting - see Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings|
|8.14||In the event of the placement's termination, direct work will be undertaken with the child to make sense of the reasons why the placement broke down and to prepare the child for any future placement.|
|8.15||For ongoing support throughout Permanent / Long Term Fostering Placements, please refer to the Support for Permanent / Long Term Fostering Placements Procedure.|
9. Approval and Matching Permanent Foster Carers
The overall time-scale for matching a child with a prospective foster family is:
Presentation to the Long-term Matching Panel
The Supervising Social Worker and Child's Social Worker must present the following reports to the Panel:
|9.3||The child's social worker and the Supervising Social Worker will attend the Panel during consideration of the matter. The Foster Carer will be invited to attend and consideration should be given to whether the young person and parents can be included in the process.|
|9.4||The Panel's recommendation as to whether the child should be placed for Permanency with the particular carers will be recorded in writing, together with reasons, in the Panel's minutes. The Panel must also consider and may give advice in relation to the proposed arrangements for contact and any proposed restrictions on the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the carers and/or the birth parents. A copy of the relevant minute must be placed on the child's and the prospective carers' Case Records.|
|9.5||The Supervising Social Worker will convey the Panel's recommendation verbally to the prospective carers within 24 hours if they did not attend panel.|
|9.6||After the Panel has considered the reports and made a written recommendation, the minutes and reports considered by the Panel will be sent to the Agency Decision Maker who will make a decision based on this information within 7 working days of the Panel meeting. In urgent cases, for example where the Court timetable requires it, this timescale can be reduced. The decision will be recorded in writing.|
|9.7||If the Panel has given advice in relation to proposed contact and/or the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the prospective carers and/or the birth parents, the Agency Decision Maker may express a view on such advice.|
|9.8||Where the Agency Decision Maker is minded to disagree with the Panel recommendation, he/she must first discuss the case with another senior officer with relevant experience, who must not be a Panel member. This discussion must be recorded and placed on the child's and the prospective carers Case Record.|
|9.9||The Supervising Social Worker will convey the decision verbally to the prospective carers within 2 working days.|
|9.10||The Panel Administrator will send the written notification, signed by the Agency Decision Maker, within 5 working days. Copies of this letter will also be sent to the family finder and the child's social worker and supervising social worker. The Panel administrator will scan the ADM decision and add as case not to the child's record.|