Placements with Connected Persons
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to any formal (Looked After) placement of a child with a caring relative, friend or Connected Person who is not already approved as a foster carer at the time of the placement.
If the relative or friend has been approved as a foster carer prior to the placement, Placements in Looked After Services (Children's Homes, Foster Care and Commissioned Placements) Procedure will apply from the point that a placement has been identified.
This procedure will not apply where a Looked After Child stays with a relative or friend on a temporary basis for contact purposes only or for overnight stays. In these circumstances Delegated Authority Guidance applies.
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.
Initial Family and Friends Care Assessment: A good practice guide (FRG). A good practice guide on initial family and friends care assessments has been launched by Family Rights Group. The guide is a response to the lack of any minimum standards as to how such assessments, commonly called viability assessments, are conducted.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was amended in March 2020. The following guidance was added "The child's social worker must also consider the induction process required for the child in order to ensure that where possible this takes place at the child's pace." into Section 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, not withstanding 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 placed with the Connected Person before the Connected Person's suitability to be a foster carer has been assessed 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."
The procedure sets out the checks that need to be made before such a placement can be made.
The child's social worker must also consider the induction process required for the child in order to ensure that where possible this takes place at the child's pace.
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.
In 2018, the local Court Circuit issued guidance in relation to Protocol for the Identification, Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons. This should be read and the guidance adhered to.
2. Approval of Immediate Placements of Looked After Children with Connected Persons
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.
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 3, Assessment and Checks, below.
3. Assessment and Checks
Matters to be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a Connected Person to care for the child are:
- The nature and quality of any existing relationship with the child;
- 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; 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;
- State of health (physical, emotional and mental), and medical history including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
- Family relationships and the composition of the household, including particulars 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;
- 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;
- Any criminal offences of which they have been convicted or in respect of which they have been cautioned;
- Past and present employment and other sources of income;
- Nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and the Connected Person.
The home must be visited by the social worker as part of the assessment of the suitability of arrangements.
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.
The views of parents / those with Parental Responsibility must also be obtained.
The placement may only continue after sixteen weeks if the carer is approved as a foster carer - see Section 6, Assessment of Relatives/Friends as Foster Carers - or in exceptional circumstances where the temporary approval is extended.
This temporary approval can be extended for a further period of up to 8 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 Recruitment, Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure). The IRO must also be informed. A decision to extend the temporary approval must be approved by the Nominated Officer.
As the Connected Person will be temporarily approval 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 and child allowances, payments as a foster carer.
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.
4. Relevant Plans and Agreements
In considering placement plans with relatives and friends, social workers and their managers should think carefully about the initial need to look after a child and the child permanence plan. Other possibilities should be considered and discussed with those with parental responsibility or involved in the child's care. If already looked after a child may not need to remain looked after once placed with Connected Person carers and alternatives to being looked after may be more appropriate. This may include use of a Child Arrangements Order and also Special Guardianship Orders.
The child's placement with a Connected Person must be part of the Care Plan.
Prior to the placement, a Health Plan and Placement Plan must be drawn up by the child's social worker in consultation with the carer.
The Placement Plan should act as a written agreement between the relative or friend and the authority; but if it does not, a separate written agreement should be drafted. The plan/agreement must stipulate the financial support/arrangements for the placement and that the relative/friend:
- Will care for the child as if (s)he were a member of the family;
- Will permit any person authorised by the local authority to visit the child at any time;
- Will allow the child to be removed where the placement is no longer meeting the child's needs;
- Will keep confidential any information given to them concerning the child;
- Will allow contact with the child, as specified by the local authority or court order.
5. The Placement
The social worker should ensure the following:
- Notify all those consulted or involved in the decision-making process. The notification must advise of the placement decision, the name and address of the person with whom the child is to be placed, details relating to the child's contact with parents and the arrangements related to the care and welfare of the child. Notifications must be sent before the placement wherever possible or within 5 working days of the placement;
- A Placement Planning Meeting has been arranged within 5 working days of the placement starting; see Placement Planning Meetings Procedure;
- A Looked After Review has been arranged; see Looked After Reviews Procedure;
- That the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician;
- That a Health Care Assessment has been arranged and a Health Plan drafted; see Health Care Assessments and Health Plans Procedure;
- That suitable arrangements are in place to review or draw up the child's Personal Education Plan.
The following systems/records must be updated or completed:
- Approval of the placement must be entered on Mosaic;
- Mosaic must be updated in relation to the carer and child;
- Complete/update all Looked After Children (LAC);
- Complete forms WSS 633 (Placement Agreement) in relation to Emergency Placements, WSS 19 (Notification of Placements) to be sent to the Family Placements Team and Information System Section and WSS 80 (Financial Assistance);
- If the child is placed outside the authority, complete WSS 627 and forward to the authority;
- If the child was already Looked After, the social worker will send notification of the placement to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.
6. Assessment of Relatives/Friends as Foster Carers
If the plan is for the placement to last longer than 16 weeks, it will be necessary to undertake an assessment of the Connected Persons with a view to approving them as foster carers.
This temporary approval can be extended for a further period of up to 8 weeks (if it is likely to expire before the assessment is completed) or until the outcome of the Independent Review (if the outcome of the assessment is that the Connected Person is not approved and seeks a review of the decision - see Recruitment, Assessment and Approval 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 IRO must also be informed. A decision to extend the temporary approval must be approved by the Nominated Officer.
The child's social worker must complete the viability assessment on Mosaic, get it authorised by the appropriate manager and send the workflow the case to the Family Placements Team with a view to arranging for the Connected Persons to be assessed as foster carers.Family Placements will arrange for the fostering assessment to be undertaken and make arrangements for the case to be brought before the Fostering Panel.
This assessments will be undertaken as set out in Section 3, Assessments and Checks. Additionally, the following will be completed:
- CoramBAAF Form C;
- WSS 302 (Precautionary Checks);
- An enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service Check;
- Relevant Medical Forms;
- Child's Chronology;
- Obtain two non family and one family reference, by way of direct interviews.
Given the short time-scale for the assessment, the Supervising Social Worker should contact the Designated Manger (Fostering Panel) to arrange a time and date for presentation of the assessment report. The procedure for approving the assessment via the Fostering Panel is the same as the procedure for the approval of all local authority approved foster carers.
The outcome of the assessments/checks should be submitted to the Fostering Panel.
7. Support, Monitoring and Review of Placement
The carers will be provided with financial support, by means of a fostering allowance dependent on the age of the child. They will also be able to receive a fostering fee once they have completed Skills to Foster Training. The fee will continue to be paid to connected carers as long as they continue to evidence compliance with ongoing training requirements.
All the usual looked after children procedures should be followed but 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. If it is not possible to see the child alone, a further visit must be made at short notice in order that the child can be seen alone and observed with the carer. The bedroom should also be seen.
The social worker must ensure that the child's Placement Plan is monitored and updated as necessary by way of Placement Planning Meetings.
The social worker must ensure that the child's Placement Plan is monitored and updated as necessary by way of Placement Planning Meetings.
Also see the following chapters:
8. 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.
All those notified of the placement should be notified also when a placement is ended.
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 Plan.
If a child is subject to a Interim Care Order or full Care Order and continues to have stays with the carers over 24 hours, the carers will continue to be registered as foster carers. Otherwise, they will be de-registered, following a foster carer review.