AMENDMENTThis chapter was re-written in August 2016 and should be read in full.
The prime aims of this policy are to:
- Maximise Placement stability;
- Prevent fostering placement breakdowns;
- Ensure where placements do breakdown, this is managed in such a way as to minimise the damage experienced by the Looked After Child;
- To ensure that reports are written in such a way that learning points from a disrupted foster placement are explicit in order to inform service development.
It is believed that these aims will be best achieved if:
- There is a proactive approach to placement support, anticipating and planning for difficulties rather than reacting when they occur;
- Child care Social Workers and Supervising Social Workers work together with shared priorities of maximising how a placement meets the child's needs and avoiding breakdown;
- The role and contribution of the foster carer is respected and supported and their views and concerns taken account of;
- Placement endings are planned rather than left to happen;
- We have a process for learning from those placements which do breakdown.
2. Placement Planning Meetings in Foster Placements
Current procedures for Looked After Children direct that whenever a child starts a new placement a Placement Planning Meeting should take place as soon as possible after a placement commences (within 5 working days). Alongside its other functions this meeting should consider the support needs of the placement including the possibility of regular placement support meetings.
3. Placement Support Meetings and Disruption Meetings Explained
In general, Placement Support Meetings between foster carers, Supervising Social Workers and the child's Social Worker should be regarded as routine good practice. These meetings are separate from the routine supervision meetings held between the SSW and foster carers and can be convened, for example, in response to the need to clarify a child's ongoing needs or the focus of individual work with the child in the foster home.
In contrast to ad hoc Placement Support Meetings and Supervision, when a placement is identified as approaching an unplanned ending or a point of crisis, a more formal Placement Support Meeting will be required; these meetings should be chaired by a Team Manager or Practice Manager.
The purpose of a placement support meeting is to:
- Identify the current and future support needs of the placement;
- Plan how these will be met;
- Monitor and evaluate the provision of support.
Placement Support Meetings are likely to be particularly useful:
- When a long term foster placement is planned. Experience shows that a proactive approach in planning these placements and anticipating support needs greatly increases the chances of such placements being successful and not breaking down;
- When a placement is at risk of breaking down (i.e. disrupting, but prior to a crisis point), a Placement Support Meeting can help analyse the issues that threaten the placement's stability and produce a plan of action to address these.
Disruption meetings have a similar function and agenda to Placement Support Meetings with the following differences:
- They should be convened when placements are at or close to breakdown which the Placement Support process has not succeeded in addressing;
- Whilst still endeavouring to prevent breakdown, where this is judged to be inevitable, the meeting should help to plan this in a way which minimises the impact of a placement move upon the child.
The meeting will also aim to identify lessons for future practice, whilst also highlighting service learning and any gaps in service provision.
4. When should Placement Support Meetings/Disruption Meetings be Convened?
Team Managers and Practice Managers have some discretion over the timing and instigation of meetings to consider Placement Support options and Disruption Meetings.
In general, it is recommended that the more formal Placement Support and Disruption Meetings will take place where an agreed Permanent Foster Placement is near to breaking down, or has ended; this includes all Family and Friend foster placements. For temporary foster placements, it is suggested that each case will be judged as to whether a formal Placement Support Meeting and /or Disruption meeting is convened.
If it appears likely that a placement is at risk of breaking down and a more formal meeting is considered, in these circumstances the Placement Support Meeting would normally be chaired by a Team Manager or Practice Manager from the child care team or fostering team. In addition the following should be invited to the meeting:
- Social Worker for the child;
- Foster carers;
- Child or young person(if appropriate);
- Parents of the child (if appropriate);
- Any other person who it is identified, could add value to the meeting, examples are CAMHS, Teacher, Designated Teacher, Contact supervisor, IRO.
A judgement will often be required about whether the looked after child should attend the meeting. This judgement should take account of the following:
- The child's wishes and feelings;
- The age and understanding of the child;
- The likely conduct and content of the meeting and possible impact on the child;
- A general presumption in favour of attendance unless there is a good reason against this;
- Whether the child/young person attends or not, regard needs to be given to:
- Maximising the child's understanding of what is happening;
- Ensuring the child's/young person's views are obtained and taken into consideration.
Whether to invite parents will primarily be determined by a judgement as to whether their involvement will help promote the goals of the meeting. Workers and managers should be aware that placement breakdown can sometimes initiate a return home for a child and where this is appropriate, encourage parental involvement. Again whether parents are invited or not, regard needs to be given to:
- Ensuring parents are appropriately informed about what is happening to their child;
- Ensuring parental views are known and taken into consideration.
Although helpful and desirable, preparation of a written report may not always be practicable in the timescale. As a minimum however the child's Social Worker should brief the chair before the meeting and provide them with copies of relevant background papers, e.g. last LAC review, core assessments, care plan. All professionals need to come to the meeting prepared to contribute relevant information and adopt a positive, problem solving approach to maintaining the placement
Placement Support Meetings and Disruption Meetings in Foster Care
- Introduction and explanation of the purpose of the meeting;
- General background (summary):
- Family background (summary);
- Reasons for being looked after;
- Assessment of Needs;
- Care Plan;
- Placement history.
- History of current placement;
- What are the support needs of the placement?
- Events and factors which may undermine stability;
- What has been done up to now to support continued placement/prevent breakdown;
- What can be done to support the placement/or prevent breakdown?
- Does the focus of Social Work intervention need changing or clarifying;
- Does the work need to focus on particular problems or tasks, e.g. school attendance, contact, staying out at night?
- What other forms of intervention might be helpful, e.g. contract based approach, solution focussed?
- Would the foster carers benefit from any training to inform their approach, e.g. behaviour management, attachment training;
- Has there been or is there a role for therapeutic support to the placement, e.g. CAMHS, mentoring or counselling support;
- What additional support might be helpful e.g. enhanced Social Worker visits, increased frequency of supervision, or sessional support?
- To include a clear hypothesis of what are the main factors affecting placement stability and how the proposed actions will promote stability;
- Are there any lessons learned or identified short falls in service provision?
Please see above chapter and note 4 in respect of Disruption Meetings.
The agenda items suggested are for guidance, the items are not an exhaustive list, and to some extent the agenda will be directed by the problems that have been identified.
It is important to keep the child at the centre of the discussion and not to dwell too far into lengthy descriptions of problem behaviours.
The meeting should be solution focussed and the end aim is to conclude with some positive actions that are designed to prevent placement disruption, or if it is agreed that a child needs to move then the meeting needs to consider how best to do this in a way to minimise the impact upon a child.
It is expected that the Chair will ensure notes of the meeting are taken and circulated. Detailed minutes are not necessary, but the notes should include a clear record of the actions agreed at the meeting.
In all circumstances the notes will include a conclusion as outlined above; it is essential that service learning is identified in order to inform service development initiatives for children and families in Walsall.
The notes from all Placement Support Meetings/ Disruption meetings that have been chaired by a Manager of the service will be e-mailed to the Coordinator for foster carer reviews for analysis and reporting of significant findings to foster panel and senior managers in the service.