SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all placements of Looked After children in foster care including placements with independent fostering agencies, other than short break placements and permanent fostering placements - for those placements see Permanent Fostering Procedure.
For placements of Looked After children with Connected Persons who are not approved foster carers at the start of the placement, see Placements with Connected Persons Procedure.
See Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure for procedures relating to the initial decision to look after a child, and the drafting and approval of the Care Plan and other essential documentation.
Children may also be placed in foster care having acquired Looked After status following a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation, see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.
- Risk Assessment
- Placement Request
- Matching and Approval of Placement
- Placement Planning
- Notification of Placement
- Support and Monitoring of Placements
- Ending of Placements
- Disruption Meetings
- Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
- Long-Term Foster Placement
At the point that it is determined that a placement may be required, and throughout the subsequent process of identification, planning and placement, the social worker must consult and take account of the views of the following people:
- The child;
- The child's parents;
- Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child or anyone who has Parental Responsibility;
- Other members of the child's family who are significant to the child or who have a Contact Order in their favour in relation to the child;
- The child's school or the education service;
- The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them;
- Any other relevant person, e.g. nursery, health care professional, Children's Guardian.
The views of these people should be given by them, in writing, or should be recorded by the social worker. If the child's wishes are not acted upon, the reason should be given.
2. Risk Assessment
A Risk Assessment must be completed and recorded by the child's social worker before any placement in foster care is made - see Risk Assessments for Children and Young People (Local Resources and One Minute Guides).
3. Placement Request
Where a decision has been made via the Legal Gateway Panel or outside of the Panel by two Service Managers that a child requires a foster placement, the child's social worker should complete and send a Placement Request Form and Placement Profile to the Fostering Duty Service.
The Placement Request Form will contain information about the child, the type of placement sought, the Care Plan, the date by which the placement is required, the likely length of time for which the placement is required and the expected level of contact between the child and parents.
The duty worker in the Fostering Team will check whether an in-house placement is available that appears to be appropriate to meet the child's needs.
If such a placement is available or if there is a possibility of a placement by the required date, the social worker will be advised accordingly.
If no appropriate in-house placements are available and the child requires a placement without delay, the duty officer in the Fostering Team will inform the child's social worker and the Duty Fostering Team Manager. The child's social worker will consult his or her Team Manager and, if the Team Manager agrees, make a request to seek the approval in principle of the Service Director (or in his/her absence, the LAC Service Manager) to a placement with an Independent Fostering Agency before proceeding further. The confirmation from the Fostering Duty Service that no in-house placements are available will be attached to the request.
Once such approval has been obtained, the Fostering Duty Service will make enquiries with Independent Fostering Agencies to identify a suitable placement.
4. Matching and Approval of Placement
The matching process should consider the child's needs especially regarding the following key areas:
- The child's education;
- The expectations around contact with relatives and friends;
- The child's identity/race/culture;
- The child's history;
- The child's behaviour;
- The child's health;
- The focus of the placement.
The matching process should also consider the carer's availability and:
- Their experience;
- Their strengths;
- The family composition;
- The distance from the foster home to the child's school;
- Other children in the placement;
- The foster carer's children.
Where an in-house resource is identified, the duty Fostering Duty Service worker will contact the foster carer, the foster carer's supervising social worker and the child's social worker to agree the proposed placement. At this stage, the social worker will need to discuss the child with the prospective carer and, in particular, share the Risk Assessment with the foster carers and supervising social worker. Wherever possible, the child's social worker should visit potential carers and as required consult with other professionals, prior to a decision about the appropriateness of a placement being made.
In relation to the sharing of bedrooms, each child over three years old should have their own bedroom, or where this is not possible, the placing authority must agree to the sharing of the bedroom and this must therefore be addressed during the matching process.
The fostering service must also take steps to promote the child's identity, self-esteem and confidence through a range of measures which respect the child's individual identity.
These should include:
- Enabling children to develop emotional resilience and self esteem;
- Allowing children to exercise choice about what they eat, preparing meals and snacks within the limits that a reasonable parent would set;
- Enabling children to exercise choice about clothes and personal requisites;
- Children receiving a personal allowance appropriate to their age and understanding.
The proposed placement will then be presented to the social worker's Team Manager and Duty Fostering Team Manager for consideration.
If the relevant Team Manager approves the foster placement, the Placement Planning process can start - see Section 5, Placement Planning.
If the placement is outside the foster carer's terms of approval or an exemption is required, see Exemptions from the Usual Limit and Extensions of Approval Procedure.
Where there is a child already in the proposed foster placement, contact should be made with the social worker for that child and where the child is from a different local authority, the consent of that child's local authority should be sought by the duty Fostering Duty Service worker.
The social worker may then arrange visits to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate).
Where the placement is with independent foster carers who live outside the local authority area, see also Out of District Placements Procedure.
N.B. In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education, the Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency/ where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury - see Education of Looked After Children Procedure.
5. Placement Planning
Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will liaise with the foster carer and the foster carer's supervising social worker (where the placement is with in-house carers) or an independent fostering agency. In some cases a Planning meeting will need to be convened to discuss the proposed Care Plan for the child.
Participants will include:
- The parent;
- Anyone who has Parental Responsibility;
- The child (if appropriate);
- The carer;
- The foster carer's link worker;
- The Designated Teacher;
- The Reach Team;
- Anyone else considered appropriate or to have a role in the Placement Plan, e.g. relative, nursery, health care professional, YOS worker.
The purpose of the Planning Meeting is to confirm that the Referral Information Record is complete and to finalise the Placement Plan (which will be recorded on the Placement Information Record). This will involve a discussion of the child's needs, to ensure careful matching, including the child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin, as well as the child's health and education needs and how these are to be met. It will also include the arrangements for registering the child with local health professionals (GP, dentist, and optician).
In addition the placement planning meeting will consider the type of introduction process required, for example whether arrangements should be made for the child, parents and the social worker to visit the foster home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. Children should be able to visit the foster home and talk in private with the carer. If this is not possible, arrangements may be made for the carers to visit the child and parents; or for information about the foster carers to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the foster home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child's behaviour within the home.
For children placed in foster care, the Placement Plan should cover the following issues in addition to those for all placements set out in the Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure:
- The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
- Where the authority has, or is notified of, Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the day to day arrangements put in place by the appropriate person (placement provider) to keep the child safe;
- The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
- Where the child is Accommodated:
- The respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility;
- Any delegation of responsibility by parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority and /or the foster carer(s) in relation to the following matters ( and identifying any of these matters on which the local authority/parents/persons with Parental Responsibility consider that the child may make a decision):
- Medical and dental treatment;
- Leisure and home life;
- Faith and religious observance;
- Use of social media;
- Any other matters upon which the local authority/parents/others with parental responsibility consider appropriate.
- The expected duration of the arrangements and the steps to bring the arrangements to an end, including arrangements for the child to return to live with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility;
- Where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact.
- The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain in advance the Local Authority's approval for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays;
- The Local Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
- The obligation on the carers to comply with the terms of the foster care agreement.
The meeting also provides an opportunity to ensure that the foster carers have a copy of any relevant court order and that full information is shared with them about the child's needs and any behaviour management issues.
Except in emergency placements, the Planning Meeting should be held before the placement. Where this is not possible, it should be held at the latest within five working days of the placement.
The child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan Referral,Placement Plan and Information Record, to the child, parents and foster carers before or at the latest, within five working days of the placement.
The child's social worker must provide the child and the parent with written information about the looked after service. This includes information on using the authority's Complaints Procedure.
In addition, the social worker should ensure that any other information about the placement that is available for the child is obtained and given to him/her. Children must understand house expectations before the placement is made.
In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in. Suitable luggage should be used and a child's belongings should never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers.
6. Notification of Placement
In order to ensure that placements are correctly recorded social workers must follow the Service Placements Process.
The notifications should be made before the start of the placement, wherever possible, or within five working days.
Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the relevant health trust, the relevant local Children's Social Care (if the placement is outside the district), the appropriate education service 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.
The administrative staff must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer or, if it is the first Looked After Placement, the Review Team of the placement. This notification will trigger, if necessary, the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer, and the setting up of arrangements for a Looked After Review.
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.
The child's social worker should also notify - preferably in writing but it may be verbally - all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including nursery/school and any health professional or YOT worker actively involved with the child.
It will be necessary for the foster carer (if an in-house placement) or 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.
In relation to a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to arrange a Health Care Assessment - see Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure for further details.
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 wellbeing.
7. Support and Monitoring of Placements
The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement unless otherwise agreed by the Service Director. All Looked After Children must be visited every month and out of authority placements require fortnightly visits. These visits can be shared with other professionals such as leaving care workers as long as the child's social worker speaks to the other professional involved after the visits and details are recorded on the children's social work file. For children in long-term foster placements visits after the first year should not be less frequent than six monthly.
The foster carer will also receive support and supervision from their supervising social worker (for in-house placements) - see Supervision, Support and Training of Foster Carers Procedure - and from the independent fostering agency (for agency placements).
The records should be monitored for quality, adequacy and retention.
A Looked After Review should be convened where:
- The child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
- The placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm; or
- The child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified.
See also Looked After Reviews Procedure.
8. Ending of Placements
When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update Care Director and complete and send Form SS35 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.
All written information on the child, which the foster carer holds, should be transferred to the foster carer's supervising social worker for transfer to the child's social worker.
Children must, when they leave the home, be helped to understand the reasons and be supported with the transition - including return home and independence.
Foster carers must be supported to maintain links with children who leave their care, where appropriate.
9. Disruption Meetings
Where a foster placement ends in an unplanned way, consideration should be given by the Fostering Team Manager and the relevant Team manager for the child to convening a Disruption Meeting. The Fostering Team will invite the child's social worker, the foster carers, their supervising social worker, the current carers, the child's Independent Reviewing Officer and any other relevant people. The managers for both the child's social worker and the foster carer's supervising social worker must also attend.
Usually, an 'off-line' manager will chair the meeting. However if the disruption issues are particularly complex, then funding can be sought from the Placement Service Manager, to appoint an independent person to chair the meeting.
The precise agenda will depend on the child/circumstances, but the Chair should ensure the circumstances leading to the disruption are properly reviewed, and that all concerned are provided with opportunities to express their views freely with a view to establishing:
- How and why the disruption occurred;
- To learn from what happened and avoid the same thing happening again-for the child or others in the foster home;
- To contribute to the future planning for the child;
- To identify work to be done and to ensure it is completed.
The Chair should keep minutes, which must be circulated to all concerned. Where the report relates to a long-term matched foster placement, the report of the Disruption Meeting should be presented to the Fostering Panel.
The child needs to have resolved any of their issues that may have contributed to the disruption and their feelings arising from it before entering a new permanent placement.
The carers should also have the opportunity to discuss the events and their feelings of loss about them.
Consideration needs to be given to holding an early Foster Carer Review to consider the foster carer's approval - see Review of Foster Carers Procedure.
Where a former carer's records are requested by a new agency, these must be made available within one month of the request.
10. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
A person who is approved as a prospective adopter may be given temporary approval as a local authority foster carer for a named Looked After child, where the local authority consider that this is in the child's best interests.
Before giving such approval, the responsible authority must:
- Assess the suitability of that person to care for the child as a foster carer; and
- Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the responsible authority, the proposed arrangements will safeguard and promote the child's welfare and meet the child's needs as set out in the Care Plan.
The temporary approval period expires when:
- The placement is terminated by the local authority;
- The approval as a prospective adopter is terminated;
- The prospective adopter is approved as a foster carer;
- The prospective adopter gives 28 days' written notice that they no longer wish to be temporarily approved as a foster parent in relation to the child; or
- The child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopter.
11. Long Term Foster Placement
Where it is the case that the most appropriate route to permanence is long-term foster care, the regulations set out the arrangements for making such a placement, including:
- That foster care is the plan for permanence and is recorded in the child's care plan, (Reg 5(a));
- That the foster carer has agreed to act as the child's foster carer until the child ceases to be looked after;
- That the responsible authority has confirmed the nature of the arrangement with the foster carer(s), the birth parent and the child; and
- The child and foster carer have a clear understanding of the support services they will receive to promote the placement.
The assessment and planning process for long-term foster care should address the child's current needs and likely future needs, and the capacity of the foster carer to meet these needs now and in the future. The length of placement will vary according to the child's age and the long-term plan for the child, including the transition to adulthood. These factors must all be taken into account in planning for support and services where long - term foster care has been identified as the plan for permanence for a child.
Before deciding to place a child in a long-term foster placement, (whether or not this means moving to a new carer) the ability of the identified long-term foster carer to care for the child both now and in the future should be assessed. The support and services which will be needed to ensure that the placement is stable, secure and meets the child's needs should be identified taking into account the carer's previous fostering or other childcare experience, family configuration (including placement of other children under fostering arrangements), existing relationship (if any) with the child, knowledge and skills and capacity to care for the child long term under a fostering arrangement.
It is imperative that the foster carer fully understands and explicitly agrees to the long term commitment they are making to the child [regulation 22B (2)(f)]. A record of the discussion of these matters including the outcome should be made as part of the assessment process.
The decision to place a child in a long-term foster placement with a particular foster carer should be discussed and recorded as part of the review process. This decision should then be recorded in the placement plan and agreed and signed by the foster carer [regulation 9(3)].
Where it is agreed that the child will be placed in a long-term foster placement, this should be communicated clearly to the foster carer, the child's parents or any other person who is not a parent but has parental responsibility and the child. (Reg 2(1)).
Where the decision has been taken that the plan for permanence is long-term foster care and the child is in an existing foster care placement, it may be that the carer and (where appropriate) the child want the existing foster placement to be the long-term foster placement. Such a proposal should be considered in a reasonable timescale taking into account the existing relationship between the child and the foster carer, the length of time in placement, the child's relationships with the foster carers wider family and community. Consideration should also be given to the progress the child has made in the placement, recorded through the case review process.
There may be circumstances where it is not considered appropriate to assess the ability of the current foster carer as the long-term carer for the child. In these instances, the reasons for this decision should be clearly set out in writing to the foster carer. This decision should also be communicated to the child where it is appropriate to their age and understanding.