3.2.2 Placement with Parents

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to any placement of a child, on a Care Order or an Interim Care Order, with a parent for more than 24 hours. These procedures do not apply to the placement of Looked After Children with Relatives and Friends (See Placement with Caring Relatives Procedure).

Also see Decision to Look After a Child Procedure, which contains procedures and guidance on planning, consultation and decision making in relation to Looked After Children.

AMENDMENT

In September 2017, Section 1.2, Assessment and Checks before Placement was updated to include consideration should be given as to whether the home environment is safe for the child including where relevant, the need for a risk assessment of any pets and the environment in which they are kept.


Contents

1. Planned Placements
1.1 Consultation Before Placement
1.2 Assessment and Checks Before Placement
1.3 Health Care Assessment
1.4 Recommending the Plan
1.5 Approval of the Plan
1.6 What to Include in the Written Reports/Plans
1.7 Short Term Placements
1.8 Social Work Visits during Placement
1.9 Ending of Placement
2. Unplanned Placements
3. Notification of Placements


1. Planned Placements

In exceptional circumstances a child may be placed without the immediate need for the following procedures; please see Section 2, Unplanned Placements.

A child must not be placed with parents if that would be incompatible with an order as to contact under Section 34 Children Act 1989.

1.1 Consultation Before Placement

Before a child is placed, the following people must be consulted and their views accounted for (see end of this section for consultation process):

  1. The child;
  2. Both parents including a parent who is not the proposed carer of the child;
  3. Any other member of the family who is significant to the child;
  4. The district health authority;
  5. The district health authority for the area in which the child is to be placed;
  6. The Education Department;
  7. If the child has a disability, is in the process of being assessed for Special Educational Needs (SEN) or has already a Statement, the Special Needs Section in the Education Department;
  8. The education authority for the area in which the child is to be placed;
  9. The child's G.P;
  10. The G.P. of the person whom it is proposed to place the child with (that person’s consent should be obtained);
  11. The child’s health visitor (this should done through appropriate Health Visitor Manager);
  12. The health visitor (if there is one) of the person with whom it is proposed to place the child;
  13. The child’s school;
  14. The Police & Youth Offending Team;
  15. The Probation Provider, if it has contact with the family;
  16. The relevant Children's Services Department if the child is placed in another local authority’s area;
  17. Existing carers (foster parent, residential worker etc.);
  18. The foster carer or Registered Manager of the children’s home currently caring for the child;
  19. The child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

The consultation should be formal, preferably in writing, requesting their views on the proposed placement. It is important that those who are consulted should reply in writing; their written replies should be placed on the case file.

The views of these people should be placed or recorded in the case file.

1.2 Assessment and Checks Before Placement

The suitability of the proposed placement should be assessed through:

  • Obtaining relevant information about the proposed main carer or carers and all members of the household;
  • Inspecting the accommodation; and
  • Checking the proposed carer and all adult members of the household with the Disclosure and Barring Service (Enhanced Disclosure), the carer’s GP, NSPCC and the Children's Services records.

The assessment should take account of:

  • The parents capacity, and the capacity of other adult members of the household, to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child:
    • To provide for the child‘s physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care;
    • To protect the child adequately from harm or danger, including any person who presents a risk of harm to the child;
    • To ensure that the home environment is safe for the child including, where relevant, the need for a risk assessment of any pets and the environment in which they are kept;
    • To ensure that the child’s emotional needs are met and he/she is provided with a positive sense of self, including any particular needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin, and cultural and linguistic background, and any disability the child has;
    • To promote the child’s learning and intellectual development through encouragement, cognitive stimulation and the promotion of educational success and social opportunities;
    • To enable the child to regulate his/her emotions and behaviour, including by modelling appropriate behaviour and interactions with others;
    • To provide a stable family environment to enable the child to develop and maintain secure attachments to the parents and other persons who provide care for the child.
  • The parents’ state of health (physical, emotional and mental), the parents’ medical history, including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
  • The state of health (physical, emotional and mental) of other adult members of the household and their medical history, including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
  • The parents’ family relationships and the composition of the parents’ household, including:
    • The identity of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of their relationship with parents and one another, including any sexual relationship; their relationship with any parent of the child;
    • Other adults who are not members of the household but are likely to have regular contact with the child;
    • Current/previous domestic violence between household members including the parents.
  • The parents’ family history, including:
    • The particulars of the parents’ childhood and upbringing, including the strengths and difficulties of their parents/carers;
    • The parents’ relationship with their parents and siblings, and their relationships with each other;
    • The parents’ educational achievement, including any specific learning difficulty/disability;
    • A chronology of significant life events;
    • Other relatives and their relationships with the child and parents.
  • Criminal offences of which the parents or other members of the household have been convicted or cautioned;
  • Parents’ past and present employment/sources of income;
  • The nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and parents;
  • Any available information about the parents’ previous experiences of looking after children. Where a parent has other children subject to care/adoption orders, earlier case records should be explored to ascertain the circumstances which led to social work involvement, and any indication that the capacity of the parent to bring up children has changed.

1.3 Health Care Assessment

The child’s Health Care Assessment must be current within appropriate timescales.

See Health Care Assessments and Health Plans Procedure.

1.4 Recommending the Plan

In normal circumstances, the child’s placement with his or her parent must be part of the Care Plan, upon the recommendation of a Looked After Review. However, if the child has previously suffered Significant Harm when living with the parent and continues to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the placement may only be authorised upon the recommendation of a Child Protection Review Conference.

The Nominated Officer should be invited to attend the Looked After Review or Child Protection Review Conference and then may authorise the placement if it seems appropriate - see Section 1.5, Approval of the Plan, below.

If the Nominated Officer is unable to attend, the written reports and Placement Plan outlined in the next paragraph should be seen and endorsed by him/her prior to the review. The Nominated Officer may then authorise the placement upon the recommendation of the Looked After Review or Child Protection Review Conference.

The written reports/plans referred to above are as follows:

1.5 Approval of the Plan

If the Nominated Officer has attended the Looked After Review or Child Protection Review Conference (referred to above), s/he may authorise the placement at that review.

If the Nominated Officer has not attended the review, s/he may authorise the placement upon the recommendation of the review, having considered the minutes of that meeting. The Nominated Officer should have seen the reports/plans list in Section 1.3, Health Care Assessment above prior to the review; if not, s/he should see them before authorising the placement.

The Nominated Officer must be satisfied that:

  • The child’s wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
  • The assessment of parents’ suitability to care for the child (see Section 1.2, Assessment and Checks Before Placement) has been completed;
  • The placement will safeguard and promote the child’s welfare;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted.

If approval is given, consideration should be given to whether the Care Order is still required. The Local Authority and parents may agree to apply to discharge the Care Order and if so, such an agreement must include the level of support and supervision to be provided by the Local Authority after the Care Order has been discharged, and the level of co-operation by the parents.

1.6 What to Include in the Written Report/Plans

The matters that must be covered in the written report and the Placement Plan placed before the Looked After Review or Child Protection Review Conference, and considered by the Nominated Officer before authorising the placement are as follows:

The written report must cover the following:

  • A summary of child’s and family’s history;
  • A summary of how and why the child came to be in care;
  • A summary of plan for the child when he/she originally came into care;
  • Details of proposed placement with the parent/s;
  • The outcome of the assessments, consultations and enquiries made, including an assessment of the parents' ability to meet the identified needs of the child;
  • The aims and objectives of the proposed placement (there needs to be great clarity about why this placement is being proposed) and long term plan for the child;
  • Any identified areas of risk involved in the placement;
  • The support and services to be provided to the family and child;
  • Details of supervision of placement;
  • Arrangements for the child's education;
  • Contingency plans in case of breakdown.

As well as the usual contents, the proposed Placement Plan must include the following:

  1. Details of the support and services to be provided to the parents during the placement;
  2. The obligation on the parents to notify the Local Authority of any relevant change in circumstances including any intention to change address, any changes in the household in which the child lives and and any serious incident involving the child;
  3. The obligation on the parents to ensure that any information relating to the child or the child’s family or any other person given in confidence to the parents in connection with the placement is kept confidential and that such information is not disclosed to any person without the consent of the Local Authority;
  4. The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain the prior approval of the Local Authority for the child to live in a household other than that of the parents;
  5. The circumstances in which the placement of the child with the parents pending completion of the assessment of suitability will be terminated if the decision following completion of the assessment is not to confirm the placement.

N.B. The Local Authority must provide such services and support to the parents as appear to be necessary to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, and record details in the Care Plan and Placement Plan.

1.7 Short Term Placements

Where the relevant Plan or Plans provide for a series of short term placements of a child with a parent, the requirements as to consultation, enquiries and checks can be carried out once only rather than every time a placement is made, provided that:

  • All the placements take place within a twelve months period;
  • No single placement is for a period of more than 17 days; and
  • The total duration of the placements does not exceed 75 days.

If a series of short-term placements is part of a longer-term rehabilitation plan, further consultation and approval must be obtained before the rehabilitation plan is extended or the child is returned to the parent’s full-time care.

1.8 Social Work Visits during the Placement

The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and thereafter every six weeks - see Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children Procedure.

If the child is placed with parents pending assessment (see Section 2, Immediate Placements), social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.

1.9 Ending of Placement

Wherever possible the decision to end a placement should be made at a Looked After Review and the ending should take place in a planned way. In Re DE (A Child) [2014], the High Court stated that not less than fourteen days notice of a removal of the child should be given to the parents, save in an emergency.

The Court further stated that any removal of a child in circumstances where the child's welfare does not require immediate removal, or without proper consideration and consultation, is likely to be an unlawful interference with the rights of the parent and child under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In emergencies, the social worker must discuss the case with his/her manager, who will make the decision. Legal advice should always be sought and the Care Order should give adequate power to enable the child to be removed by the social worker, but the use of other orders (e.g. an Emergency Protection Order or Recovery Order) might be appropriate in some circumstances.

All those notified of the placement starting should be notified when it ends, preferably prior to the ending; or as soon as practicable thereafter.

At the end of all placements, or transfer from one placement to another, the social worker should collaborate with the carer to write an end of placement report. If the child continues to be Looked After, it will be necessary to draw up (or update) the child’s Care Plan and Placement Information Record.


2. Unplanned Placements

The Nominated Officer can approve an unplanned placement without the necessary consultation and checks having been in the following circumstances:

  1. There are exceptional circumstances which justify an unplanned placement;
  2. There has been an interview with the proposed carer who agrees to the placement and provides as much of the assessment information as can be readily ascertained at the interview;
  3. The accommodation has been inspected; and
  4. Information has been obtained about and the social worker seeks to meet the other people in the household. (This is particularly relevant to identifying issues such as domestic violence and substance misuse which may impact on the child’s safety);
  5. The assessment and the review of the child’s case are completed within 10 working days of the child being placed;
  6. The decision on placement is made and approved within 10 working days of the assessment being completed; and
  7. If the decision is to confirm the placement, the Placement Plan is reviewed (and if appropriate amended);
  8. If the decision is not confirm the placement, the placement is terminated.

The reasons for a decision to place a child on this basis must be fully recorded, signed by the Nominated Officer and placed on the child’s file.

If the child is placed in these circumstances, social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, and thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.

Thereafter, the full requirements of the procedure for planned placements (as set out in Section 1, Planned Placements) must be completed as set out above.


3. Notification of Placements

The child's social worker will update the child's electronic record with the details of the placement.

Notification of the placement will be sent by the child's social worker to the Designated Nurse for LAC, the relevant person in the education service, the local Children's Services (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority) and the child's GP.

The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement, as well as all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including school and any health professional or YOT worker actively involved with the child.

The child's social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer.

These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the children's home where the child is to be placed.

The notifications should be before the start of the placement or within 5 working days.

End