This policy must be read on conjunction with the Permanence Planning Guidance which clearly sets out the principles and practice of permanence.See also:
- Aim of the Permanence Policy
- Key Objectives of Planning for Permanence
- Guiding Principles in Achieving Permanence for Children
- Options for Permanence
- The Process by Which the Care Plan is Determined
- 'Edge of Care' (Multi-Disciplinary Team Around the Child) Meeting
- Resource Panel Terms of Reference
- Children Who Need to Become Looked After in an Emergency
- Legal Planning Meetings
- Permanence Planning Meetings
- Parallel Planning
- Permanence Planning Review Meetings
- Preparing Children for Permanence
- Placement with Parents
- Securing Permanence for Children in Specific Circumstances
- Securing Permanence through Long Term Fostering
- Fostering Panel's Role in Permanence through Fostering
- Process Where the Child is to Remain in the Current Placement
- Process Where the Child is to Move to New Permanent Placement
- Disruption of Fostering Placements
- Convening a Statutory Review in Relation to Disruption
- Disruption Meeting
- Foster Carer Review / Panel Attendance in Relation to Disruption
- Securing Permanence through a Special Guardianship Order
- Permanence through Adoption
- Appendix 1: Definitions of Terms Used in This Policy and Within Permanence Work
- Appendix 2: Good Practice Guidance for Permanence Decisions
- Appendix 3: Financial Support for Carers Applying for an Adoption Order, Special Guardianship Order
- Appendix 4: Guidance for Financial and Other Support Services to Children Living with Family and Friends
- Appendix 5: Special Guardianship - Explanatory Notes
- Appendix 6: Links to Legislation, National Objectives, Standards and Guidance and Local Policy, Procedures and Good Practice
This Permanence Policy applies to all work with children in need and their families. It must underpin practice in Referral and Assessment, Children and Families, Children in Care, and the Targeted Support Teams where children's needs for stability within their family form part of the assessment.
All children need to have stable and permanent arrangements to govern their everyday lives and to enable them to develop and grow into healthy adults. The task of social work with children is to achieve that stability in the best way for the child, and for this reason, working towards permanence is relevant to all areas of social work with children.
There are links within this document to link to related policy, procedure and good practice guidance.
Permanence is a framework of emotional, physical and legal conditions that gives a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment and identity. Permanence provides for physical, emotional, social, cognitive and spiritual well-being and promotes lifelong connections to extended family, siblings, other significant adults, family history and traditions, race and ethnic heritage, culture, religion and language.
Permanence for children has three particular aspects:
- Legal - e.g. staying with birth parents who have Parental Responsibility; Adoption; or Court Orders such as a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order;
- Psychological - when the child feels attached to an adult who provides a stable, loving and secure relationship;
- Physical or environmental - a stable home environment within a familiar neighbourhood and community where the child's identity needs are met.
2. Aim of the Permanence Policy
Permanence is the over-riding aim of care planning and support to children in need. Children need to be securely attached to adult carers who can provide safe and effective care throughout childhood.
There is a growing body of compelling evidence that the development of children's brains is adversely affected when they are exposed to poor parenting by their primary care giver. This ranges from the damage done in the womb when the mother is using drugs and/or alcohol, to the damage done in the early months and years by inconsistent parental response, high and unrelieved stress, lack of continuity of care and many other factors.
"Evidence of the damaging impact of childhood neglect and abuse throughout adolescence and into adulthood provides a compelling case for taking early decisive action to prevent its occurrence and recurrence and to mitigate its consequences."
(Decision making within a child's timeframe, an overview of current research evidence. Brown and Ward, 2012).
Our priority in promoting permanence is to preserve and promote attachment relationships, minimise disruption and keep children safely within the context of their birth family, ideally with parents. If this is not possible we will support and promote living with extended family or friends. This may be by offering support under Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act to families, or by promoting applications for Child Arrangements or Special Guardianship Orders. In some instances, families may make their own arrangements for the care of children away from parents and the local authority. Advice and information can be provided under the terms of the Family and Friends Policy. In some cases additional support services may also be available, for example support groups.
If the child needs to become looked after, we will endeavour, where appropriate, to establish formal 'Kinship Care' arrangements (also known as 'Family and friends' or 'connected person' care. These may be planned arrangements, or sometimes a looked after child may be placed on an immediate basis with a 'connected' person under Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2015). When those options are not possible we will, without delay, provide or plan for permanent placements with foster carers or adopters.
Attachment issues and permanence will be addressed from the point of initial assessment, through care planning, service delivery, placement and review. Assessments will explicitly identify the child's key attachment figures in their family and community and the quality of those attachments. Assessments and support packages should focus on promoting attachments and reducing any potentially negative impact of care arrangements on attachment experiences and secure relationships.
Fragmented and disorganised attachment patterns will be a trigger for early intervention and support services with a specific focus on promoting secure attachments.
Care Proceedings will only be initiated when the parents are unwilling to collaborate in and accept action essential for the child's safety, wellbeing and development. All reasonable efforts will be made to rehabilitate the child with his/her family, unless there is sufficient evidence that further attempts at rehabilitation are unlikely to succeed.
3. Key Objectives of Planning for Permanence
When considering key objectives in planning permanence for children we aim:
- To meet the child's long-term needs as soon as possible;
- To ensure the best possible outcomes for the child by providing an environment which encourages the child to reach his/her potential;
- To enable the child to form healthy and lasting attachments;
- To ensure the child feels valued as a member of a family and society;
- To ensure the child develops a sense of belonging and feels secure.
4. Guiding Principles in Achieving Permanence for Children
4.1 Early Intervention and Staying at Home
The first consideration in permanence planning is working with families and children in need to support them in staying together. An early offer of effective help can often result in better outcomes for children, enabling them to remain at home with their parents and have all of their needs met within that setting.
Staying at home offers the best chance of stability. Some families may need additional support in order to make this a realistic option, and the local authority is committed to providing such support.
Where children have had to move away from their parent's care, the primary aim will be to rehabilitate children to their parents where it is appropriate to do so. Intensive work will need to take place within the first few weeks of the child becoming looked after to achieve this. Consideration will be given to holding a Family Group Conference to determine what help and support is available from extended family members that may enable the child to return home and remain in the care of their parents. In the event that a Family Group Conference does not take place, the reason for this will be clearly recorded on the child's file.
If rehabilitation is not quickly achievable or appropriate, then the option of placing the child with a suitable extended family member will be fully explored.
4.3 Preventing Drift
Decision-making must be within the child's timescales in order to prevent drift. Efforts to rehabilitate the child to the family must be time limited due to the risks associated with drift and disrupted attachments at key stages in childhood, particularly in the early years. Delay is damaging to a child's life chances and must be kept to the minimum necessary in order to ensure the child's best interests.
Where assessments have determined that a child cannot be returned to the care of their family, a plan of adoption will be the first consideration for that child, as a means of securing permanence.
4.4 Involving Children
Children have the right to understand what is happening to them and why it is happening. Children should be involved (in an age appropriate way) in the discussion and thinking about their care plan and should know what is proposed, and should have the opportunity to express their views about it and to have those views discussed and recorded. Children should know and understand the implications of the care plan for them and their future. We will encourage and enable them to do this in a way that is appropriate to their age and understanding. Children should also be made aware that the final responsibility for decisions rests with the adults concerned. Independent Advocacy Services are available for children involved in care and child protection services, and the involvement of this service can assist children in engaging in the care planning process.
Children have a right to make representations and complaints and they will receive help to do so if this is required. Gloucestershire County Council is committed to the involvement of children and young people in the shaping and development of services and has a Participation Project which aims to ensure that children and young people involved in social care services are encouraged, supported and enabled to express their views about services. For children and young people who are looked after, there is a Children in Care Council, and young people should also be actively encouraged to take part in that.
Contact (direct or indirect) between children and their families is important and will be promoted unless it is inconsistent with the child's safety or best interests, or would jeopardise their chances of achieving a permanent placement. A child should be having direct contact with birth parents where they are in the care of the local authority, unless the local authority has an order under Section 34(4), which gives the local authority permission to refuse contact, or the child themselves declines or refuses contact.
Contact plans and arrangements must be given very careful consideration at the planning stage, and should be the subject of discussion between the Social Worker and the child or young person. The contact arrangements can very often be critical in determining the likely success or otherwise of the proposed placement in the long term. Where a child is to be adopted, for example, direct contact is often not a realistic expectation, as it can actively work against the adopters' efforts to bond with the child and may de-stabilise the child also, thus making it less likely that the adoption will be successful.
In relation to Special Guardianship arrangements, similar consideration must be given to striking a balance a balance between the child's need to see the parent to know that they are well, and the child's need to settle in their new home and develop a deep and enduring attachment with their special guardian.
4.6 Partnership with Parents
CYPS will work in partnership with parents in order to:
- Enable and support the child's own birth family to provide a permanent home for the child as long as it is safe to do so;
- Provide support in partnership with universal services such as Education, Health or voluntary bodies who often have particular skills in helping families. The aim will be social inclusion, achieving positive outcomes for children and discouraging dependency. A full assessment of need will identify which services may be required;
- Ensure services will be sensitive to the needs of children and families and their cultural and linguistic background, ethnic origins, religious persuasion and any disabilities the child or family may have;
- Achieve the best possible outcomes for children.
Where the local authority shares Parental Responsibility for a child with the parents, the parents will be kept fully involved and informed in all decisions about the child's future and their views and wishes will be taken into account, where it is safe to do so and meets the child's needs. Support services will be made available to assist parents to communicate and record their views.
Where adoption is the plan, an independent worker will be provided for birth parents in accordance with legislation. Counselling and support with an independent worker will be provided for birth parents who are considering relinquishing babies or children for adoption. Birth families will be encouraged to provide relevant information about themselves and their family history. Parents will receive an explanation of how significant this information is for their child as they grow up.
Parents have the right to make representations and complaints, and will be advised of the procedures to do so.
Many children live within complex family structures with step or half-siblings living with them or elsewhere. CYPS recognise the life long importance of sibling attachments and therefore is committed to meeting the needs of sibling groups. Every attempt will be made to:
- Assess siblings at an early stage to ensure full consideration of their relationships with each other, in order to inform placement considerations;
- Keep siblings together when this is assessed to be appropriate and in the interests of each individual child;
- Pay attention to contact arrangements between siblings and geographical proximity of placement options;
- Ensure that the individual needs of children are met.
Any assessments will explicitly identify the child's key attachment figures in their family and community, and the quality of those attachments. Fragmented and insecure attachment patterns may be a factor for early intervention and family support services with a specific focus on promoting secure attachments. Partnership working with psychology services or other specialist agencies may be required to inform more complex assessment and intervention.
5. Options for Permanence
Permanence can be achieved in a variety of ways, some of which are detailed below.
The options for permanence are:
- Staying with birth parent(s), or returning to them within a short timescale. This can be where parents need some additional support or services in order to be able to care for their children, or where assessments show that any risks can either be managed or are not present;
- Placement with Family or Friends/Connected Persons where there has been a thorough assessment process that clearly demonstrates that the proposed carer is able to care for the child at least until the child is 18, with particular reference to the age, health and support networks of the carer;
- Long Term Fostering where the child has a significant and (at least partly) positive relationship and attachment to their parents, but they are not able to live with them. The child will usually still continue to have direct contact regularly and should be matched with a named long term foster carer, with the intention that the child will remain there at least until they are 18;
- Child Arrangements Orders where a proposed carer (often a family member) shares parental responsibility via this order. This can happen without any involvement from the local authority. Where the local authority is involved, there must be an assessment of the proposed carers, which considers the same issues as the assessment for placement with extended family/friends and special guardianship (see below);
- Special Guardianship Order where (usually, but not exclusively) family members undertake to care for a child until they reach the age of 18. The social work assessment of these prospective carers should consider the age, health and support networks of the proposed special guardians to ensure that they will be able to care for the child for at least the remainder of childhood. These arrangements should have a support plan to include both financial and any other support to the carer. The special guardian shares parental responsibility for the child and is entitled to exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of the parents. The parent has to demonstrate that their circumstances have altered significantly in order to apply for residence of the child once the Special Guardianship Order has been made;
- Adoption where it is in the best interests of the child for the legal relationship between the child and the birth parents to be severed and for the child to be placed with another family who will obtain a legal order that will make the child their own child, as if s/he had been born to them.
6. The Process by Which the Care Plan is Determined
6.1 'Edge of Care' (Multi-Disciplinary Team Around the Child) Meeting
For children at risk of family breakdown, an 'Edge of Care Meeting' will be convened in order to ensure:
- Multi-agency/disciplinary co-operation and information sharing;
- That the plans for children at risk of family breakdown will detail the steps to be taken to promote the child's attachments and secure permanence;
- That consideration is given to the holding of a Family Group Conference;
- That consideration is given to referral to DPST or re-unification team for work to be undertaken to try to prevent family disruption and plan for imminent return.
This meeting will be chaired by a Team Manager or Deputy Team Manager and will have the aim of diverting children from care by the consideration of and provision of other services, providing it is safe to do so, to enable the child to remain at home if possible.
6.2 Resource / Edge of Care/Placement Panel
When children become, are highly likely to become or have just become looked after, they will be referred to the Resource Panel using the Resource Panel Referral Form. The child's social worker will complete a report for the Resource Panel, detailing the circumstances and providing a copy of an up-to-date single assessment, together with a copy of the care plan, and will attend in person. This scrutiny of the Resource Panel will ensure:
- Consistent provision of help and support to families across the County in order to avoid the need for children to become looked after;
- Consistent thresholds across the authority for the accommodation of children;
- Good practice in relation to promoting secure care within the child's family network;
- That children will be rehabilitated back to their family at the earliest opportunity where appropriate, and this may be assisted by the holding of a Family Group Conference and referral to the Reunification Team.
The Resource Panel will maintain oversight of the care plan for the child and will monitor progress in relation to the plan.
6.3 Children Who Need to Become Looked After in an Emergency
The Resource Panel will meet every two weeks, however, circumstances will arise in which the local authority will have to make a decision about some children becoming looked after on an emergency basis, in between those times. These situations usually arise following a negative event in the child's family that was unanticipated. When such circumstances occur, the Team Manager should have a discussion with their Service Manager prior to any decision about section 20 accommodation being made.
Outside the Resource Panel, the responsibility for making a decision that the child should become looked after rests with the Service Manager. The Service Manager can make a decision about looked after status until the date of the next Resource Panel, at which time the matter will then come under the Panels scrutiny. The Service Manager may therefore decide that the child should be looked after until the next Resource Panel, or may decide that a decision about looked after status can be safely held over until the next Resource Panel meeting.
6.4 Legal Planning Meetings
The Team Manager and the Social Worker should be mindful about reducing delay and drift in planning for children, and when a child becomes looked after under section 20, consideration should be given at a very early stage to holding a Legal Planning Meeting.
6.5 Permanence Planning Meetings
In order to determine the local authority plan for the child, a Permanence Planning meeting will be held on every looked after child and should take place between the 28 day statutory LAC review and the 4 month statutory LAC review. The meeting will focus on the child's welfare and will include consideration of key attachment figures. The exact timing of the meeting will be determined by the completion of the assessments that have taken place to ensure that placement with relatives or other attachment figures in the child's network have been fully explored.
Parents and children will be involved in Permanence Planning Meetings, as appropriate, and/or will be informed of the outcome at the earliest opportunity. Other participants can include professionals involved with the child, and the Guardian within any court proceedings. The meeting should be chaired by a Team Manager or Deputy Team Manager.
The care plan that is formulated at this meeting will be the care plan that is taken forward by the Social Worker into the 4 month Statutory LAC Review. The Independent Reviewing Officers will be ensuring that at the 4 month review all child permanency plans are clear, time limited with clear accountabilities. Appropriate contingency planning will be detailed and explicitly. The IROs have a clear responsibility to offer challenge to plans that are not compliant with these guidelines. In the event that this is the case IROs will discuss with Team Managers and agree a way forward.
6.6 Parallel Planning
Where the primary plan is that the child should be rehabilitated to parents, but the likely success of that is unclear, the local authority will pursue contingency plans at the same time. This is known as parallel planning or twin tracking, and will ensure that if the primary plan is unsuccessful, there is no further delay or drift whilst other permanence plans are put into effect. In these circumstances it is important that all plans are actively pursued prior to the Permanence Planning Meeting.
Reasons for any delay must be explained and recorded. Children should be spoken to at each stage in an age appropriate way, and their wishes and feelings should be recorded and considered within the context of the plan.
6.7 Permanence Planning Review Meetings
The progress of permanence planning for children in care should be regularly reviewed through the regular LAC reviewing process. The direction of the permanence plan must be established outside the LAC review process (at the Permanence Planning meeting) and any change in that direction should be considered at a Permanency Planning Review Meeting. There are many factors which may influence the need to change the plan for the child, these may include factors such as the Agency Decision Maker not agreeing that a child is suitable for adoption, or a Placement Order application being unsuccessful.
6.8 Preparing Children for Permanence
Children have a right to be well prepared before any permanent change in their lives. Direct work tailored to their specific needs should be undertaken before joining a new family. Life story work, appropriate to the child's developmental stage should be undertaken. The child should have a 'life story' book, including clear information on their birth and life before the new permanent placement, which can be updated regularly, and also a Later Life Letter. They should also receive information on the adopters or carers and their family in advance of being placed with them.
6.9 Placement with Parents
Where the child is to be returned to their parents with a Care Order in place under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989, any assessment undertaken will have concluded that this is the best way in which to secure permanence for the child, and will have considered all matters specified in the relevant regulations and Schedule 3 (Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010). In the event of a child under Section 38 being placed at home with parents, the same process should be followed by the Social Worker, but there will also be the additional scrutiny of the court process owing to the interim nature of the care order.
Any decision to place a child with a parent must be authorised by the 'nominated officer', in Gloucestershire County Council this is the Director of Safeguarding and Care. When children have been placed at home with their parents their situation must be regularly reviewed and consideration given to revocation of the court order at the earliest date.
7. Securing Permanence for Children in Specific Circumstances
7.1 Permanence for Children in Private Fostering Arrangements
The Local Authority's role is to ensure that any private fostering arrangement is safe and suitable for the child. The Policy and Procedure for Private Fostering Arrangements (see Private Fostering Procedure) details the assessment, planning and review process for these arrangements. Permanence and attachment can be at risk for children and young people who move around different living arrangements, and this should be reflected in any assessment of a child or young person and in the planning for them. Establishing effective partnership working with the parents and carers of a privately fostered child is the best way to promote permanence for them.
7.2 Permanence for Children Receiving Short Breaks / Respite Care
Permanence plans for children who live either with their parents, or in other long term placements may be supported by the provision of short-term care arrangements, which may include overnight stays. This may be valuable in allowing family members to have time and space to 'recharge' and to provide opportunities for children to have positive relationships with other care givers. Many parents are able to establish their own informal arrangements with friends or relatives who are able to care for their children for short periods. Family and support networks of this sort will always be considered as part of the Framework for Assessment of children in need.
Short break schemes for children with a disability include family based approved Family Link carers, as well as residential provision in some cases. Family Link carers are approved in accordance with fostering regulations. Children placed for overnight short stays with Family Link carers do not generally become Looked After for that period, although if they are in a placement for any 75 days (not necessarily consecutively) or more in a 12 month period then they are regarded as being looked after. (Section 48 Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010).
Families may also choose to use Direct Payments to fund their own arrangements with a caregiver.
Permanence for children within their own families may also be supported during times of stress by the provision of time limited support such as foster care, or a series of short break arrangements, as part of the intervention plan.
Permanent arrangements for children in long term foster care can be supported by periods of time with other carers as part of the care plan (also known as Respite Care). This needs to be looked at in the matching process and kept under regular review. If at all possible, the foster family is encouraged to identify carers within their own social or family network who may be able to offer regular care. This may help the process of arranging a break to be more 'natural' for the child or young person.
If another foster family is identified to provide a period of support to the permanent family, every effort should be made to ensure that the child or young person has time to get to know the family, that clear information is exchanged about the placement, and that there is adherence to regulatory requirements about making placements. It is most important for continuity of carers to be provided.
8. Securing Permanence through Long Term Fostering
This option is particularly useful for older children who retain strong links to their birth families and do not want or need the formality of adoption and where the carers wish for the continued involvement of the local authority.
Long-term fostering has the following features as a Permanence Plan:
- The local authority retains a role in negotiating between the foster carers and the birth family over issues such as contact;
- There is continuing social work support to the child and foster family in a placement that is regularly reviewed to ensure that the child's needs are met;
- It maintains legal links to the birth family who can still play a part in the decision making for the child;
- Lack of Parental Responsibility for the carers;
- Continuing social work involvement;
- Regular Looked After Reviews, which could be regarded as de-stabilising to the placement;
- Stigma attached to the child due to being in care;
- The child is not legally a member of the family. If difficulties arise there may be less willingness to persevere and resolve the issues.
8.1 Fostering Panel's Role in Permanence through Fostering
Foster placement arrangements that are being made with a view to permanence for a child should be considered by Fostering Panel. The Fostering Panel is a key quality assurance process. The panel has a role in ensuring the appropriateness of the care provided by foster carers to promote best outcomes for children and young people looked after. The panel also oversees the activities of the fostering service, the types of placement made, and will consider any concerns or disruptions, and the lessons that might be drawn from them to inform future practice.
Matching of children and young people to 'permanent' foster carers in long term placements is a significant decision making process. Information about all placements of children under 14 years which are expected to become permanent should be taken to Fostering Panel.
New placements of children over 14 years should be made with the clear expectation that carers would have appropriate skills to care for adolescents and work with the relevant child care plan, i.e. encouraging independence skills, support rehabilitation if appropriate, or care for the young person in working towards care leaving. In some circumstances, for example, because of the young person's individual needs, matching of children over 14 may be presented to Fostering Panel.
8.2 Process Where the Child is to Remain in the Current Placement
If the decision is made at a Permanence Planning Meeting that the child should stay in foster care, and if the current placement is likely to be suitable for ongoing care of the child and will meet the outcomes that are sought for that placement, this arrangement should be presented to Fostering Panel for recommendation and endorsement.
Documents to panel should include:
- Permanence Planning Meeting Minutes;
- Front sheet with signatures of report author and manager (and printed names). The front sheet should explain what is coming to panel and include a clear recommendation;
- Original assessment report of the foster carers;
- Panel Minutes from the original approval and minutes from any other attendances at panel, and the decision sheets from the panel;
- Completed up-to-date signed review form. Report detailing carer(s)' ability to provide for child's long-term care, views of other permanent members of the household and any significant support needed;
- Matching report, to include child's wishes and feelings;
- Assessment if available and viability assessment;
- Consultation forms for the foster carer, the foster carer(s)' own children (if appropriate), the social worker(s) of any child(ren) placed during the last year and the foster child(ren);
- Safe Caring Policy (written by carers);
- End of placement forms if applicable;
- Any other relevant information.
If the placement in this foster home requires a recommendation to panel of a change of status or terms of approval of the carers, the Fostering Social Worker should ensure that the review contains sufficient information to underpin the reasons for the change of status. This might include a medical update, visits to referees etc.
8.3 Process Where the Child is to Move to New Permanent Placement
If the Permanence Planning Meeting confirms that the child should stay in foster care, but the current placement is not to be the ongoing one, a profile must be completed for commissioning an alternative. The fostering team will actively look for an alternative, and the child care social worker will ensure a formal request is made to provide to the fostering team including with full information in the child's profile, chronology etc.
Once a placement is identified there should be a Planning Meeting involving the Team Manager of the relevant child care team and the Fostering Team Manager. There should be a clear management decision about the appropriateness of the proposed match, and recorded by the Team Manager.
The foster carer assessment and review information, together with information about the child including the matching report, health assessment, and chronology should then go to Fostering Panel together with details about management decision making in the minutes of the planning meeting.
Rigorous matching processes will ensure that children's needs are recorded, understood and matched carefully to proposed carers. Children will be involved and consulted throughout the matching process. Placement planning arrangements will ensure that introductions are at the child's pace. The purpose of ongoing contact will be clear and based on the child's needs. Arrangements for contact will be established in the placement plan and agreement.
8.4 Disruption of Fostering Placements
The incidence of disruption in long-term, permanent, foster placements increases very significantly with the age of the child. For some children it may be necessary to consider changing the plan, whereas for others it may be regarded as an interruption in the original plan.
For all concerned, including social workers, the foster carer and the child, the disruption of a placement is a very difficult period, evoking considerable and varied emotions. It is important, though not always possible, to try to make decisions that are not unduly influenced by prevalent feelings of the moment. Lessons to be learned should be noted and inform further planning.
8.5 Convening a Statutory Review in Relation to Disruption
In the event of a placement encountering difficulties, a statutory review should be held at the earliest juncture, involving the Fostering Team Manager, as well as any others working to support the placement. It is important that support networks and post placement work should be operating effectively to resolve problems wherever possible.
If it is clearly evident that the placement cannot be maintained, the foster carer's Fostering Social Worker and the child's Social Worker must try to ensure that the ending of the placement is as smooth as possible, and properly planned. The Manager of the Fostering Team should be notified immediately.
8.6 Disruption Meeting
At the earliest appropriate juncture, the social worker for the child and the Fostering Social Worker will set up a disruption meeting. The purpose of the disruption meeting is to establish why the placement disrupted, future factors for placement, and to inform practice. It is not to apportion blame.
Where the placement has been in existence for an extended period of time and has been stable, the Service Manager for the LAC social worker and the Service Manager, Adoption and Fostering will identify an independent chairperson to chair the Disruption meeting. This would normally be a manager with experience of fostering and disruption.
A disruption meeting should include views from all persons who have been involved with the child, including previous carers, teachers and social workers. Consideration should be given to the appropriateness of involving the child and/or the birth parents.
The written record of the meeting should be a detailed and impartial account. Copies of the final minutes should be passed to the Service Manager, Adoption and Fostering and the Service Manager with the lead for Looked after Children.
8.7 Foster Carer Review / Panel Attendance in Relation to Disruption
Following the meeting it may be necessary to arrange for a review of the foster carer(s), chaired by a fostering manager or senior practitioner unconnected with the case, or an Independent Reviewing Officer. The review will consider the needs of the foster carers and their family, as well as make recommendations about any future fostering, including any training needs. The review report and the minutes of the disruption meeting will be presented to panel.
The Fostering Team Manager and / or the Fostering Panel Chair should consider any learning points from the disruptions, and any themes which need to be considered to inform future matching processes. There should also be a plan for how these themes and learning points can be disseminated.
9. Securing Permanence through a Special Guardianship Order
Special Guardianship has the following features as a Permanence Plan:
- The carers share Parental Responsibility with the parents but has clear authority to make decisions on day to day issues regarding the child's care to the exclusion of the parent;
- There is added legal security to the Order in that leave is required for parents to apply to discharge the Order and will only be granted if a significant change in circumstances can be established since the original Order was made;
- It maintains legal links to the birth family;
- The child will no longer be in care and there need be no social worker involvement unless this is identified as necessary, in which case an assessment of the need for support must be made by the relevant local authority;
- The Order only lasts until the child is 18 and does not necessarily bring with it the sense of belonging to the special guardian's family throughout the child's life as an Adoption Order does;
- As the child does not cease to be a member of the original family as they would if they were an adopted person, if difficulties arise there may be less willingness to persevere and seek resolution;
- Although there are restrictions on applications to discharge the Order, such an application is possible and may be perceived as a threat to the child's stability;
- Although a parent requires leave to apply for a Child Arrangements Order, they can apply for any other Section 8 Order (i.e. Contact Order, Prohibited Steps Order or Specific Issues Order) as of right.
Applications for Special Guardianship will be supported when assessment of the family caring for the looked after child evidences that the carer(s) and their family are capable of:
- Taking responsibility for all aspects of caring for the child, and for taking decisions to do with their upbringing;
- Providing a firm foundation of lifelong and permanent relationships for the child;
- Accepting and supporting the preservation of links between the child and their birth family.
9.1 Foster Carers Applying for a Special Guardianship Order for a Child they are Looking After
Foster carers may apply for a Special Guardianship Order when they have been looking after a child for one year (or less if they have the consent of the Local Authority). Where Foster Carers are applying for a Special Guardianship Order, the process is:
- Consideration of the plan, using the Permanence Planning Meetings and Statutory Reviews to make and endorse a decision with appropriate management agreement;
- Financial Assessment of the prospective special guardians in order to assist in the formulation of a support plan and to include living and legal costs. Where exceptional needs or circumstances are identified the social worker / team manager should consult with the Service Manager, Fostering and Adoption, who is responsible for the budget and support plan;
- Assessment of the broader support needs of the specific child within the special guardian family, in relation to additional services;
- Discussions with foster carers and with their fostering social worker and the provision of information to the carers (leaflets are available in adoption and fostering teams);
- Application to court by foster carers;
- SGO report and support plan presented to the Service Manager for approval;
- Foster carer's assessment report is to be updated to include an assessment of their capacity to provide permanence, (Fostering team);
- Presentation to SGO panel (being planned).
9.2 Support Services for Special Guardianship Arrangements
Each local authority must make arrangements for the provision within their area of special guardianship support services, i.e. counselling advice and information and such other services as are prescribed by the Act. At the request of the special guardian, a parent, or indeed the child, the local authority may carry out an assessment of that person's needs for special guardianship support services.
Support to Special Guardianship arrangements is overseen by the Family and Friends Fostering Team. This includes financial arrangements, and also access to a range of advice and support networks, including support groups.
Support services may include financial support (from the designated SGO budget) in order to enable special guardians to meet the child's needs once the Order is granted, other services may include advice and mediation services. These services will be integrated and developed alongside family support services, services for family and friends carers, and other more general provision for children and families.
If a child is not (or was not) looked after by a local authority, then there is no entitlement to an assessment for Special Guardianship support services, but this assessment may be requested. If the local authority decides not to carry out an assessment, written reasons must be given within 28 days.
Children who were looked after by a local authority immediately before a Special Guardianship Order was made, and aged between 16 and 21 years, may qualify for the advice and assistance available to care leavers from that local authority under the Leaving Care Act 2000.
A foster carer who becomes a special guardian for a child whom they were fostering, and who previously received an element of remuneration with the fostering allowance, can receive some remuneration (in addition to the allowance) for up to 2 years after the order was made, and for a longer period in exceptional circumstances.
10. Permanence through Adoption
Adoption has the following features as a Permanence Plan:
- Parental Responsibility is held exclusively by the carers;
- The child is no longer Looked After;
- No future legal challenge to overturn the Adoption Order is possible;
- Decisions about continuing contact will usually be made by the new parents(on the child's behalf) who are most in touch with the child's needs, although this will be subject to any Contact Order made by the Court at the time of the Adoption Order;
- The child is a permanent family member into adulthood;
- It involves a complete and permanent legal separation from the family of origin;
- Once the adoption order is made there is no review process.
A child who is not already a citizen of the UK acquires British citizenship if adopted in the UK by a citizen of the UK.
Research strongly supports adoption as a primary consideration and as a main factor contributing to the stability of children, especially for those under four years of age who cannot be reunited with their birth or extended family.
Adopters may be supported, including financially, by the local authority and will have the right to request an assessment for support services at any time after the Order is made.
Adoption Planning Meeting: Where there is a plan for adoption, which will often be part of a twin track process, an Adoption Planning Meeting will be called. This will be attended by the Children and Families Team Manager and Social Worker, The Permanence Team Manager and Adoption Team Manager as well as a representative from fostering. The agenda of this meeting must include:
- Allocation of work including;
- Collaborative approach to completing CPR;
- Liaison with Birth Family;
- Agree plan in the light of resources and work load;
- Agree timescales and accountabilities;
- Preparation of foster carer for role in adoption planning.
An Adoption Social Worker with a family finding role is allocated at an early stage. The expectation is that the Adoption Social Worker will work with the Child Care Social Worker to ensure timely planning.
The Adoption Social Worker will also be able to advise on other matters to do with adoption and will attend Permanency Planning Meetings in respect of the child / children they are allocated to.
The Adoption Social Worker will be the primary worker responsible for family finding, following the Agency Decision that the child should be placed for adoption.
An Assessment of needs in relation to adoption support will be undertaken for the child and the prospective adopters in the proposed match, and an Adoption Support Plan will be drawn up.
The Adoption Guidance (Adoption and Children Act 2002) sets out the following timescales where the agency proposes to place a child with for adoption:
- A proposed placement with a suitable prospective adopter should be identified and a recommendation made by the panel within six months of the agency deciding that the child should be placed for adoption;
- Where a parent has requested that a child aged under 6 months be placed for adoption, a proposed placement with a suitable prospective adopter should be identified and a recommendation made by the panel within three months of the agency deciding that the child should be placed for adoption.
If the above timescales cannot be met, the reasons for this must be recorded on the child's file.
Post approval support and training for adoptive parents will be provided, as required under the Adoption and Children Act 2002.
10.1 Role of the Adoption Panel
The Adoption Panel contributes to the running and quality assurance of the local authority's adoption service and receives annual reports on the service and its performance.
In doing so, the panel has an overriding responsibility to promote good practice, consistency of approach and fairness in all aspects of the adoption service, in accordance with its procedures and values.
As part of this function, the Panel makes recommendations as to the following:
- The suitability of prospective adoptive applicants to adopt;
- Whether a child is suitable to be placed for adoption (in the case of a relinquished child or a child given up voluntarily for adoption only);
- Whether a child should be placed for adoption with particular prospective adopters.
The recommendations must be unconditional and cannot be 'in principle'.
It is the intention of the agency that increasingly the adoption panel will be used to recommend approval of the same applicants as both prospective adopters and prospective foster carers. This will assist in terms of concurrent planning and the agency will pay attention to the need for the adoption panel to be consonant with both Fostering and Adoption Regulations in respect of those cases.
10.2 Adoption Support Plan
Prior to matching panel, careful consideration should be given to the support plan, and management agreement to the plan should have been secured. The plan must look at the holistic needs of the child; all relevant agencies should be considered. The plan should consider any specialist services which would promote stability and security for the child.
The support plan must be consulted upon with the relevant parties, including the local authority in which the child is to be placed, if this is out of county. The plan must be recommended by the Adoption Team Manager and be presented to the Adoption Panel.
10.3 Disruption of Adoption Placements
Children placed for adoption have complex needs and a proportion of placements will be experienced as very stressful, and will disrupt. When a disruption occurs prior to the Adoption Order being made, a disruption meeting should be held. Future planning for the child will need to take into account lessons to be learned.
Placements which disrupt after the Adoption Order has been made may become known to through ongoing involvement with the Post Adoption Service, or as a result of referrals from the family or other agencies.
Appendix 1: Definitions of Terms Used in This Policy and Within Permanence Work
An Adoption Order transfers Parental Responsibility for the child from the birth parents (and any other person who had Parental Responsibility, including the local authority), permanently and solely to the adopter. The child is deemed to be the child of the adopter as if he or she had been born to them. The child's birth certificate is changed to an adoption certificate showing the adopter to be the child's parent. A child who is not already a citizen of the UK acquires British citizenship if adopted in the UK by a citizen of the UK.
Agency Decision Maker (ADM)
A designated Senior Manager who has responsibility for making the decision about whether a child is suitable to be placed for adoption. When the child is a relinquished child, the ADM will make the decision following the Adoption Panel having made a recommendation to the ADM, in all other cases, the case is referred directly to the ATM by the Social Worker and is not considered by the Adoption Panel. The ADM also makes a decision about whether a child should be matched to specific prospective adopters, and this follows the Adoption Panel having considered the same issue and making a recommendation to the ADM.
An affectionate bond that endures through space and time and joins the individuals emotionally; a psychological bond to a person who provides protection which will result in attempts to maintain physical proximity with that person, who is seen as stronger.
Includes grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and any other significant relatives.
An agreed plan for looking after a child and meeting that child's current and future needs, made by the placing authority under the Children Act 1989.
Within this document refers to a child or young person under the age of 18.
Child Permanence Report
A report prepared by the adoption agency. This will include, for example, information about the child and his/her family, a summary of the state of the child's health, his/her health history and any need for health care; wishes and feelings of the child, his/her parent or guardian; the agency's view about the child's need for contact with his/her parents, guardian or any other person the agency considers relevant.
Is where a family is specifically recruited to care for a child and work towards rehabilitation with their birth family; however where this is unsuccessful they would then become the permanent family for the child.
See Kinship Care.
Within the context of planning for adoption, contact may take the form of indirect contact i.e. the exchange letters and cards, and general information about the child's progress being given to a concerned individual via a social worker. In some cases there may be some form of direct contact where the child visits or stays with a particular person, this can be supervised. It is very unusual for a child to have direct contact with a birth parent when they are placed for adoption.
Is the terminology used for the unplanned ending of a placement.
A formal meeting held after a disruption in order to consider the factors that contributed to the disruption, so that future plans for the child can take those issues into account and also to ensure that the care-giver and the agency can learn from the experience.
Family Group Conference
A meeting held including all family members for a child in order to establish whether the family can use their own resources to resolve the issue that is problematic. The meeting is arranged and facilitated by a suitably trained staff member who then withdraws from the meeting at an agreed moment to allow the family to work together to resolve the issue.
Kinship Care / Family and Friends / Connected Person as Carers
See Family and Friends Care Procedure. This refers to when the child cannot live with their parents and is living with a relative or friend. The placement has in some way been assisted/initiated and/or is supported by Social Services, and the child is deemed to be looked after. The child would otherwise be with foster carers, in residential care, independent living or adopted.
Later Life Letter
A letter that is written by the allocated social worker for a child who is being placed with adopters. The letter aims to explain to the child the circumstances that led to them being adopted and should be written in a way that is sensitive and that they will understand. Please see Later Life Letters Procedure.
Life Story Work
Aims to provide children in care with a record of memories, people and events from their lives before they came into the care system and during their time in care. This also gives a child a sense of identity and security, which can help them cope with the difficulties of being in care. Children usually participate in creating their life story with their families and carers, and they can keep it and refer to it for the rest of their lives.
(Also commonly known as twin tracking) Refers to the process whereby there are two (care) plans running at the same time, one of rehabilitation with parents and the other being permanence with an alternative substitute family. In the majority of cases rehabilitation will be the main plan with adoption as a contingency plan. These plans are progressed in parallel (i.e. at the same time) in order to minimise delay; it is made clear to the birth family that the local authority are considering more than one option with a strictly limited timescale and that this does not pre-empt the decision of the court.
Parental Responsibility (PR)
All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and the property of the child. The most important elements of parental responsibility include:
- Providing a home for the child;
- Having contact with the child;
- Protecting and maintaining the child;
- Disciplining the child;
- Determining and providing for the child's education;
- Determining the religion of the child;
- Consenting to the child's medical treatment;
- Naming the child or agreeing to the child's change of name;
- Determining where the child lives.
A framework of emotional, physical and legal conditions that gives a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment and identity. Permanence provides for physical, emotional, social, cognitive and spiritual well-being and promotes lifelong connections to extended family, siblings, other significant adults, family history and traditions, race and ethnic heritage, culture, religion and language.
Permanence may be provided by living with:
- Birth parent;
- Extended family;
- Adoptive family;
- Long term foster carers;
- Carers under a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order.
Under Section 66 of The Children Act 1989, a child is "privately fostered" if he/she is:
- Under the age of 16, or 18 if disabled;
- Cared for and provided with accommodation by someone other than a parent, a person who has parental responsibility or a relative;
- If this arrangement is for a period more than 27 days, or with the intention of being more than 27 days.
These arrangements come about because the parent, (or person with parental responsibility for the child) has placed the child with another person who does not have parental responsibility for the child. The parent and the carer have a responsibility to notify the local authority of any such arrangement.
 Relative: this is clearly proscribed by the regulations and means a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or (by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent (does not include great aunt/uncle)).
Private Fostering arrangements are governed by The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 and the associated National Minimum Standards.
Is a child of any age who is given up for adoption by the birth parent, where no other court proceedings are necessary, i.e. care proceedings.
Child Arrangements Order
A Child Arrangements Order is an order made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. It confers parental responsibility for the child on the holder (assuming that they do not already have PR by virtue of being the parent), and indicates that a court has agreed that the child should reside with the holder of the order.
Should be Placed Decision
A decision made by the Agency Decision Maker that a child is suitable to be placed for adoption. This enables the local authority to make an application to court for a Placement Order.
The brothers and sisters of a child, with whom the child may have lived and with whom they share at least one birth parent.
Includes any person who has played a particularly important role in the child's recent past, for example a family friend involved in caring for the child. It also includes any mentor or independent visitor for the child.
Special Guardianship Order
An order under section 115 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (implemented in 2005, and which is a retrospective addition to the Children Act 1989) intended to provide permanence for those children for whom adoption may not be appropriate. The order confers parental responsibility on the Special Guardian, but unlike an adoption order, it does not sever the parental responsibility of the birth parent.
See Parallel Planning.
Appendix 2: Good Practice Guidance for Permanence Decisions
Good Practice in Relation to Permanency for Black and Minority Ethnic Children
Where permanence for children with black and ethnic minority backgrounds is sought, every effort will be made to place the child in a family which matches their ethnicity and culture in order to:
- Foster a positive sense of identity and self-esteem;
- Provide positive role models;
- Develop resilience in coping with and challenging racism.
Where a child is of dual, diverse or minority heritage, it is important to identify the elements of the child's heritage that will assist in prioritising his/her individual needs and influence placement choice.
Placement should not be unduly delayed by attempting to find an exact match for the child. Those elements of the child's heritage, including ethnicity, which are assessed as the most significant will be the guiding factors in identifying a 'good enough' match.
Alternative families will be sought who are able to demonstrate commitment to and awareness of the child's need to know about his/her history, culture and language.
Assistance will be provided to adoptive families in identifying and accessing supports/ services for the child in relation to the above issues.
Good Practice in Relation to Contact Arrangements within Permanent Placements
The primary purpose of post-placement contact is to meet the child's needs. Some form of contact, which may be direct or indirect, is likely to be important to most children and this needs to be understood by adopters and permanent carers.
A full assessment should be made of existing attachments, which may include extended family and previous carers or friends - the older the child, the more likely it is s/he has important relationships with significant people in his/her life which should be sustained. Careful assessment should consider how this may be achieved.
No contact whatsoever should only be considered:
- Where there are significant ongoing risks to the child;
- When assessment indicates that contact would seriously disrupt the placement;
- When the child does wish for contact;
- When birth parents do not wish for contact.
The reasons for recommending no contact should be clearly recorded in the care plan.
Post adoption contact is arranged through the Children in Care Team and the Adoption Team. It can include:
- Exchange of non-identifying information or photographs between birth family and adopters;
- Telephone contact at agreed time and frequency;
- Video or email contact;
- Face to face meetings, which may be supervised, at agreed venues and frequency.
Contact arrangements will be reviewed at least annually to ensure they are still appropriate and meet the child's assessed needs.
Good Practice in Relation to Changing a Child's Name in a Permanent Placement
Reference should be made to the Change of Name of a Looked After Child Procedure which outlines the legal position in relation to the change of a child's name and the processes that must be adhered to.
A child's name, both forename and surname is a fundamental part of a child's history, culture and heritage. CYPS is committed to preserving this birth name unless there are significant reasons for a change of name.
If young people are having problems at school because they have a different last name from their carer then some direct work should be done with the school and teaching staff.
Some children may come into the Looked After system who have experienced numerous name changes because they have been given the names of various carers (such as step-parents). When these children are ready they should be helped to revert to their birth name.
Children who are adopted can have both their surname and forename changed when the Adoption Order is granted. They receive a new birth certificate at this point. Generally speaking however, most children only change their surname when they are adopted. This is because the name is often one of the few things a birth parent is able to give to their child, and the name links the past and the future.
Agreement to change the child's first name is generally only given if:
- The forename is very distinctive and may cause a child to be traced in their adoptive placement;
- There is already a child in the adoptive family who has the same name.
Children whose adoptive placement has broken down may wish to revert to their birth name. This may be supported if Life Story work has been done with the young person and if all possibility of a return to the adoptive parents has been exhausted.
2. Special Guardianship
Carers who obtain a Special Guardianship Order gain parental responsibility for a child but they can only change a child's name with the court's permission. Because a Special Guardianship Order is not a life-long order like adoption, a name change at the making of a Special Guardianship Order should not be routinely considered.
3. Child Arrangements Order
Carers who obtain a Child Arrangements Order share parental responsibility with the child's parents. Child Arrangements Orders are most often used when there is a high level of ongoing family contact. Because of this, a name change at the making of a Child Arrangements Order should only rarely be considered.
4. Long-Term Foster Care
These placements do not have any legal permanence and in the majority of cases it will be highly inappropriate for foster children to take on their foster carer's surname.
Carers who want to Change a Child's Surname:
- In adoption this will be agreed;
- In SGO/RO this will generally not be supported unless there are safety reasons to protect the child. Once the child is subject to an SGO or RO the carer may choose to do this at a later stage (this is different from doing this with Departmental support). The birth surname can also be retained as a hyphenated surname. This may be acceptable when Special Guardianship Orders are obtained particularly for young children who are going to spend all their childhood in their new family. Support for any name change should be obtained from all those with Parental Responsibility as well as the Independent Review Officer who chairs the child's reviews (whilst the child is looked after, prior to the making of the SGO/RO), who should give advice based on policy and on their own knowledge of identity and culture;
- In foster care a name change will not be supported by Children and Young People's Services unless there are very serious safety concerns. In these circumstances work should be done with the child, in an age appropriate way to explain why the change is necessary. The child should have a life-story book and access to their birth certificate. In these circumstances the child should not receive the foster carer's name. Instead there should be a discussion with the child, if they are of sufficient understanding, and a name should be agreed upon that has significance and meaning for the child.
Carers who want to Change a Child's First Name:
This will only be considered if:
- The name is distinctive and may lead to the child being put at risk by being traced;
- The name is likely to cause the child to be ridiculed;
- The name is mis-spelt (in which case the spelling could be altered, rather than the name itself).
In these circumstances the use of middle names should be explored and encouraged. In longer term placements, including adoption, special guardian order, residence order and foster care, carers may use diminutive names, nick names and name variations if the child welcomes this. Children can readily accept and feel part of a family if they have a diminutive name that is used in a fond way. Children can quickly learn they are called Elizabeth by their parents, Liz by their sisters and Lizzie by their friends. Many teenagers prefer 'Cat' to Catherine'. Name changes of this sort do not fundamentally alter the child's real name.
Where the Young Person Wishes to Change Their Name
Those under 16 can only change their name with the permission of all those who hold parental responsibility. Once a young person is aged over 16 they can change their name by Deed Poll or simply become 'known as' for their new name. For a child who is on a Care Order, the permission should be sought from the Service Manager for that service area and a report should be submitted in order to set out the circumstances and the views of the young person, any other people with PR and the IRO. This report will be kept as a record on the child's file to show why a change of name was felt to be appropriate. This is in addition to any formal permission being obtained from the parent(s).
Where a young person wishes to become known as a different first name these changes should be recognised in letters and other correspondence that the young person receives from Children and Young People's Services. Records should show that they are 'known as', and the original first name should not be altered or lost.
Appendix 3: Financial Support for Carers Applying for an Adoption Order, Special Guardianship Order
The Local Authority has arrangements for the provision of adoption support services and special guardianship support services.
Reference should be made to the following:
- Practice Guidance on Assessing Support Needs of Adoptive Families 2008;
- Statutory Guidance on Adoption updated 2012;
- Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005;
- Special Guardianship Guidance updated 2012;
- Special Guardianship Regulations 2005.
The above can all be found on the Department for Education website.
Copies of the relevant guidance and advice about its application are available from the Adoption Team. All referrals concerning adoption support services or special guardianship support services should, in the first instance, be directed to the Adoption Team Manager:
- Financial support may be one element in the support plan which must be drawn up when an application for adoption or special guardianship is made;
- The support plan must be based on an assessment of the needs of the child in the placement;
- Funding can include support to assist the setting up of the placement or time limited identified support needs.
Ongoing Financial Support
In some cases ongoing financial support may be agreed as part of a support plan. The request for ongoing financial support must be supported with details about the assessment of need. This must give clear reasons for the need for ongoing payments.
The maximum that can be agreed will be the equivalent age related fostering allowance (which would be paid if the child were to be looked after by the local authority), less any child benefit to which the carer is entitled.
Arrangements about ongoing payments to foster carers may include consideration of continuing the fee element (of the fostering allowance) for a transitional period.
Payment of ongoing financial support is subject to an assessment of the applicants' means. Staff should contact the Finance and Benefits Team for details about the means testing process. Where applicants are foster carers consultation should take place with the relevant fostering manager.
The local authority is required to review, at least annually, the assessment of ongoing financial support needs. This review will be undertaken by the Adoption Team, in the case of adoption allowances, and by the Fostering Friends and Family Team for Special Guardianship or Child Arrangements Order support plans.
Appendix 4: Guidance for Financial and Other Support Services to Children Living with Family and Friends
Child Arrangements Orders
- Financial support to people applying for a Child Arrangements Order may be considered;
- There must be an assessment of need;
- A thorough Assessment must evidence how the child's needs will be met in this arrangement. The assessment should confirm that the child is adequately safeguarded and give evidence of the suitability of the carer and the household;
- The social worker must ensure that the carers have access to the full range of benefits to which they are entitled;
- Arrangements should be in partnership with parents and there should be an expectation that parents provide financial support for their child wherever possible. As a minimum the carers should receive child benefit (providing their income does not exceed the relevant threshold).
Child Arrangements Order applicants are entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order Allowance. Any allowance paid is based on assessed need and is means tested. Financial support may be in the form of one-off, or short-term payments to ensure children's needs are met, or an ongoing allowance may be agreed. Ongoing allowances are subject to regular review.
The amounts payable are determined by a number of factors:
- The needs of the child;
- The circumstances of the carer;
- The impact on the household of caring for the child;
- The consequences for the child if the placement is not supported by funding from CYPS;
- Whether an ongoing allowance will help to secure stability for the Child in Need.
An application for an ongoing Child Arrangements Order Allowance must be supported by an Assessment. The application must first be brought to the attention of the relevant budget holding Service Manager. An Assessment and a record of the permanence planning meeting minutes must be included. No expectation of a significant commitment of local authority funding can be given without a clear consultation management decision. The application and accompanying documentation should be submitted to the relevant Service Manager for a recommendation, following which it is passed to the identified Decision Maker (if the decision cannot be made by the Service Manager) for consideration and a decision.
The allowance is based on an individual assessment of need on a case by case basis which allows some flexibility to meet exceptional needs.
In general the maximum level of ongoing allowance is linked to the age related fostering allowance (less child benefit, where the carer is eligible for child benefit). In most cases the level will be less than this. There should be no assumption that an allowance will be automatic, and social workers must ensure that carers do not have unrealistic expectations about ongoing funding.
Children Looked After Who are Placed Under Regulation 24 as an Immediate Placement with Someone Who is not an Approved Carer
- Where the child is not a looked after child, approval for the child to become looked after must be obtained from the relevant Service Manager;
- Authorisation for the specific proposed foster placement must be given by the Service Manager for fostering, (or a Service Manager delegating for them in their absence);
- Financial support equivalent to the age related fostering allowance will be given to support the placement from the commencement of the placement (i.e. the date that the placement is agreed under Regulation 24 by the Service Manager for Fostering);
- If the placement is to continue beyond sixteen weeks, a report about the placement must be presented to the fostering panel with a recommendation of approval as foster carers;
- The carer will receive support to both the child and themselves as carers from the fostering service, as with all foster placements.
Where The Child Who is Looked After Moves to a Planned Placement with a Family Member or Friend (Connected Person)
- The placement is to be made in a planned way;
- The care planning process is to identify the support needs of the child and the carer;
- Matching details are to be taken to the Fostering Panel for specific consideration of approval of the family or friends carer as the permanent foster carer for the identified child, where the plan for the child is long term fostering;
- The carer will be assessed in the same way as any other approved foster placement.
Children Who are Not Looked After, Who are Living with a Person Who Does Not have Parental Responsibility for Them
If a child is to stay more than 28 days with friends, or with a relative who is not a brother or sister, uncle, aunt, grandparent or step parent, the carers that they are staying with should be either assessed as foster carers, or private foster carers, or should apply for a legal order to give them parental responsibility (i.e. a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order).
Carers can take legal advice on these options but CYPS has a responsibility to ensure that one of these options is proceeding within 28 days of the start of the arrangement.
Appendix 5: Special Guardianship - Explanatory Notes
Special Guardianship was introduced in the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which came into force at the end of 2005. It is intended to provide a placement which is legally secure for children for whom adoption is not appropriate. Special Guardians may include foster carers or relatives, and may exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of others with parental responsibility. The local authority is required to present a report to the court following the applicant(s) giving notice to the authority of their intention to apply for special guardianship. Support services should be provided similar to adoption support services.
Staff should consult the following when considering an SGO as a means of permanence for a child:
- Special Guardianship Guidance updated 2012;
- Special Guardianship Regulations 2005.
Special Guardianship Orders are intended to meet the needs of children who cannot live with their birth parents, for whom adoption is not appropriate but who would still benefit from a legally secure placement.
Who May Apply?
The following individuals, providing they are 18 or over, are entitled to apply for a Special Guardianship Order with respect to a child:
- Any guardian of the child;
- A local authority foster carer or relative (as amended by C&YP Act 2008) S14A(S)(e) with whom the child has lived for 1 year immediately preceding the application;
- Anyone who holds a Child Arrangements Order with respect to the child, or who has the consent of all those in whose favour a Child Arrangements Order is in force;
- Anyone with whom the child has lived for 3 out of the last 5 years;
- Where the child is in the care of the local authority any person who has the consent of that authority, or anyone who has the consent of all those with parental responsibility for the child, or any person including the child who has the leave of the court.
The parents of a child may not become the child's special guardians.
The court may also make a Special Guardianship Order in any family proceedings concerning the welfare of the child if they consider an order should be made. This will apply even when no application has been made and includes adoption proceedings.
1. The Procedure
Any person who wishes to apply for a Special Guardianship Order must give 3 months written notice to the local authority of their intention to apply.
On receipt of such notice the local authority must investigate the matter and prepare a report for the court. The court may itself ask the local authority to conduct such an investigation and prepare a report and the local authority must do so. The court may not make a Special Guardianship Order unless it has received a report dealing with the matters referred to requested.
2. Making a Special Guardianship Order
Before making a Special Guardianship Order the court must consider whether if the order were made:
- A contact order should also be made with respect to the child; and
- Any section 8 order in force with respect to the child should be varied or discharged.
On making a Special Guardianship Order the court may also give leave for the child to be known by a new surname and give permission for the child to be taken out of the UK for a period longer than 3 months.
2.1 Effect of a Special Guardianship Order
The effect of a Special Guardianship Order is that while the order remains in force, a special guardian appointed by that order has parental responsibility for the child in respect of whom it is made and may exercise that parental responsibility to the exclusion of all others. The intention is that the special guardian will have the clear responsibility for all the day to day decisions about caring for the child and its upbringing.
A special guardian is NOT entitled to provide consent to key decisions where statute or case law require the consent of more than one person with parental responsibility in a matter affecting the child, i.e. sterilisation or circumcision, adoption or placement for adoption, emigration etc
Unlike adoption orders, special guardianship orders can be varied or discharged on the application of:
- The special guardian; (or any of them, if there are more than one);
- The local authority in whose name a care order was enforced with respect to the child before the Special Guardianship Order was made;
- Anyone with a Child Arrangements Order in respect of the child before the Special Guardianship Order was made;
- With the leave of the court, the child's parents or any step parent who has parental responsibility or anyone who had PR immediately before the Special Guardianship Order was made; and
- The child, if the court is satisfied the child has sufficient understanding.
N.B. Where the applicant is not the child and leave of the court is required, the court may only grant leave if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the Special Guardianship Order was made.
Appendix 6: Links to Legislation, National Objectives, Standards and Guidance and Local Policy, Procedures and Good Practice
- Fostering and Adoption Regulations, Guidance and National Minimum Standards;
- Arrangements for Placement of Children (General) Regulations 1991;
- Care Quality Commission;
- Children Act 2004;
- Data Protection Act 1998;
- Framework for Assessment of Children In Need and Their Families (DoH) Parenting Support: Guidance to Local Authorities;
- Freedom of Information Act 2000;
- Human Rights Act 1998;
- Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 (DfE);
- The Children Act 1989;
- UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNICEF);
- Children and Young Persons Act 2008;
- Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2015.