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6.2.14 Placements of a Child in Care with Parents

RELATED CHAPTER

Reunification Policy

Remands to Local Authority Accommodation and Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure

Community Arrangements Panel

AMENDMENT

In August 2017, Section 6, Assessment of Placement Prior to Placement of Child, was updated. Consideration should be given as to whether the home environment is safe for the child including where relevant, the need for a risk assessment of any pets and the environment in which they are kept.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Consultation before Placement
  3. The Assessment of a Parent’s Suitability to Care for the Child
  4. Immediate Placement with Parents
  5. Planning for a Placement with Parent
  6. Assessment of Placement Prior to Placement of Child
  7. Decision to Proceed with Placement
  8. Short Term Placements
  9. Placement Agreement
  10. Notifications
  11. Social Worker Visits
  12. Review of Placements
  13. Terminations of Placements
  14. Section 23 - Placement of Children with Parents: Law, Regulations and Procedures

    Appendix 1: Placement with Parents Flow Chart

    Appendix 2: Suitability Assessment for Placement with Parents Form


1. Introduction

The 2010 Regulations set out the requirements to be followed when a child subject to a Care Order is being placed back with a parent (Part 4, Regulations 15 to 20).

In some circumstances a child may have remained at home pending Court proceedings and remain there after the granting of an Interim Care Order or a child could be returned home directly after a court appearance. In all such cases these regulations will apply and all the requirements of these regulations must be compiled with before a placement is made except in the circumstances outlined in this guidance where the placement is to be at short notice. However, under the 2010 Regulations a child on an Interim Care Order is allowed to remain with the parent pending a final hearing (Regulation 15(2).

The responsible authority may not place a child back with a parent under the 2010 Regulations if to do so would be incompatible with any Order made by the Court under Section 34.

A child who is Looked After by a Local Authority, but is not in their care is outside the scope of Regulations 15 - 20 because she/he is accommodated by agreement with the parents and if the period of accommodation ends by virtue of the child returning to parents, the child ceases to be looked after by the responsible authority.

Guidance states that responsible authorities should consider carefully whether a placement in accordance with the 2010 Regulations is the most appropriate way to discharge their responsibilities under Section 22c. Where it is decided that such a placement is the most appropriate way to discharge their duty under Section 22, the authority should reconsider whether the Care Order is still required. It may be that the authority and the parent agree that an application to discharge the Care Order is still required. It may be that the authority and the parent agree that an application to discharge the Care Order is appropriate. But such an agreement must include both the level of support and supervision by the authority and co-operation by the parent, with commitment from all involved to working together in the child’s best interests. If such agreement can be reached and the Court makes an order to discharge of the Care Order then the child will no longer be looked after and the 2010 Regulations will not apply.

In many cases a placement in accordance with these regulations will be part of the planned progress towards discharge of the Care Order. The management of the placement should aim to enhance the parent’s role and support the family relationships with that aim in mind. Even in those cases where the discharge of the Care Order is not a foreseeable option, the possibility should be constantly reviewed and the aim should be to build a genuine working partnership with the parent.

These placements will be subject to the requirement for a Placement Plan (Regulation 9) and the case is required to be reviewed in accordance with the 2010 Regulations (Part 6).


2. Consultation before Placement

Before a child is placed, the following people must be consulted and their views accounted for:

  • The child;
  • Both parents (including a parent who is not the proposed carer of the child);
  • Any person with Parental Responsibility;
  • Any other member of the family who is significant to the child;
  • Relevant health practitioners including any health visitor known to the child, the child’s GP, as well as the GP and any health visitor known to the person with whom it is proposed the child will be placed (with the person’s consent);
  • The child’s school and the local education service where the child will live;
  • The child's current foster carer and supervising social worker or the manager of the children’s home currently caring for the child;
  • The Probation Provider if it has contact with the family;
  • The Police;
  • The Youth Offending Service;
  • The relevant Children’s Social Care department if the child is placed in another local authority’s area;
  • The child’s Independent Reviewing Officer.

The consultation should be formal. The persons being consulted should be written to, requesting their views on the proposed placement. It is important that those who are consulted should reply in writing; their written replies should be placed on the child's case record.

If appropriate a letter should also be sent to the child, as part of the consultation process with the child.

Minutes of a Child Protection Review Conference/LAC Review/Decision Making Conference which recommended the child's placement can be taken as a written record of the consultation with those in attendance.


3. The Assessment of a Parent’s Suitability to Care for the Child

A Care Order cannot be made under the 1989 Act unless the Court is satisfied that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, and that this is attributable to the care given, or likely to be given, to him/her not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give; or the child being beyond parental control. It is therefore important to be especially careful to ascertain how far those factors that were identified as grounds for the current Care Order have been addressed before deciding whether a child should be placed back with parents.

Before deciding to place the child with his/her parent the authority must assess the suitability of the parent to care for the child (Regulation 7), taking into account the suitability of the proposed accommodation and of other people in that accommodation (Regulation 17 (a) (i) and (ii).The matters to be taken into account when assessing the suitability of the parent to care for the child are set out in the 2010 Regulations and use the framework of the Statutory Assessment (Schedule 3). (See Statutory Assessments (Child and Family Assessments) Procedure)

The assessment should include any available information about the parent’s previous experiences of looking after children. Where the parents has other children of their own who are subject to care or adoption orders, earlier case records should be explored to ascertain the circumstances which led to social work involvement with these children, and any indications that the capacity of the parents to bring up children has changed.

Many children who are placed back home with parents are returning to a household where there may be a new parental partner and children. The assessment must take account of parental and family history and wider family functioning of the new partner as well as the relationship between the child and the new partner.

A formal assessment of suitability should be undertaken for all members of the household who are aged 18 of over. While it is only possible to obtain Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on young people over the age of 18, the assessment should address the history and current lifestyle of the other young people in the household who are under 18. It is also important to assess the relationship between the parents’ with whom the child will live, and other adults who have a significant role in the child’s life, such as other persons who may provide care to the child and other adults such as grandparents.

The 2010 Regulations require a decision to place the child back with a parent to be approved by a nominated officer of the responsible authority before it is put into effect (Regulation 18). Before granting this approval the Nominated Officer must be satisfied that:

  • That the child’s wishes and feelings have been ascertained;
  • The assessment as to the suitability of the parent has been carried out (Regulation 17);
  • The placement will safeguard and promote the child’s welfare; and
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) has been consulted.

See also Section 6, Assessment of Placement Prior to Placement of Child.


4. Immediate Placement with Parents

In some cases the authority will consider that it is in the best interest of the child to make a placement back with the child’s parents before the assessment under Regulation 17 is completed (Regulation 19). For example, in the case of an unforeseen breakdown of a foster placement requiring the child’s immediate removal and where the Permanence Plan is for the child to return to his/her parent, the least traumatic move for the child may be to place him/her back with a parent rather than in another short-term placement. It is not expected, however, that placements in accordance with Regulation 19 will happen frequently.

When a placement under Regulation 19 is proposed, the following checks must be carried out before the placement:

  • An interview should be held with the parent to obtain as much of the information specified in Schedule 3 as possible. Practitioners should also seek to meet with all other members of the household in order to have a complete understanding of her household composition and relationships before placing the child. This is particularly relevant to identifying issues such as domestic violence and abuse and substance misuse, which may impact of the child’s safety;
  • An Interim Report recorded on CA89/PWP3 can then be forwarded to the Director of Children’s Social Care for interim approval of the placement. A full assessment which complies with all requirements laid down in the Regulations must be completed within six weeks. A report must be submitted to the Community Arrangements Panel Procedure which will make a recommendation to the Director of Children’s Social Care about the suitability of the placement. As agency decision maker, the Head of Children’s Social Care must authorise any arrangement for child subject to a Care Order to be placed with parents;
  • The assessment of the parent in accordance with Regulation 17 and a review of the child’s case must be undertaken within ten working days of the child being allowed to live with the parent. This will enabled early identification of any difficulties, including whether any adults in the household have a relevant conviction or caution or there are other unsuitable adults in the household. An early review will enable the parent, social worker and other practitioners involved with the child’s case to share information about progress and any difficulties which may impact on the child’s welfare;
  • Within ten working days of the completion of the assessment a decision must be taken as to whether the placement should be confirmed or not in accordance with Regulation 19 (i.e. 20 working days from the date the child goes to live with the parent);
  • If the child is to remain with the parent, the Placement Plan will need to be reviewed. As much of the Placement Plan as possible should be developed and shared with the parents, when the child goes to live with them. If the placement is subsequently confirmed, the Placement Plan must be reviewed and, if necessary, amended (Regulation 19(c)(i). If the decision is not to confirm the placement, it must be terminated (Regulation 19(c)(iii).

Following the assessment of the parent’s capacity to meet the child’s needs, the responsible authority must identify and set out in the Child Plan the services and other support which will be provided to the parent and child to meet the identified needs (Regulation 20). The effectiveness of these services and any other support in addressing the needs of the child, parenting capacity and wider family and environmental factors will be considered as part of the review of the child’s case.


5. Planning for a Placement with Parent

The overriding principles of such a placement are that:

  • The placement will best meet the needs of the child;
  • The placement is planned;
  • That the aims and objectives of the placement are understood by the proposed carer, the child and key professionals involved with the child;
  • The child will not remain subject to the Regulations for more than 12 months, i.e. one aim of the placement will be the ultimate variation or discharge of the Care Order;
  • The placement is appropriately supported and that there are arrangements for the visiting, supervision and reviewing of the placement.


6. Assessment of Placement Prior to Placement of Child

The suitability of the proposed placement should be assessed through:

  • Obtaining relevant information about the proposed main carer or carers and all members of the household;
  • Inspecting the accommodation; and
  • Checking the proposed carer and all members of the household aged 16 and over with the Disclosure and Barring Service, the carer’s GP, NSPCC and Children's Social Care records.

The assessment should take account of:

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


7. Decision to Proceed with Placement

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

In other circumstances the social worker and Team Manager will reach a decision as to the appropriateness of the placement.

In every case, when a decision has been taken to proceed with the placement the social worker will submit written information to the Nominated Officer. The written documentation must specify any multi-agency protection plan to be implemented upon the child’s return home.

The Nominated Officer must be satisfied that:

  • The child’s wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
  • The assessment of parents’ suitability to care for the child has been completed;
  • The placement will safeguard and promote the child’s welfare;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted.

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

The recommendations of the Looked After Child Review or Child Protection Review Conference will then be sent to the Nominated Officer together with the Care Plan and proposed Placement Plan and a written report covering the following:

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

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

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

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


8. Short Term Placements

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

  • All the placements take place within a twelve months period;
  • No single placement is for a period of more than four weeks; and
  • The total duration of the placements does not exceed 90 days.

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


9. Placement Agreement

Prior to the placement being made, a written Placement Agreement should be drawn up between the Local Authority and the proposed carer(s). The agreement is outlined in the Care Planning (2010) Regulation 17, and all areas need to be covered in the Agreement. The Agreement should be recorded on CA89/PWP4.


10. Notifications

Once the placement is made, the following notifications should be made:

  • The Health Authority where the child is living;
  • The Education Authority where the child is living;
  • The Designated Nurse for Looked After Children;
  • The child’s GP;
  • Any person who has Parental Responsibility;
  • Children’s Social Care in the Local Authority in which the child is living, if this is not the placing Authority.

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

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

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

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


11. Social Worker Visits

The child’s social worker should visit the placement within the first week and then at intervals of not more than four weeks. If the child is placed with parents pending assessment, social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Child Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks.

At each visit, the child should be seen alone and if this cannot be achieved, a further visit should be made within the next five working days.

Each visit should be fully recorded on the child’s file, including details of who was present. If the child was not seen, the report should include details of where the child was and verification of these details.


12. Review of Placements

All children who are subjects of Interim or Care Orders, placed at home, are reviewed under the Looked After Children system.

At the first 6 month review following the placement, the social worker will need to consider whether the Care Order should be revoked.


13. Terminations of Placements

Placements may be terminated for the following reasons:

  • The placement is no longer best meeting the needs of the child;
  • Suspicion of abuse;
  • Lack of co-operation from the carer;
  • Carer unable to cope with child’s behaviour, or to meet their needs. In these situations, the Local Authority has a duty to remove the child from placement, if to leave the child is contrary to their best interests;
  • Care Order discharged by the Court;
  • The child permanently ceases to have contact of more than 24 hours duration with the parent.

Where a placement has been of nine months duration and an application has not been made to the Court for a variation/discharge of the Care Order, the Care Team will need to undertake a Statutory Assessment. This Assessment will be completed within 45 working days. This will then inform the future Child Plan.

If the placement needs to continue for more than 12 months, the case must be referred back to the Community Arrangements Panel which will make a recommendation to the Head of Children’s Social Care. The authorisation of the Head of Children’s Social Care is required for the placement to continue.

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

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


14. Section 23 - Placement of Children with Parents: Law, Regulations and Procedures

Click here to view Section 23 - Placement of Children with Parents: Law, Regulations and Procedures.


Appendix 1: Placement with Parents Flow Chart

Click here to view Appendix 1: Placement with Parents Flow Chart


Appendix 2: Suitability Assessment for Placement with Parents Form

Click here to view Appendix 2: Suitability Assessment for Placement with Parents Form

End