View Lincolnshire SCB Procedures View Lincolnshire SCB Procedures

3.1.4 Foster to Adopt Placements, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter outlines the legislative framework to enable a placement of a child with carers who are dually approved, i.e. approved both as prospective adopters and as local authority foster carers. In addition it includes the legislative Duty to Consider Fostering for Adoption Placements under the Children and Families Act 2014, which in Lincolnshire is known as 'Foster to Adopt Placements'; the subsequent procedure is outlined within Section 4, Foster to Adopt of this document.

RELATED GUIDANCE

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015)

Fostering For Adoption: Practice Guidance (Coram, BAAF)

RELATED CHAPTERS

Assessment and Approval of Adopters Procedure

Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure

Permanence Planning Strategy

Public Law Outline (PLO) Applications to Court under Children Act 1989 and CAFCASS Plus Lincolnshire Initiative

AMENDMENT

This chapter was fully reviewed in December 2016 to add a note that if there is any change to the circumstances of prospective carers, including relatives, there should be a professionals meeting and the carers should be informed so that they can consider their position as well as the local authority. (See Section 4.2, Considering Adoption for a Child).


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Examples of Situations Where Placements with Dually-Approved Carers may be Appropriate
  3. Concurrent Planning
  4. Foster to Adopt
  5. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
  6. Suitability Criteria and Assessment for Foster to Adopt Carers
  7. Benefits of Foster to Adopt Placements for Children
  8. Benefits and Risks for Foster to Adopt Carers
  9. Process for Supporting Foster to Adopt Placements
  10. Post Adoption Contact Arrangements

    Appendix 1: Foster to Adopt Process Flow Chart


1. Introduction

This procedure deals with placement of a child with carers who are dually approved, i.e. approved both as prospective adopters and as local authority foster carers.

The advantage of this type of placement is that the child will be placed with foster carers who, subject to a Placement Order being made, or parental consent, are expected to go on to become the child’s adoptive family, (See Section 7, Benefits of Foster to Adopt Placement for Children).The child therefore benefits from an early placement with their eventual permanent carers. Delay in finding a permanent family for young children who have already experienced neglect early on in their lives may have a profoundly damaging effect on their development. This type of placement has potential to reduce this delay and the damage caused significantly.

These placements are foster placements. The placement will only become an adoptive placement where the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) has decided that the child should be placed for adoption and either a Placement Order has been made, or parental consent to the child’s adoption is given.

It is possible that such a placement may not lead to adoption, for example because the child’s plan changes where rehabilitation with the birth family is successful, because suitable family or friends come forward or because the court does not agree to make a Placement Order. This may mean that the child returns home or is moved to another permanence arrangement. But, for the vast majority of children in such placements, progression towards adoption will be the anticipated outcome.

It is important that people who are willing to care for a child in this way are fully aware that the placement may not lead to adoption, and that they have been given appropriate information and training so that they understand their role and legal responsibilities as foster carers and ongoing support once the placement has been made. (See Section 8, Benefits and Risks for Foster to Adopt Carers).

Concurrent planning is an established practice for placing children with dually approved carers. As these placements are foster placements, rather than placements for adoption, they could be made under existing legislation. The law has, however, developed to make the situation more explicit.

In 2013, the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 were amended to allow approved prospective adopters to be given temporary approval as foster carers for a named child.

In July 2014, the Children and Families 2014 imposed a duty upon local authorities to consider placement with dually approved carers whenever it is considering adoption or where the decision has been made that the child ought to be placed for adoption, but where the agency does not yet have authority to place the child for adoption through either a placement order or parental consent.

Fostering for Adoption is known as ‘Foster to Adopt’ in Lincolnshire. It combines the temporary placement of a child under the Fostering Regulations with the potential for the placement to become the permanent adoption placement. The principle of these placements is that delay and disruption for children is damaging and that it should be the adults (Foster to Adopt carers) who deal with the uncertainty and emotional risks rather than the child.


2. Examples of Situations Where Placements with Dually-Approved Carers may be Appropriate

  • Where parents have had one or more child/ren previously placed for adoption or other forms of permanent placement and the evidence strongly suggests that their circumstances have not changed and they pose the same risks as they did to the previous child/ren;
  • The local authority does not have a proactive plan to rehabilitate the child as the circumstances of the parents are such to pose a serious on-going risk;
  • Where this is the first child, the circumstances of the parents and the risks to the child are such that there is no proactive plan to return the child to the birth parents or to other family members;
  • Where parents have indicated that they may want their child adopted, but have not formally consented.

The local authority should not consider such a placement where the child is Accommodated under Section 20 Children Act 1989 and there is a reasonable likelihood that the child will be able to return to his or her birth parents or to family or friends.

2.1 Situations Where These Procedures Do Not Apply

  • They do not apply to mainstream Fostering or Adoption Placements or to Connected Persons (Regulation 24) placements (see Placements with Connected Person Under Regulation 24 Procedure);
  • They do not apply to placements where foster carers are seeking to adopt children who were originally placed with them on a temporary basis.


3. Concurrent Planning

Concurrent planning is usually used in cases where rehabilitation with the birth family is still being attempted, but it is expected that adoption will become the plan for the child should the rehabilitation not be successful.

Concurrent planning requires the identification and delivery of a detailed rehabilitation plan while the child is placed with carers who are approved for both fostering and adoption who support that plan. If the rehabilitation plan proves to be unsuccessful, the foster carers can go on to adopt the child once Care Proceedings and the Placement Order application are completed.

It involves placing a Looked After child with approved foster carers who, as well as providing temporary care for the child, bring them to regular supervised contact sessions with their parents and other relatives. In addition, the carer may spend time with the parents at both ends of contact sessions to update them on the child’s progress. This enables a relationship to develop which is supportive to the parents. The agency provides focussed support via a contact supervisor whose role is to advise the parents to help them to change their lifestyle and improve their parenting skills with the aim of enabling their child to return home to them. If this is the outcome, the child will have maintained contact with their parents and have sustained their attachment because of the regular contact visits. The carers are also approved as adopters so that if the parents’ rehabilitation plan is not successful, the child may be placed with the carers for adoption, ensuring a continuity of attachment.


4. Foster to Adopt

4.1 Duty to Consider Fostering for Adoption Placement

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, where the local authority are considering adoption for a child (see Section 4.2, Considering Adoption for a Child) or are satisfied that the child ought to be placed for adoption but is not yet authorised (either by consent or by Placement Order) to place the child for adoption, the authority MUST consider placing the child with a relative, friend or other Connected Person who is also a local authority foster carer or, where they decide that such a placement is not the most appropriate placement, then they must consider placing the child with a local authority foster carer who has been approved as a prospective adopter.

In such a situation, the requirements under the section 22 of the Children Act 1989 to ensure that placements allow the child to live near the parents’ home, be placed within the local authority area, remain at the same school and to be placed together with sibling(s), do not apply.

(The carers may be dually approved by being fully approved adopters and foster carers for any child, or they might be approved prospective adopters who have been temporarily approved as foster carers for a named child under regulation 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 – see Section 5, Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters).

Circumstances in which Regulations 25A is appropriate are:

  • Emergencies such as death or an allegation;
  • Follow on babies.

Such a placement must be approved by the Nominated Officer/ADM who must:

  • Be satisfied that:
    • The placement is the most appropriate placement available for the child and will safeguard and promote his/her welfare; and
    • The child’s wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration, and the IRO has been informed; and
  • If their whereabouts are known, notify the child’s parent(s)/guardian of the proposed placement.

4.2 Considering Adoption for a Child

Examples of when a local authority may be considering adoption include:

  • Where the local authority is trying to rehabilitate the child with the birth parents, or where a Family Group Conference has been held and there are no suitable family or friends carers and adoption is the best option for the child if rehabilitation does not succeed;
  • The child is a sibling of another child/children who have been placed for adoption. This can be by Lincolnshire County Council or other local authorities;
  • A risk assessment of the parents has been completed and the local authorities plan is to seek removal of the child/children through the Courts;
  • In cases where the birth parents have indicated that they are likely to consent to the child being placed for adoption, but have not yet consented;
  • Where the local authority has decided at the permanence planning stage that adoption should be the plan for the child and agreed at the Support Panel (please refer to Section 9, Process for Supporting Foster to Adopt Placements). The local authority must be able to demonstrate to the ADM and the court why the child cannot return home, why the child has not been placed with family or friends, why no other permanence plan is appropriate for the child and why adoption is the right plan for the child; please see Section 4.3, Reports for the Quality Assurance Meeting – Foster to Adopt Evidence Report.

If, at any point during the planning of a Fostering for Adoption placement or if the child is already in such a placement, there is any change to the circumstances of prospective carers, including relatives, a planning meeting with the Fostering for Adoption carers and all professionals involved should take place to consider the new information at the earliest opportunity, so that the carers can make an informed choice about their position. Similarly, this also allows the local authority to consider their position in light of the change in circumstances.

4.3 Reports for the Quality Assurance Meeting – Foster to Adopt Evidence Report

Before a final decision is made by the ADM to approve a Foster to Adopt Placement, a Quality Assurance (QA) Meeting is held to consider the reasons why a Foster to Adopt Placement is the plan for the child. A Foster to Adopt Evidence Report will be written by the relevant professional and presented to the QA Meeting; the report should capture all the relevant information in order for the QA Meeting to consider the case.

The Foster to Adopt Evidence Report should be a short, concise and succinct summary of the background to the case, the reason why Foster to Adopt is being requested, the relevant legislation and regulations and legal status of the child.

The Report should be longer than one page and in addition the following information should be provided:

  • Any viability assessments including the outcome of these;
  • If available an Adoption medical;
  • If available the Child Placement Report;
  • A simple Adult Placement Report used for links;
  • If there is a Prospective Adopters Report this must be updated;
  • Any other relevant information.

Following the review of the Foster to Adopt Evidence Report at the QA Meeting and Foster to Adopt is considered the best option; the Report and evidence will be presented to the ADM for their decision.

A Fostering for Adoption Placement can also be made after the ADM has made the decision that the child should be placed for adoption, but does not yet have the authority to place the child for adoption.

4.4 Considerations where Adoption would not be Suitable

Examples of where a local authority will not be considering adoption include:

  • The child is likely to return home;
  • They are aware that there are family or friends who can care for the child;
  • A permanence placement other than adoption is more appropriate for the child.

4.5 Notifications

Where a decision is made to place a child in a Fostering for Adoption placement, the adoption agency must:

  • Notify the prospective adopter in writing;
  • Explain the decision to the child in an appropriate manner, having regard to the child’s age and understanding;
  • Explain to the birth parents (which includes fathers without Parental Responsibility)/guardian the legal implications.

On those occasions where the child is voluntarily Accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act, the notification should remind the birth parents of their right to remove the child from the local authority’s care and should provide advice on access to legal advice and appropriate advisory bodies.

The parents should be informed that the local authority cannot pre-judge the outcome of Care Proceedings and only the court can authorise placement for adoption if the parents do not consent to their child being placed for adoption.


5. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters

Approved prospective adopters can be given temporary approval as foster carers under 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. This temporary foster carer approval process can be carried out at the same time as the adopter approval process.

This temporary approval can be given for a named Looked After child, where the local authority consider that this is in the child’s best interests.

Before giving such approval, the responsible authority must:

  • Assess the suitability of that person to care for the child as a foster carer; and
  • Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the responsible authority, the proposed arrangements will safeguard and promote the child’s welfare and meet the child’s needs as set out in the Care Plan.

The temporary approval period expires when:

  • The placement is terminated by the local authority;
  • The approval as a prospective adopter is terminated;
  • The prospective adopter is approved as a foster carer;
  • The prospective adopter gives 28 days’ written notice that they no longer wish to be temporarily approved as a foster parent in relation to the child; or
  • The child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopter.


6. Suitability Criteria and Assessment for Foster to Adopt Carers

Foster to Adopt carers must be assessed as adopters and foster carers using the BAAF Prospective Adopter Report. Their understanding and suitability to take on the dual role as foster carers initially and then adopters must be assessed and the evidence integrated within the report and then summarised at the end of the report.

Foster to adopt carers are required to attend an additional Preparation Group for prospective Foster to Adopt carers.

See Assessment and Approval of Adopters Procedure. When assessing a prospective Foster to Adopt carer's suitability the Supervising Social Worker must address the following issues in their assessment:

  • Do the carers fully understand the uncertainty of a foster to adopt placement during the temporary foster care stage?
  • How will the carers manage the anxiety this uncertainty will generate?
  • Do carers understand that they will be expected to retain care of the child and support a rehabilitation or transition plan if it is decided that the child should return home or move to another placement?
  • How will the carers respond to direct contact with the birth parents and the requirement to facilitate contact between the child and birth parent during the temporary fostering stage?
  • Do the carers understand the different roles and responsibilities of a foster carer and an adopter?
  • Do the carers have sufficient practical day-to-day child care experience to be able to care for the child to the standard expected of a local authority foster carer?
  • How will the carers deal with little or no information about a child’s health history?


7. Benefits of Foster to Adopt Placements for Children

  • Children have one placement with carers who may become their adopters;
  • It allows the child and their carer to share key developments, milestones, experiences, memories and achievements from the earliest stage;
  • It avoids disruption and damage to children’s capacity to attach and emotional wellbeing caused by terminating temporary foster care relationships or multiple placements;
  • The likelihood of future behavioural and attachment difficulties and the resultant potential for placement breakdown are reduced;
  • Where there are contact arrangements with the birth parents/family during the period of temporary foster care, it allows the carers to develop a wider understanding and knowledge of the child’s parents and enhances the information and perspective available for the child about their birth family in later life.


8. Benefits and Risks for Foster to Adopt Carers

The principle of Foster to Adopt placements is that the carers, as adults, are expected to manage the uncertainty of the placement rather than the child.

The Benefits of Foster to Adopt for Carers are:
  • It allows carers to share key developments, milestones, experiences, memories and achievements with the child from the earliest stage. This assists with attachment and reduces the amount of learning about the child's background by the carer;
  • The carer is able to establish routines and responses to the child which meet the child’s needs but are also consistent with the parenting style of the family;
  • Children placed with foster to adopt carers are likely to present less behavioural and attachment difficulties as a result of repeated temporary foster placement moves;
  • Foster to Adopt carers are likely to have more contact with birth parents/family during the temporary fostering period which enhances the carers understanding of the birth parents/family and assist with sharing information about birth family with children at later stages in their development;
  • Where Foster to Adopt carers receives the child into their care directly from their birth family they will have an enhanced understanding of the children’s previous care and experiences.

The Risks for Foster to Adopt Carers are:

  • Very occasionally, the Court or Adoption Panel may decide that the child will move back home or to another placement. This can be very distressing for the carer and the child. In these circumstances the carer is expected to place the child’s needs first and continue to care for the child during rehabilitation or introductions plan;
  • Information about the foster to adopt carers and the placement may be inadvertently shared with the birth parents/family. Whilst all efforts are made to prevent this, sometimes this happens when children attend medical appointments or when reports are submitted to Court. Lincolnshire County Council does not guarantee that information about the placement will not be shared with the birth parents/family;
  • It is better for children if their primary carers can escort them to and from contact with their birth parents/family. This is likely to mean that there are regular meetings between the foster to adopt carers and the birth parents/family. It can be distressing for carers to manage this positively where the child becomes distressed or behaves differently after a contact session;
  • Foster to Adopt carers may be criticised or subject to complaints from parents about the standard or way in which their child is being cared for. In all instances these complaints will need to be discussed with the carer(s). Sometimes parents who are not able to care for their child may make complaints about their child’s care as a protest at their situation;
  • Some foster to Adopt carers may not have had previous day-to-day child care responsibility and may find getting to grips with the routine and practicalities challenging as many new parents do. This can be difficult for foster to adopt carers when their care is being scrutinised by the child’s birth parents and expected to be of the standard of a regular foster carer;
  • There may be pressure placed upon Foster to Adopt carers by birth parent/family, the Courts and other professionals involved in the child’s case to offer enhanced post-Adoption contact between the child and their birth parents/family. See Section 10, Post Adoption Contact Arrangements.


9. Process for Supporting Foster to Adopt Placements

Early Permanence options must be considered for all children on the cusp of becoming looked after. The child’s social worker is responsible for detailing early permanence arrangements for a child in the application to Support Panel.

Support Panel is responsible for agreeing the early permanence plans for a child for whom it is agreed that a Legal Planning Meeting (see Public Law Outline (PLO) Applications to Court under Children Act 1989 and CAFCASS Plus Lincolnshire Initiative Procedure, CAFCASS Plus Initiative), with a view to commencing care proceedings, should be held. Once a Legal Planning Meeting has been held and it is agreed that a letter before proceedings should be issued the child’s social worker should complete a profile of the child and their needs.

If it is identified that the child is likely to require a plan for adoption the profile should be emailed to the Adoption Team Manager and Adoption Family Finding Panel to commence the search for a foster to adopt placement.

The child’s social worker is responsible for completing the necessary CAFCASS+ and pre-proceedings processes.

The Practice Supervisor Adoption (Children) will ensure that Family Finding commences upon receipt of the profile from the child’s social worker. The child will be added to the Family Finding list by the Family Finding co-ordinator and actions taken to identify a suitable placement will be discussed and recorded at the next Family Finding Meeting.

Once the request for an early permanence placement has been confirmed the Family Finding Panel is responsible for notifying the child’s social worker of the outcome of the Family Finding activity. Where it has not been possible to identify a suitable early permanence placement the Social Worker for the child is responsible for notifying the Fostering Duty Desk that a mainstream fostering placement is required and forwarding a copy of the child’s profile. The child's profile should continue to be considered by the Family Finding Panel to enable an early permanence placement to be still be identified when possible.

Where it has been possible to identify an early permanence placement, the family's supervising social worker is responsible for forwarding the child and prospective carers' details to Panel Administrator to request a booking on the next Quality Assurance Meeting.

The Quality Assurance Meeting will consider the suitability of the early permanence match within 5 days of the supervising social worker's notification. Within one day of the Quality Assurance Meeting agreeing the early permanence placement notification will be sent to the child’s social worker, the carers Supervising Social Worker and the contact service.

The Practice Supervisor Adoption (Children) will allocate an Adoption social worker for the child within one day of the Agency decision following the QA meeting recommendation that an early permanence placement is to be made. The FAST social worker will retain Key worker responsibility for the child’s care proceedings, any assessments as part of these proceedings and any assessments of extended family members. The Adoption Social Worker will assume responsibility for all other aspects of the child’s case including all communications, statutory visits, arrangements for the child’s care and support to the Foster to adopt carers.

The Adoption social worker for the Foster to Adopt carers is responsible for convening and inviting relevant professionals to an Information Sharing Meeting including the child’s FAST social worker who is expected to attend this meeting. The Foster to Adopt carers are not expected to make a decision about offering a Foster to Adopt placement at the Information Sharing Meeting. The Adoption Worker should contact the prospective Foster to Adopt carers on the next working day to obtain their decision.

Where the carers agree to offer a Foster to Adopt placement the Adoption Social Worker should notify the child’s Social Worker and the arrangements for the child’s placement should be included in the child’s care plan by the child’s Social Worker.


10. Post Adoption Contact Arrangements

Foster to Adopt carers are not usually expected to offer on-going direct contact with birth parents once the fostering stage of the child’s placement has ceased and the child is formally placed for adoption. Occasionally there may be a request from Birth Parents for direct contact post Adoption that will need to be discussed and assessed. However, Foster to Adopt placements/carers as such do not offer the opportunity for increased post-adoption contact and all assessment regarding post-Adoption contact for children with their birth parents/family are assessed on the same basis as adoption only placements.

All foster to Adopt carers are expected to assist any direct contact between the child and their birth parent/family during the fostering stage of the placement as they are caring for the child under the fostering Regulations and expected to offer the same support to the child as a mainstream foster carer. This will usually be in the form of taking the child to and from contact and attendance at The Review of the Child's Plan for Looked After Children Procedure.

Whilst Foster to Adopt carers may have managed direct contact between the child and the birth parent/family positively, they have been prepared to do this for a time-limited period and may not be emotionally able to continue to offer this beyond the temporary fostering period.

Discussions will be held with the Foster to Adopt carers about the type and level of contact they consider they will be able to offer, in conjunction with the needs of the child, as would be the case for any other prospective adopter who had not temporarily fostered a child first.


Appendix 1: Foster to Adopt Process Flow Chart

Click here to view Appendix 1: Foster to Adopt Process Flow Chart.

End