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6.2.15 Reunification Policy

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter outlines the policy and procedure for the reunification of children in both short term and long term placements.

RELATED CHAPTERS

Placements with a Child in Care with Parents Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was completely rewritten in April 2016, and should be re-read.


Contents

1. Policy Statement
2. Principle
3. Short Term Placements
  3.1 Procedure
  3.2 Initial Planning Meeting (or if Young Person on Remand – Remand Management Meeting to be Chaired by YOT)
  3.3 Initial Care Team Meeting
  3.4 Initial LAC Review (28 Day)
4. Long Term Placements
  4.1 Procedure
  Appendix 1: Reunification – Formal Meetings Flowchart for Short Term Placements
  Appendix 2: Signs of Safety Reunification Plan


1. Policy Statement

The reunification procedure is based upon a key principle Children Act 1989; ‘Local Authorities should promote the upbringing of children by their family where that is in the child’s best interest’.

The policy is targeted at:

  • All children Looked After where assessment shows they could, with support, safely return home to the care of their parent(s) or other family members.

This policy is not targeted at:

  • Children with a plan for permanence;
  • Young people with a plan for independence;
  • Children who receive short term breaks.


2. Principle

The planning process for children and young people who have just become looked after must be dynamic and, if appropriate, maximise their chance of returning home without delay. Every Looked After Child must have a clear plan which states the outcome being sought which will be one of the following: reunification to immediate family; permanent substitute care (this can be with a family member); independence.

In the majority of cases the Child’s Social Care Assessment (CSCA) will have been completed prior to the child’s admission to care and therefore a further period of assessment will not be required other than when a specialist assessment is necessary.

In the case of emergency admissions, a CSCA review must have taken place prior to the first Looked After Child Review at 20 working days in order that a plan of reunification or permanence can be considered at that meeting.


3. Short Term Placements

3.1 Procedure

A family meeting (including the wider family network) will have taken place immediately after referral to CSC at which a family contingency plan will have been identified. This will have been implemented prior to the child/ becoming accommodated. If this plan needs to be changed and the child/young person accommodated, a planned reunification should have been discussed and agreed with the family prior to admission. In the case of an emergency admission this should be considered at the time of arrangement or the following day.

The social worker will complete the CSCA and placement plan and work intensively with the family to facilitate a speedy return. A danger/worries statement and safety goals must be completed and must inform the Signs of Safety Reunification Plan (see Appendix 2: Signs of Safety Reunification Plan).

3.2 Initial Planning Meeting (or if Young Person on Remand – Remand Management Meeting to be Chaired by YOT)

See Appendix 2: Signs of Safety Reunification Plan.

An Initial Planning Meeting must be held within 72 hours of a child’s placement. The meeting will be chaired by the Foster Carer’s link worker. In attendance must be the child/young person, their parent(s) and the child’s Social Worker, representation from the child’s school, a representative from Health and wider family network, and any other agencies actively involved with the family, for example SCARPA/ YOT.

The meeting will:

  • Set out the arrangements for meeting the child/young person’s day to day needs;
  • Confirm the timescale for the child/young person returning home/further assessment/Securing the child legally;
  • Arrange contact, (if there is not a risk of significant harm). This should include planning for the first overnight contact within 10 days and a plan to increase contact week on week until the child’s/young person’s return home;
  • Commence the Signs of Safety Reunification Plan (see Appendix 2: Signs of Safety Reunification Plan);
  • Set a date for the first Care Team Meeting which will be held within 5 working days of the Initial Planning Meeting and fortnightly thereafter;
  • Ensure all LAC documentation is completed and copies given to child/young person/parent/carer (foster carer/residential staff);
  • Agree arrangements to facilitate attendance at school and the completion of the PEP ([Personal Education Plan);
  • Arrange initial LAC Health Review and health needs in placement e.g. referral to DnA;
  • Following the Initial Planning Meeting the social Worker will complete the Danger/Worries statement and will have shared it with the child/young person and family in preparation for the Care Team Meeting.

3.3 Initial Care Team Meeting

The initial Care team meeting will be held within 5 working days of the child becoming looked after. The Social Worker will share the danger/worries statement with members of the Care Team and with the assistance of the child/young person, family and care team, safety goals will be identified and incorporated within the Child Plan, tasks will be assigned and a timescale for reunification agreed. See Appendix 1: Reunification – Formal Meetings Flowchart for Short Term Placements.

3.4 Initial LAC Review (28 Day)

The aim of the Initial LAC Review is to:

  • Review and amend arrangements for meeting the child’s day to day care needs, as agreed at the Initial Planning meeting, for example health, education, contact;
  • Review reasons why child/young person became Looked After;
  • Review danger/worries statement;
  • Establish if it is safe for the child/young person to return home, and what changes need to be made and sustained within the family for this to occur;
  • Identify the interventions required to achieve the above changes, including consideration of specialist interventions e.g. MST, MST CAN, family support;
  • Identify the timescales within which the interventions can be delivered with the family and evidence gathered as to their effectiveness in creating a safe environment for the child/young person to return to;
  • Review the Child Plan;
  • Identify a support plan/sustainability plan which will support the family to continue to care for the child/young person in the community after that have been returned home.

If a plan for reunification is not felt to be in the Child/Young Person best interests, a plan for permanence or preparation for independence will be need to be identified and timescales outlined for how this alternative plan will be progressed.

Permanence options are:

  • Adoption/Special Guardianship Order/Family Arrangements Order;
  • Long term foster care (Matched).

It is recognised that the child/young person needs change as they develop and mature. Likewise parents and family circumstances improve and change and it is for this reason that the CSCA will be completed annually for all Looked After Children who do not have a plan for permanence.

If, following the CSCA, the Care Team recommend a change of Child Plan to one of reunification, a LAC Review must take place and, if it is safe to do so, a plan for reunification must be progressed. Social Worker must complete a danger/worries statement and share this with the child/young person, family and Care Team.

If reunification has not been achieved within 6 weeks however remains the plan for the child the IRO’s views must be sought and reunification plan must be reviewed by the Team Manager at the care team at 56 days and if necessary 74th day prior to the 4 month LAC review.

Note arrangements made under section 20 Children Act 1989 in response to child protection concerns should be discussed at Legal Panel if they exceed 6 weeks.


4. Long Term Placements

4.1 Procedure

Where a decision has been made for the Local Authority to look after a child in the longer term in either foster care or in residential care, including out of authority placements, a CSCA should be undertaken within each 24 month period, or in response to a change in circumstances.

The up to date CSCA will re consider if the parents’ capacity and ability to meet the needs of their child have increased sufficiently to enable the child to return to their care. The assessment will also consider how the child’s needs have developed and changed, and to ascertain their current wishes and feelings in relation to their placement and potential reunification. It is important that the assessment includes all people with Parental Responsibility for the child and other significant adults.

If the CSCA indicates that a plan for reunification is in the child/young person’s best interests a Risk Statement should be completed with the child/young person and parents. This will then be shared with the Care Team and will inform the plan for reunification.

If the child/young person is subject to a Care Order, Section 31 Children Act 1989, placement with parent’s documentation must be completed and a recommendation for reunification made to the Assistant Director via the Community Arrangements Panel. If the plan for reunification is endorsed by the Assistant Director a brought forward LAC Review is required where the change of plan will be discussed with the IRO and the Care Team.

Following the brought forward LAC Review, the Care Team should convene to agree the detail of the reunification plan. The Care Team should consider the outcomes for the child/ young person when developing the Child Plan, including:

  • Timescales and contact arrangements during the reunification phase;
  • How the child/young person’s day to day care needs will be met within the family, including their education and health needs.

What supports are needed to sustain family change and ensure the child/young person remains safe at home and their holistic needs are meet, using the Risk Statement to inform planning.


Appendices

Click here to view Appendix 1: Reunification – Formal Meetings Flowchart for Short Term Placements.

Click here to view Appendix 2: Signs of Safety Reunification Plan.

End