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7.2.3 Permanence Policy

RELATED CHAPTERS

Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure

Care Planning Procedure

Care Planning Meetings Procedure

Placement Planning Meetings Procedure

AMENDMENT

In March 2018 Section 6, Decision Making And Planning For Permanency was updated to reflect the additional ‘permanence provisions’ of the Child Plan (under s.8 Children and Social Work Act 2017) which a court is required to consider when deciding whether to make a Care Order.


Contents

  1. Purpose and Scope
  2. Legal and Policy Context
  3. Principles
  4. Residential Care
  5. Considering Options
  6. Decision Making And Planning For Permanency
  7. Decisions about Sibling Relationships


1. Purpose and Scope

This document provides policy and associated procedural guidance to staff involved in planning for children and young people who are unable, or who may be unable, to return to live with their parents. It relates to long term planning for looked after children. It does not apply to non- looked after children who are living with family and friends carers under private fostering or kinship care arrangements.

The objective of planning for permanence is to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond. The primary aim is to ensure that all children and young people are provided with care arrangements that deliver continuity, consistency and security of care and support which positively promote their individual sense of security, self-esteem, identity and other positive outcomes throughout and beyond the period of their childhood.

For the purpose of this guidance, permanence is defined as “a framework of emotional, physical and legal conditions that gives a child a sense of commitment, security and continuity of care throughout their childhood and into adult life.”


2. Legal and Policy Context

  • The Children Act 1989 and associated regulation and guidance;
  • Human Rights Act 1998;
  • The Adoption and Children Act 2002;
  • Children Act 2004;
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989.


3. Principles

Newcastle Children's Social Care will aim to meet the permanence needs of Looked After Children by implementing one of the plans listed below:

Newcastle Children's Social Care promotes the right of all children to belong to a permanent family for the duration of their childhood and beyond (Human Rights Act 1998). The principles of the service are that:

  • The most appropriate permanence plan for babies and small children is for adoption;
  • The placement of babies and small children with extended family members should always be planned and after an assessment and approval by the Fostering Panel;
  • Children subject to Orders should always be placed with approved foster carers;
  • Planning for our young people over 14 years should focus on preparation for independence and not plans for permanency, as detailed in this policy;
  • Consideration will be given to supporting any of these arrangements either by means of a Child Arrangements Order, Special Guardianship Order, approved foster care status or adoption.

Newcastle Council will ensure that all permanence options are considered for a child or young person, with a particular emphasis on exploring whether a child or young person could be placed within their extended families, friends or other Connected Persons. If this is not possible then adoptive placements will be pursued for younger children and long- term fostering, and other options for older children and young people.

The Council will ensure that children should, wherever possible, be able to grow up in a family from a similar ethnic and cultural or religious background. Where this is not possible every effort should be made to ensure that the child is able to develop his/her own cultural identity. Guidance emphasises that a prospective adopter, or long-term foster carer, can be matched with a child with whom they do not share the same ethnicity, provided they can met the child’s other identified needs, and that all families should help children placed with them to understand and appreciate their background and culture. Newcastle Council is committed to ensuring that wherever possible brother and sisters will be placed together and where this is not possible ensure that they have regular contact with each other throughout their childhood.

Social workers will ensure that planning for permanence begins at the commencement of a placement and that a Permanence Plan is in place by the child or young person’s second LAC Review. Wherever possible the child or young person as well as their parents will be consulted about permanency options and their views considered as part of the planning process.


4. Residential Care

Residential care is a positive choice for a small number of older children, unwilling or unable to participate in family life, who can benefit from an alternative to emotionally demanding and potentially intrusive family living. Residential care can provide security and stability and increased flexibility around contact.

  • Achieving permanence for a child must be a key consideration from the day the child or young person becomes looked after. In most situations, planning for permanence will mean the provision of services to support the child to remain with, or return to their parents. The social worker will provide clear information to parents in relation to the duty of the Local Authority to undertake permanence planning for children in time for the second looked after review;
  • It is important to maintain a balance between achieving reunification and the need to avoid delay in securing permanence for the child. Child Plans for looked after children should be implemented for the child. Child Plans for looked after children should be implemented in a timely manner. This maximises the contribution of adoption for those children who cannot live with their birth family or kinship networks;
  • The wishes and feeling of children must be actively sought and fully taken into account at all stages. Where they are not acted upon, the reasons for not doing so must be explained to the child or young person and properly recorded. In instances where a Child’s Permanence Report is to be prepared, differences of opinion should be recorded on this form. In addition, information on any disagreements, and the reasons for these, should be recorded on LAC Review documentation.


5. Considering Options

The objective of planning for permanence is to ensure children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond. A number of options exist, all of which can deliver positive outcomes for individual children. The planning process will identify which option is most likely to meet the needs of the individual child and taking into account his/her views and feelings and his/her identity including ethnic, religious and cultural background. Options include:

  • Returning home to birth parents: For many children, permanence is achieved through successful return to their birth family, where it has been possible to address the factors in family life which led to the child becoming looked after. Government guidance in Local Authority Circular (LAC 98 20): Adoption - Achieving the Right Balance stresses the need to get the balance right between effort to reunify the child with the family and recognition of the consequences of delay for the child;
  • Care with Connected Persons: Living with wider family, friends or other Connected Persons may be identified as being the best possible placement for a child, bases on assessment of child’s needs and the parenting capacity of the Connected Person. Such placements can provide a secure permanent base. Throughout the assessment process the potential strengths and support of the wider family and friend’s network should be considered. Research indicates that children and young people’s placement satisfaction, life outcomes and sense of security is greater when placed within a network of Connected Persons who can meet their needs into adulthood.

    Permanence with extended family and friends can be achieved through the use of Special Guardianship, Child Arrangements Orders, Connected Person foster care, or informal kinship care arrangements;
  • Adoption: For children who are unable to return to their birth or wider family, adoption offers a long lifelong and legally permanent new family. A Twin Track Plan or Parallel Plan, including concurrent planning, may provide a means to securing permanence at an early stage for some children. Family finding should begin as soon as adoption is under consideration, and before the Agency Decision Maker decides that the child should be placed for adoption or a Placement Order is made;
  • Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters: The Children and Families Act 2014 imposes a duty to consider placements with carers who are approved as both adopters and foster carers - see Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure;
  • Permanence through fostering (long-term fostering): This may be the best choice for those children who, though unable to live with their birth families, wish to retain a higher level of direct contact with them and do not wish to be adopted. It may be appropriate for those children who, having been identified as requiring adoption, have not been successfully matched with adoptive parents, and where the adoption panel has endorsed a recommendation to cease family funding. Long-term fostering involves a degree of mutual claiming on behalf of the child or young person and the carer(s). It enables children to achieve their potential, growing up in a secure, stable environment within a foster family. Where appropriate, and with the consent of foster carers, it is possible for children in long-term foster placements to achieve permanence through the use of Special Guardianship or Child Arrangements Orders. Young people remaining with long-term foster carers up until eighteen years of age can be supported in placement beyond eighteen through the Supported Lodgings Scheme.

    If short-term foster carers wish to become long-term foster carers for a child, the plan will need to be approved by the Fostering Panel. Permanence is more easily achieved through fostering when there is an existing relationship;
  • Task Centre Foster Care to Independence: For some children and young people the usual options for permanence will not be appropriate. For these young people, longer term task-centered foster care to independence may be the only way to secure a stable, secure placement.

    The Permanence Policy and Guidance is intended to be followed once a decision regarding permanency has been made and at the point where reunification with birth parents is no longer an option.


6. Decision Making And Planning For Permanency

The plan for permanence must be considered at the four month Looked After Child Review, if there is no plan for permanence already in place.

The social worker must:

  • Ensure that a Statutory Assessment is completed, (which will normally have been commenced or completed prior to the child becoming looked after);
  • Consult with the Team Manager in formulating any plan of permanence;
  • Ensure that any recommendations for permanence are approved by the relevant Service Manager;
  • Convene a Care Planning Meeting within four weeks of the decision being made, to detail further elements of the Plan, for example contact arrangements;
  • Attend the referral meeting, chaired by the Adoption or Fostering Service.

Contingency Planning

If a contingency plan is agreed e.g. reunification with a contingency plan for permanence, the social worker will:

  • Convene a Care Team Meeting to include appropriate family members and to ensure that there is clear information about any family assessment and review/timescales, to avoid unnecessary delay;
  • Ensure the plan is reviewed at least three monthly by the Care Team, until the plan for permanence has been agreed or changed.

Every child must have a Child Plan which will include contingency planning to avoid drift in the process of securing a permanent placement.

Contingency plans will be necessary in a number of circumstances:

  • Twin Tracking (Parallel Planning): Where rehabilitation is the preferred option but the assessment identifies that parents or extended family may not be able to make and sustain the necessary changes to parenting. The child may remain with birth parents or be placed with foster carers. In these instances a reunification plan with realistic timescales needs to be in place. At the same time, the agency will put in place elements of a plan for an alternative permanent placement if the rehabilitation plan is unsuccessful. This will include preparation of the Child’s Permanence Report, but it will not be presented to the Adoption Panel until all family options have been ruled out.

    Birth parents or extended family must be informed that the two plans (reunification and alternative permanence plan) are being made to meet the child’s needs and prevent unnecessary delay;
  • Concurrent Planning: Guidance refers to the benefits of concurrent planning, which involves placing a child with approved foster carers who are also approved as adopters, thereby providing the option of a continuity of attachment for the child in the event that work towards reunification with parents is not successful;
  • Adoption or Fostering: Where adoption is the preferred option but it is felt likely that this may not be achieved, a contingency plan may be made for long-term fostering. For some children the disadvantages of short-term delay in family finding may be outweighed by the long-term advantages of achieving permanence.

    However, if the preferred route to permanence has not been achieved within an agreed timescale, an alternative route to permanence should be sought.

    Independent Reviewing Officers have a key role in ensuring plans are regularly reviewed and continue to focus on achievable aims.

See also Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure.

A court, in deciding whether to make a Care Order, is required to consider the ‘permanence provisions’ of the Child Plan for the child: 

  1. The provisions setting out the long-term plan for the upbringing of the child - to live with a parent/family member/family friend; adoption; or other long-term care; and
  2. The plan’s provisions in relation to any of the following:
    1. The impact on the child concerned of any harm that he or she suffered or was likely to suffer;
    2. The current and future needs of the child (including needs arising out of that impact);
    3. The way in which the long-term plan for the upbringing of the child would meet those current and future needs.

(s.8 Children and Social Work Act 2017)


7. Decisions about Sibling Relationships

The policy of Newcastle Council is that sibling groups should stay together unless it is clearly demonstrated that they have needs which are incompatible. The social worker should co-ordinate an assessment of sibling attachments at the earliest opportunity following a child or children becoming Looked After.

This assessment of the strength of sibling attachments should be undertaken in order to determine whether children should be placed together or separately. The Child Plan (and Child's Permanence Report) should reflect the evidence on which these decisions are based. Decisions to separate children, and about which child should be placed with whom, should only be taken on the basis of a full assessment, including specialist advice if necessary. These decisions will be made by the social worker and the team manager in consultation with the Care Team. Such decisions must be endorsed by a Looked After Child Review and by the Adoption or Fostering Panel.

If it is likely that brothers and sisters who are not able to be placed together at the start of a care episode will remain Looked After for the medium to long term, arrangements should be made as part of each child’s Care Plan which will enable brothers and sisters to live together, taking into account the other factors.

Where it is not possible to place siblings together, the children should be supported to understand why they cannot live with their siblings. In these circumstances, where it is in the best interests of each individual child, sibling contact should be promoted and maintained.

Where siblings placed together in foster care may be separated when one turns 18, consideration sould be given to whether Staying Put arrangements may be beneficial for all the children involved. 

Where the plan is for adoption, in order to reduce delay, an early decision should be taken as to whether it is in the best interests of each child to be placed together or separately, and the impact on each child of that decision. The decision should be based on a balanced assessment of the individual needs of each child in the group, and the likely or possible consequences of each option on each child. Factors that may need to be considered will include: the nature of the sibling group (do the siblings know each other/ how are they related); whether the children have formed an attachment; the health needs of each child; and each child’s view (noting that a child’s views and perceptions will change over time).

End