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7.2.12 Placements with Connected Persons

CURRENT STATUS: WORKING DRAFT

RELATED CHAPTER

Children being Cared for by Family and Friends: Practice Guidance

Remands to Local Authority Accommodation and Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure

RELATED GUIDANCE

FRG Initial Family and Friends Care - This resource outlines what a viability assessment for family and friend carers should look like, what social workers should consider and how to undertake international assessments.

AMENDMENT

In August 2017, Section 4, Procedure for Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons, was updated to include, in matters that should be considered when placing a child with a Connected Person, an initial risk assessment of any pets, together with the environment in which the pet is kept.

The above link was added to FRG Initial Family and Friends Care.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Legal Status of the Child
  3. Situations Where these Procedures do not Apply
  4. Procedure for Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons
  5. The Placement
  6. Ending the Placement


1. Introduction

The following procedure covers immediate placements of looked after children with a Connected Person i.e. where the carers are not already approved as foster carers.

A Connected Person is defined as "A relative, friend or other person connected with a child. The latter is someone who would not fit the term 'relative or friend', but who has a pre-existing relationship with the child. It could be someone who knows the child in a more professional capacity such as (for example) a child-minder, a teacher or a youth worker."

Relative is defined as "a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent."

This procedure sets out the checks that need to be made before such a placement can be made.

It also covers the procedure to be followed to carry out the required assessment and approval of the Connected Person as foster carers if the placement is to last longer than 16 weeks.

As with any placement the responsible Authority must be satisfied that the placement is the most suitable means to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, not withstanding the Connected Person is not yet approved as a foster carer. The Authority must be satisfied that it is necessary for the child to be placed with the Connected Person before the Connected Person’s suitability to be a foster carer has been assessed in accordance with the Regulations. These provisions are to be used only in exceptional circumstances and where there are clearly defined reasons why a full foster carer assessment cannot be undertaken before a placement is made. There is a risk that if a child is placed before the full approval of the carer as a local authority foster carer they may not be approved at the end of the process resulting in a further move for the child.


2. Legal Status of the Child

A Local Authority cannot place a child with a Connected Person unless that carer is approved in accordance with Regulation 24 of the 2010 Regulations.

If a child cannot remain in the care of their parents for any reason and there are family members willing to care for the child, in order to avoid the child having to become looked after under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, arrangements can be made under Section 17 of the 1989 Act for the child to be cared for on an informal basis. This includes emergency situations for example where a Child Protection investigation application has commenced. (Also see Children being Cared for by Family and Friends: Practice Guidance).

The Local Authority will then be involved in preparing an Statutory Assessment in respect of the child. Within that assessment process, the social worker needs to consider whether the child can remain in an informal arrangement under Section 17 or whether that child needs to become Looked After in accordance with Section 20. If the outcome of the Initial or Statutory Assessment is to decide that the child needs to become looked after but could be placed with a Connected Person, the Local Authority cannot place the child with that Connected Person until Regulation 24 is complied with.

Temporary approval can be granted to a Connected Person under Regulation 26 for up to 16 weeks. The carer becomes a Local Authority foster carer when temporary approval is granted under Regulation 24. The carer is entitled to a fostering allowance from the date the Regulation 24 approval is granted and the child is placed in the care of that Connected Person.

In some circumstances, Regulation 24 approval will need to be granted urgently, for example, if the child is in Police Protection or if an urgent court hearing has been fixed. The Local Authority therefore needs to have arrangements in place to grant approval in accordance with Regulation 24 when necessary. Generally, Regulation 24 approval will be arranged within five days of the social worker identifying, in consultation with their team manager and have taken legal advice if required, that a child needs to become Looked After.

It is important to clarify both with management of the service along with legal advice at the outset of any decision for a child to live with their relative of their friend as to whether the child is Looked After. This is essential at the outset in order to avoid any problems or difficulties at a later stage. It is important to note that whilst parts of the procedure outlined is good practice to follow in circumstances outside of being looked after, the requirements of this procedure can only be applied in full to children who are Looked After.

It is acknowledged that, in relation to the former point, children can live with their relative or friend under a voluntary arrangement or agreement and the status of the child can change, with it becoming necessary for the child at a later stage to become looked after on account of familial circumstances or further assessment work. In such circumstances there needs to be clarity concerning the date upon which the child became looked after. This procedure will subsequently apply and be followed in exactly the same way.


3. Situations Where these Procedures do not Apply

These procedures do not apply where a child (under 16 yrs) goes to live with a relative or friend and this is a private arrangement between the parent/person with Parental Responsibility and carer.

If this placement continues for 28 days or more, the child may come within the definition of a Privately Fostered child, in which case the local authority's duties in relation to the placement are set out in the Private Fostering Procedure.


4. Procedure for Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons

Matters to be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a Connected Person to care for the child are:

  1. The nature and quality of any existing relationship with the child;
  2. Their capacity to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child (or children) concerned, to provide for his/her physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care; to protect the child adequately from harm or danger including from any person who presents a risk of harm to the child; to ensure that the accommodation and home environment is suitable; in relation to the child's age and developmental stage, to promote his/her learning and development; to provide a stable family environment which will promote secure attachments for the child, including promoting positive contact with parents and other connected persons, unless this is not consistent with the child's welfare;
  3. State of health (physical, emotional and mental), and medical history including current or past issues of domestic violence and abuse, substance misuse or mental health problems;
  4. Family relationships and the composition of the household, including particulars of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of any relationship with the connected person and each other including any sexual relationship; any relationship with the parents; any relationship between the child and other members of the household; other adults (not members of the household) likely to have regular contact with the child; any current or previous domestic violence and abuse between members of the household, including the connected person;
  5. Their family history, including their childhood and upbringing, and the strengths and difficulties of their parents or others who cared for them; their relationship with parents and siblings and each other; educational achievement and any learning difficulty/disability; chronology of significant life events; particulars of other relatives and their relationships with the child and the connected person;
  6. Any criminal offences of which they have been convicted or in respect of which they have been cautioned;
  7. Past and present employment and other sources of income;
  8. Nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and the Connected Person.

The home must be visited by the social worker as part of the assessment of the suitability of arrangements. Assessment as to whether the accommodation and home environment is suitable will include, where relevant, an initial risk assessment of any pets together with the environment in which the pet is kept.

The child's wishes and feelings (subject to age and understanding) must be ascertained and recorded and wherever possible, an opportunity must be provided for the child to visit the home before the decision.

The views of parents/ those with Parental Responsibility must also be obtained.

The proposed carer should be given information about the assessment process which will follow if the placement is to last longer than 16 weeks, including the need for DBS checks and other agency enquiries on all members of the household aged 16 and over, as well as interviews with referees, adult children and ex-partners, which will be part of any such fostering assessment.

Where the social worker is in any doubt as to the suitability of the placement, s/he should consult the Fostering Service for advice before the placement is agreed.

In the first instance, under statutory guidance, 5.3 - 5.8 the authority must be satisfied that the placement is the most suitable means to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, and that the placement cannot wait until the full approval process can be completed. It is intended within the regulations that temporary approvals will be exceptional. As detailed within statutory guidance, 5.8, at this stage the Local Authority should satisfy itself as to the reasons for the carers coming forward to offer a placement, and that there is no obvious barrier to undertaking a foster carer assessment.

Under this proviso, reference within statutory guidance, 5.9, the intention is that the connected person has an existing relationship with the child. Circumstances where there is no relationship must be approached differently with introductions and the child’s views appropriately ascertained.

In all circumstances where this is able to be ascertained, it is important to elicit the child’s views concerning a proposed placement and, if it is possible, to undertake an introductory visit. It is also important that the birth family’s views about any proposed placement and potential implications are taken full account of in reaching a view about stability. Birth parents’ consent will be needed or alternatively an Interim Care Order will need to be sought.

At the outset of the process the social worker must identify that a looked after placement is needed to meet the needs of a child with a potential connected person/family/friends carer through a Statutory Assessment.

In order to establish suitability, and before making the placement, the social worker must meet the requirements of Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. They will need to have visited the prospective carer’s home and be satisfied with the immediate care arrangements, taking into account the requirements of Schedule 4.

Emergency checks must have been undertaken, i.e. Police National Computer (PNC) and Departmental checks, including discussion with the applicants concerning these checks. The child’s views concerning staying with the relatives or friends will have been closely considered as a very important aspect along with the strength of the relationship that the child has with the carer. Note paragraph 2 of Regulation 24 states that before making a placement the Local Authority must assess the suitability of a Connected Person to care, the proposed accommodation and all other persons aged 18 or over of the household, taking account of Schedule 4 (Care Planning Regulations).

The social worker and the Fostering Service should jointly consider whether the arrangements may be suitable before any placement is made. This is referred to as a Temporary Foster Care Approval process. With this regard social worker must firstly made an Initial Referral to Fostering Duty whilst undertaking emergency checks PNC and Departmental checks. They will also have important information concerning the prospective care arrangements as detailed previously at this initial point of referral.

Subject to a satisfactory outcome of the Initial Screening, the Fostering Team Manager will nominate a Fostering Social Worker to undertake a Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment, along with the child’s social worker within five working days. The form used is CoramBAAF Form C. It is essential that timescales are adhered to in relation to the joint Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment visit both for safeguarding purposes or drift and therefore this joint visit must be given a high priority in workloads of workers by their respective managers.

The planning around the Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment visit is extremely important as the outcome is to ensure that enough information is obtained on the visit to form an overall judgement. It is normally possible to complete a Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment in one visit as long as the purpose has been explained to the carers beforehand including the need for both carers to be at home in the event that this is a joint application.

The Fostering Social Worker will undertake the planning arrangements concerning the visit, contacting the carers beforehand to explain what is required. They will explain that during the visit they will need an opportunity to see both carers, (this may require some child care support depending upon circumstances) and they will also need to see the children looked after, the applicants’ children including any other residents of the household at some point during the visit.

It is important to note that there are likely to be a small number of visits which may need a return visit for the Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment to be completed in order to reach a view. These are in exceptional circumstances, however, such as where there may be a very large family group and it has not been possible to elicit all of the key information. Similarly, unforeseen circumstance may arise on the day, or in certain instances there can be complexity of issues arising where there is a need for further clarification or discussion before a view can be formed as to whether a placement is suitable. In such circumstances, the Fostering Social Worker will alert the team manager who will offer advice and maintain an overview.

At the time of the visit, usually at the outset, the Fostering Social Worker will explain that the outcome of the Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment visit will not be fed back to the cares on this visit, although any specific problem areas will be explained to the carers during the visit. They will further explain that following the visit, there will need to be some reflection and analysis with a report prepared. This will include input from both social workers with a management recommendation from the Fostering Team Manager as to whether or not to recommend that temporary approval should be granted to the connected person/people with progression to a Foster Carer Assessment. They will explain that the outcome will be shared with the carers at that stage.

Once the Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment has been undertaken and completed, with the relevant sections of CoramBAAF Form C completed, this will be passed to the team manager. Following any further clarification needed via discussion or other information received, the team manager will make a recommendation in terms of whether to progress to a Family and Friends Foster Care Assessment, which is a more detailed analysis of CoramBAAF Form C. The manager’s recommendation will take account of Fostering standards and regulations. The Fostering Team Manager will send a copy of the Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment including the recommendations to the team manager.

In the event of concerns at any stage of this process there will need to be proactive discussion between the Fostering Team Manager and the child’s social worker’s team manager with a view reached about whether the placement is suitable. In some instances legal involvement may be necessary.

In the former circumstances outlined there are a range of options to consider in seeking a solution; in certain instances it may be appropriate to consider an alternative placement if safeguarding concerns have been raised within the Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment. In other instances it may be possible to resolve issues raised during the Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment by proactive involvement/support post visit. In certain isolated cases a review of the legal status of the child such as an Interim Residence Order may also be an option. A meeting is often the best way to agree a way forward in complex cases.

As previously stated there may also be some very complex cases where more than one Temporary Foster Care Approval visit is needed or an interim position is only able to reached after one visit. In such instances a review date of the Temporary Foster Care Approval visit will be required following the work undertaken with the care family, in order to address any concerns. This will need to happen within a defined and prescribed very short timescale in order to ensure that a child does not drift into a placement which is unsuitable.

The Fostering Team Manager will email the Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment and any other appropriate paperwork to the Corporate Parenting Manager who will make a decision as to whether to proceed to a Family and Friends Full Assessment process and if so grant temporary approval as foster carers for a named child/ren. The Team Manager of the child’s Social Worker and the Fostering Team Manager will be notified of this decision.

When the Head of Corporate Parenting grants temporary approval, the allocated Fostering Social Worker will commence the Family and Friend Foster Carer Assessment in conjunction with the Social Worker. The carers will be advised verbally of the approval decision by the Fostering Social Worker and of the commencement of the full assessment process.

The carers will subsequently be advised at that stage in writing that they have been approved as temporary foster carers. This will be a letter from the Fostering Team Manager via the panel administrator whom the Team Manager will have notified. The carers will be eligible for Fostering Allowance payments from the date upon which they became temporarily approved.

If the immediate placement is required at weekend or out of hours, this process is expected to be followed in as far as is reasonably practicable. In the event of this not being achieved by the Emergency Duty Team it would be expected that the process would be completed the next working day when the situation is reviewed.

The Fostering Panel Administrator will, at the stage of temporary approval being given, email the child’s Social Worker and Fostering Worker any proformas required in relation to the proposed full fostering assessment which will be needed for panel. There will be different proformas which form part of CoramBAAF Form C relating to each worker and the intention is that the same forms that have been used for temporary approval will be used although this will be in much greater detail. It will also be necessary for Fostering Social Worker to receive other key documents such as medical checks and other core checks.

The Fostering Social Worker will ensure that the assessment commences within once week of the Service Manager’s approval and will conduct the assessment in conjunction with the child’s Social Worker. They will need to discuss their approach to the assessment together and how they will each undertake this. Certain joint visits or review points may be helpful.

The Fostering Social Worker will complete DBS's, medical assessments, consent to enquiries signatures so that core checks can be initiated including school, ex-partner, other Local Authority checks if appropriate, NSPCC, child health, employer, references, previous employer references involving children or vulnerable adults etc.

The Fostering Social Worker will also importantly at this time explain to the carers the Family and Friends Foster Care Assessment process along with the requirements of the Foster Carer Agreement which they must ensure is signed following a temporary approval, along with providing information to the carers regarding levels of support and agreeing any training needs.

A date will be identified at this stage by the Fostering Team Manager when the Family and Friends Assessment will be presented to the Fostering Panel and the Manager will ask the panel administrator to book this into the panel diary and also to notify the Social Worker and their Manager along with the Fostering Social Worker of this date also. This date must be within the 16 week timescale from the date that temporary approval was granted. The Fostering Social Worker and the child’s Social Worker will be given a date at this stage when all the required reports and documentation must be given to the panel administrator in order for the necessary preparation to be made for the report to be presented to panel and the reports circulated (no later than two working weeks prior to the panel date).

As previously stated, the assessment must be completed and presented to the panel within 16 weeks of temporary approval. This needs to take account of panel dates programmed and two weeks needed for quality assurance by the Fostering Team Manager for the Fostering Social Worker’s report and the Team Manager for the child’s Social Worker’s report. Therefore, the reports should be shared with respective management by 12 weeks. This is to allow time for any amendments or additional work needed thereafter and in addition for time needed for sharing the report with the carers. The reports need to be with the panel administrator two weeks before panel (by 14 weeks) in order to make the necessary preparations for panel and be included within the agenda listing. Therefore, meeting timescales will be of essence in this type of assessment and this will need to be given priority.

Prior to panel, the panel administrator will have written to the temporarily approved foster carers with a date and time of panel. The carers will have been made aware by their assessing Fostering Social Worker that they may bring along a person for support at the panel should they wish to do so.

When a Family and Friends full Fostering Assessment (CoramBAAF Form C) is presented to the Permanence Panel, both the Fostering Social Worker and the child’s Social Worker must attend.

Panel will make a recommendation concerning approval with the decision made by the Agency Decision Maker. Approval will be for a named child only.

If it is not possible to complete the Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment within the 16 week timescale, the Agency Decision Maker can approve an extension for up to an 8 week period, but only in exceptional circumstances. There is a requirement within Regulation 25 of the Care Planning Regulations that if an assessment is not presented to panel for approval taking account of this extended time period, then alternative care arrangements will need to be made for the child and the child removed. As such contingency planning will need to be considered as part of this process.

When considering whether to extend approval for a further 8 week period, Regulation 25(4) states that the responsible authority must first consider the most appropriate placement and secondly seek the views of the Fostering Panel as well as informing the Independent Reviewing Officer. This decision can only be made by the nominated officer. Therefore, the Fostering Panel will need to be made aware of the situation with regard to the carer prior to this decision being taken in order for the panel to form a view. The Temporary Foster Care Approval Assessment and an interim report will inform this process.

Following approval the Fostering Team Manager will allocate a Fostering Social Worker to provide continuing ongoing support and supervision to the placement and the carers, and the carers will continue to have access to training and developmental opportunities.


5. The Placement

A Placement Planning Meeting should be held before the placement or, where this is not possible because of the urgency of the placement, within 5 working days.

On the placement of the child, the child's social worker will ensure the Child Plan and the written Placement Plan is given to the carer.

If the child was not previously Looked After, the child's social worker will send a notification of the child's placement and a request for the child's first LAC Review to the Independent Review Unit.

If the child was already looked after, the social worker will send notification of the placement to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

The child's social worker must visit and see the child alone in the placement (unless she/he refuses) each week until the first LAC Review and thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks during the period of temporary approval. The visits are to be fully recorded as statutory visits.

The child's social worker will update the electronic record with the details of the placement and notify the finance section of the placement to trigger payments to the carer.

Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the relevant local Children's Social Care department if the placement is in a different local authority area.

The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.

These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the person with whom the child is to be placed. They must be sent before the placement wherever possible or within 5 working days of the placement.

The child's social worker should also notify - preferably in writing but it may be verbally - all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including nursery/school, GP and any health professional or YOS worker actively involved with the child.

It will be necessary for the child's social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to him or her (which is preferable) or in the area where they are placed.

In relation to a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to arrange a Health Assessment - see Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure.

The social worker must also arrange for the completion of a Personal Education Plan - see the Education of Looked After Children Procedure. Every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are reasons which would be detrimental to his or her well being.


6. Ending the Placement

When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic record and send notification to the finance section so that payments to the carer/provider will cease.

The social worker will also send copies to those notified when the placement was made.

Where appropriate, consideration may be given to holding a Disruption Meeting in which case the procedure set out in Placement Planning Meetings and Disruption Meeting Procedure should be followed.

End