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3.8.4 Matching Children with Foster Carers Policy

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The policy of the County Council is to ensure that each child or young person for whom a placement is requested is matched with a carer who is capable of meeting his/her assessed needs. The policy provides guidance about the way in which to identify essential and desirable elements for any proposed placements.

The policy recognises that it is not always possible to achieve the perfect match and that as a result some children have been made to wait for too long for a placement. Delay can be harmful and the policy sets out to ensure that all relevant factors are considered and balanced against one another when matching decisions are made.

RELATED CHAPTER

Foster to Adopt Placements Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in June 2014 in line with the Children's Homes and Looked after Children (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2013. Additional information was added to Section 2.2, Children Who Become Looked After) relating to the inclusion of information agreed between the local authority and the placement provider about the arrangements to keep the child safe. In Section 2.3, Children Already in Public Care, a Looked After Review should be held where the child has been persistently absent from their placement, or where there are concerns that the child may be at risk of harm.

This chapter is currently under review.


Contents

  1. Statutory Framework
  2. Assessing Children's Needs
  3. Who Needs to be Involved in Matching a Child for Permanence?
  4. Issues to be Considered in Matching
  5. Introductions
  6. Inter-Agency Placements
  7. Friends and Family as Carers
  8. Recording Matching Considerations and Decisions
  9. Disruption of Permanent Placements
  10. Implementation and Review of the Policy


1. Statutory Framework

Regulation 22 of the Care Planning, Placement and case review regulations 2011 outlines the "conditions to be complied with before a child is placed with Local Authority foster carers" and regulation 9 stipulates the need for a Placement Plan to be completed for all children Looked After in foster care

Standard 11 of the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services requires that local authority fostering service ensure that each child placed in foster care is carefully matched with a carer and that the carer has full information about the child and standard 15 requires that the "fostering service suggests foster carers as a potential match for a child if the foster carer can reasonably be expected to meet the child's assessed needs and the impact of the placement on existing household members has been considered".

  • Wherever possible, placements should be planned and young people given the opportunity to meet with the carers in advance of moving in;
  • PAF 69 requires that children are placed within twenty miles of their home when initially placed in foster care.


2. Assessing Children's Needs

2.1 Matching Guidance

This supports the good practice requirements of the National Minimum Standards, Care Planning, Placement and case review regulations 2011 and Fostering services Regulations 2011 in respect of children placed in foster care.

2.2 Children Who Become Looked After

Once a decision is made for a child to become looked after, the work of previous teams and other related professionals must be built upon to formulate a comprehensive assessment of need before a placement is made. This will include developing the Social Care Assessment completed by the Family Assessment and Support Teams for emergency placements and completing the Social Care Assessment for all planned placements.

No child should be placed in foster care without the following issues being addressed:

  • Whether the child was previously known;
  • The legal basis for current work with the child;
  • The reasons why the child needs to be looked after;
  • • That where the authority has, or is notified of, Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from home or the previous carer, there will be day to day arrangements put in place by the appropriate person (placement provider) to keep the child safe;
  • The attempts made to arrange for the child to live with a relative or friend;
  • Who has been consulted about the child's current situation and the plan for the child;
  • What the immediate plan for the child is;
  • What the child's wishes and feelings are;
  • Why this plan has been chosen;
  • What needs to happen to achieve the immediate plan;
  • Without the written agreement of the relevant Head of Service.

2.3 Children Already in Public Care

There are many reasons why a child may need a new placement. Some will need to move because of a placement breakdown, others to achieve a plan for a permanent placement.

For those experiencing placement breakdowns, matching should take place via the Duty Officer. The previous assessments of why the child came into care and previous matching information should be utilised and re-examined. This will include the placement information record, school reports and Personal Education Plan (PEP), medical assessments, reports from current carers, Assessment and Progress Records, childcare reviews and an updated Social Care Assessment.

A Looked After Review should be convened where:

  • The child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
  • The placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm; or
  • The child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified.

See also The Review of the Child's Plan for Looked After Children.

Where a permanent placement is proposed, the plan must be approved by a statutory childcare review. A referral must be made to Family Finding (Permanence) so that a family finding plan can be put in place. The child's needs must be fully recorded on a BAAF Child Permanence Record (CPR) and be considered by the Permanence Panel.


3. Who Needs to be Involved in Matching a Child for Permanence?

Matches will be achieved by means of information sharing and consideration involving all relevant professionals, the child and their family, potential carers and their families including other children they have in placement. Relevant professionals may include: the child's social worker, the supervising social worker for the carer, line managers, health and education staff, panel members and the agency decision maker. The matching process will be co-ordinated by the Family Finding Group when the care plan is for permanent fostering.

Workers should consult as widely as possible and ensure that any dissenting views on the proposed placement are recorded on the child's file.


4. Issues to be Considered in Matching

4.1 Contact

This section should be read in conjunction with Contact with Parents and Siblings Procedure, and Contact with Relatives and Friends Procedure.

As a general principle contact arrangements should not preclude the decision making on placements, but align with decision making. However issues regarding contact include:

  • Plan for the child (if the plan is for rehabilitation then contact will be crucial, if the plan is for permanence then other factors may be more important);
  • Frequency of desired contact;
  • Who is the child to have contact with;
  • Nature of the contact (direct or indirect);
  • Where contact will take place;
  • Does contact need to be supervised.

For emergency placements, the Duty Officer will record the contact requirements on the outcome sheet when a placement has been agreed and contact arrangements should be fully agreed within the Placement Plan.

4.2 Siblings

Siblings who have become looked after would normally be placed together, unless an assessment concludes this is not in the best interests of one or more of the children. In such circumstances the need for contact must be considered.

If an appropriate foster placement is not available, a referral must be made to the Head of Regulated Services to determine whether there is any other means of achieving the sibling placement. For the Duty Officer, keeping siblings together will be a priority and will be the overriding factor in identifying a placement.

4.3 Education

The need to maintain a secure education placement is of vital importance. Placements should ensure there is continuity, unless there are overriding issues such as the child's safety. For younger children, the carer's ability to take the child to school should be considered (and if this is not possible, whether the use of alternative methods of transport such as taxis are appropriate).

For older children, the child's ability to get to school themselves needs to be assessed (with impact of the length of journey assessed).

This will involve input from Education Officers for Looked After Children and for timescales to be met in line with the Children Act 2004 requirements.

The Duty Officer will always seek to identify placements within the catchment area of the school but where this is not possible for task centred placements, the Directorate will ensure that suitable transport to and from school is provided.

4.4 Race, Culture and Language

The needs of a child are more likely to be met if a match is made with a carer with a similar ethnic origin and religion. This is because continuity of experience can be met and natural opportunities will be available for the child to share in their culture and as a member of an ethnic minority. However, these are not the only key factors and must be considered with all other matching information. It is unacceptable for a child to miss out on a placement simply because the carer did not share the same race or culture. It is often possible to identify a carer who has an understanding of the issues a child will face and who will find support in order to meet their needs in relation to their background and culture and how to deal with racism.

Carers should be provided with additional training, support and information to enable the child to be provided with the best possible care, and to develop an understanding of their heritage. Input from birth family, friends and other carers may help to achieve this and consideration for requesting an Independent Visitor should be given.

4.5 Religion

Refer to (Section 4.4, Race, Culture and Language). Where a child practices a religion, the carer's ability to facilitate and promote this needs careful consideration.

Workers will need to be satisfied that carers are able and willing to respect the child's views e.g. transportation to place of worship, diet and dress.

4.6 Disability

As with (Section 4.4, Race, Culture and Language) and (Section 4.5, Religion) disability requires careful consideration in the matching process and if a placement is not available immediately, steps are taken to locate a suitable placement as soon as possible. Support for the carer will be required to be in place e.g. access to required medical care, aids or adaptations necessary, specialist education, equipment, specialist advice and training.

4.7 Bedrooms

Most carers are able to offer a bedroom for an individual foster child. However on occasions, when other matching factors are met and the child is in agreement, they might need to share a room. In these circumstances a bedroom sharing risk assessment must be completed. In such situations, matching should take account of the sleeping arrangements and views of the child, the other child and the child's social worker. Age, gender and background of all children who it is proposed will share a bedroom must be considered.

The outcome of this assessment must be recorded on the child's files in the relevant risk assessment format. Bedroom risk assessment procedures and forms should be completed

4.8 Safe Caring Guidelines

Each foster home is required to provide safe caring guidelines. These will be completed during the assessment process and reviewed at least annually.

Social workers must consider the implications of the guidelines and ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place for the child, the carer and all other members of the household.


5. Introductions

Children should have the opportunity for a period of introduction wherever possible with a proposed carer, so both child and carer can express an informed view of the placement.

This should always be the case with a permanent placement.

An emergency placement may mean this is impractical but both child and carer should be provided with as much information as possible and their views considered before a match is confirmed. For all placements a Placement Plan must be completed, ideally prior to placement so that all assessed needs are considered.


6. Inter-Agency Placements

Where it is proposed to use a carer approved by another fostering services provider, the relevant Form F will be sent to the Duty Officer. They will consider the detail in terms of matching requirements and if considered suitable, will forward the forms to the child's social worker who will consider this against the child's needs. It may also be appropriate to see the carer's most recent review.

No placement should be made with an external provider before the reports from the Ofsted have been checked to ensure there are no concerns regarding assessment, approval and review. External providers will normally be commissioned from the local authorities preferred providers.

The view of other agencies using the placement should be ascertained and the needs of the child considered against other children in placement.

The child's social worker should ensure the arrangements for the support and supervision of the proposed placement are agreed and satisfactory.


7. Friends and Family as Carers

See Placements with Connected Person Under Regulation 24 Procedure.

Regulation 38(2) of the Fostering Service Regulations allows for the immediate placement of a child with a person who is not a foster carer but is a relative or friend of the child. Regulation 24 allows for planned placements with family or friends.

The possibility of a placement with a relative or friends should always be explored before a decision is made to use another carer. Consideration of the carer's suitability will be based on all the aforementioned matching factors.


8. Recording Matching Considerations and Decisions

Details of the matching process including the names and views of those consulted must be recorded on the child's file in MOSAIC. The Duty Officer will submit an Outcome Form, incorporating the matching components, to the child's social worker and the carer's supervising social worker.

For permanent placements, a written matching report (PPR), the minutes of Panel and the decision of the agency decision maker must also be placed on the child's file. For those children where matching has proven to be more problematic, details of all family finding must be recorded on their file.

The specific elements of matching taken into consideration and areas where carers require additional support to compensate for any gaps in the match must also be recorded.


9. Disruption of Permanent Placements

A disruption is when a placement ends in an unplanned way. Where a permanent placement appears to be on the verge of disrupting or has ended, a disruption meeting must be convened. The purpose of the meeting is to consider all aspects of how the placement was made, the matching criteria and what went wrong. It should be attended by all key personnel and be formally minuted. The information is crucial to future planning for both child and foster carers alike. The outcome of the disruption should be reported to the permanence panel.


10. Implementation and Review of the Policy

This policy will be monitored and updated on an annual basis, utilising the collation of management information of foster placements.

The effectiveness of the policy will be indicated by:

  • The general progress of placements as indicated by review reports;
  • Level of breakdown;
  • Success of placements in facilitating rehabilitation, providing a permanent home.

End