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3.2.6 Parent and Child Foster Care Placement

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This relates to the provision of Foster Care Placements for a Parent and Child up to 2 years of age for 12 weeks, where a pre-birth assessment has indicated that the safeguarding concerns are such that a Community based assessment would not provide sufficient protection while further assessments are completed.

For placements with any other relatives, friends or connected person please refer to the Placements with Connected Person Procedure.

For Placements with Parents, please refer to Placement with Parents Procedure.

AMENDMENT

This chapter has updated in June 2016 with regard to Section 5.4, The Role and Responsibility of the Parent and Section 5.17, Where the Parent is also a Looked After Child has been updated in relation to the Financial Contribution to the Placement. An updated Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement is also provided, (see Appendix 2: Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement).


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Accessing the Placement
  3. Child Foster Care Placement
  4. Pre Birth Assessment
  5. Pre Placement Planning

    Appendix 1: Referral of Parent and Child for a Parent and Child Foster Placement Form

    Appendix 2: Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement

    Appendix 3: Extended Contact within a Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement

    Appendix 4: Review of Parent and Child Foster Placement Form

    Appendix 5: Placement Planning Process


1. Introduction

The chapter formalises the provision of Foster Placements for a parent and child up to 2 years of age for 12 weeks where a pre-birth parenting assessment has indicated that the safeguarding concerns are such that a Community based assessment would not provide sufficient protection while further assessments are completed, or that there is a need for a degree of education to take place in order that a full assessment can be completed.

It enables the placement to contribute to post-birth assessments by assessing the Parenting Capacity dimensions of a Social Care Assessment thereby reducing the need to commission further external assessments. Although the carers will contribute to the assessment, completing it remains the responsibility of the social worker.

There will be a number or placements across the County with one Practice Supervisor having the lead responsibility for developing and evaluating the service. Not all these carers will be available immediately or at any given time as there may be other children in placement, however a placement should be available when required. Given the time consuming nature of the placement, other placements would be made only exceptionally and as a result, carers would be paid at the current Parent and Child Rate.

Carers will be provided with specific training for assessments with a uniform way of recording the placement.


2. Accessing the Placement

When the assessed need for a child is to be with his or her parent(s) but there is insufficient evidence to indicate that this will be safe for that child, the authority will, amongst other options, consider the provision of foster care placement in which both parent/s and child can be placed.

The authority will consider both the parents’ and child’s right to family life, but the child’s welfare and rights (including the right to protection from harm) will always be the paramount concern of the authority.

Parent and child foster care will not be treated as the primary means for assessment of and training for parenthood. In most cases the assessment of parenting capacity and training in parenthood will be conducted using community based services with the child living at home or, when not safe, in child only foster care.

Parent and child foster care is an exceptional arrangement for very young children and their parents. For the most part these will be new born or recently born children up to the age of 24 months when attachment and comprehensive parenting skills are of highest priority. Such placements should be used only when there is a convincing prospect of success. They should not normally be used where a parent has previously parented a child up to 24 months without social care intervention.

All cases will be considered on their merits based on an assessment of the risks to the child and the likelihood of success for the plan within the timescale of the child’s needs. In circumstances in which there is existing evidence that the parent(s) have previously been unable to care for a child or children, it would be the expectation that parent and child foster care would only be provided when there has been a significant change in circumstances which the parents have been able to evidence in the parenting assessments.

Parent and child foster care shall be made equally available to the mother or father of the child where appropriate and when appropriate and achievable, to the parents together.

Parent and child foster care shall be available in response to the needs of a very young child and the assessment of whether to use such a placement will, whenever possible, be conducted before the birth of the child. The decision as to whether such a placement is required will normally be made by the Support Panel.


3. Child Foster Care Placement

Requests for placement once agreed by the support panel should be made using the 'Referral of Parent and Child for a Parent and Child Foster Placement Form', please refer to Appendix 1: Referral of Parent and Child for a Parent and Child Foster Placement Form. A placement will only be made following a placement planning meeting and the completion and signing of a ‘Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement’ recording the commitments and expectations of the parent, the carer and the authority. Please refer to Appendix 2: Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement.

At the placement planning meeting a clear statement as to the purpose of the placement, its likely duration and the next stages of the process will be made. Assessment of the parents’ capacity and commitment to the care of their child will always form part of the rationale for a parent and child placement. It is not, however the role of the foster carer to undertake the whole assessment, but to inform the assessment, which remains the responsibility of the social worker.

Such assessment work will always be of a multi-disciplinary and multi-agency nature. Lincolnshire County Council will work collaboratively to support the successful outcome (however defined by the placement planning process) of the placement. The authority will also work collaboratively with colleagues from the NHS, District councils and others to achieve the best outcome for the child.

A key element of such a placement is the safe and nurturing care of the child. It is the expectation of the Local Authority that it is the responsibility of the parent, with assistance of the foster carer as detailed in the agreement, to care for their baby. Generally the child will remain in the bedroom of the parent with monitors being available for the foster carer to ensure the welfare of the child is not compromised. The key attachment the baby will be enabled to make will be with their main caregiver, which should in all cases be their birth parent(s).

Any known or potential risks to the foster carer and his or her family from members of the child’s family or others involved in the child’s life must be assessed and a risk assessment and Police Disclosure duly completed prior to the placement beginning. A DBS disclosure will also be sought if there are any other children in placement. No foster carer or member of the fostering household should knowingly be placed in a position of risk as a consequence of providing a parent and child placement. Placements will not be available where parents currently misuse substances, where parents have a history of previous but not current misuse, information and advice should be sought from the local substance misuse agency.

Should the placement be terminated because of a decision made by the authority relating to a serious breach of the agreement, the well-being of the child being compromised or because the parent(s) have left the placement without the agreement of the LA, the decision as to whether the child remains in that placement alone or move to another placement must take into account the child’s best interests and particularly the child’s primary attachment figure at that time. Any further assessment of the parents’ capacity to care for the child will thereafter be conducted using community based resources unless very exceptional circumstances apply.

Although the progress of the placement will be reviewed weekly, using the Review of Parent and Child Foster Placement Form, (see Appendix 4: Review of Parent and Child Foster Placement Form) the child may also be subject to Children Looked After and/or Safeguarding review requirements. When the placement decision is being taken within Care Proceedings the views of the children’s guardian and the expectations of the legal process should be considered in the planning and the processes set out in this procedure guide. The expectations of the parent, the carer and others should be considered in terms of their contribution to the evidence to be presented to the court. It is expected that the review of the placement will be robust with clear expectations being set out as to what tasks the parent is expected to meet in a specified period of time. These targets should be specific, and simple, they must be measurable and manageable; they should be achievable and appropriate, relevant and realistic and time sensitive.


4. Pre Birth Assessment

The outcome of the pre-birth assessment will inform any intervention necessary to promote the child's healthy development. In considering what intervention to implement in order to safeguard the child's welfare it is essential that careful thought is given to:

  1. The parent(s) level of understanding, acknowledgement and responsibility for the concerns;
  2. The level of co-operation with professionals demonstrated by the parent(s); and
  3. The level of support available to the parent(s).

Generally the parent(s) motivation for change will be on a continuum between:

  • Accepting the identified concerns and wanting to take responsibility to address them in order to provide adequate care to the child;
  • And ‘not’ accepting the concerns, not wanting to address them but recognising the coercive powers of the Local Authority thus 'going along' with any proposed plan. In the broadest sense, an evaluation must be made as to the likelihood that this process is worthwhile, how risk, progress/regression or success will be monitored and what the key factors will be in bringing a placement to an end.

There are six possible outcomes of the pre-birth parenting assessment or Social Care Assessment:

  1. The child's well being is best safeguarded by placement alone in foster care while the parent(s) work with professionals to address the factors limiting their availability to provide safe care for the child and developing their parenting ability. This should be clearly evidenced by evaluating the level of risk, the prospects of success, or the nature of the shortcomings;
  2. The information gathered prior to birth is such that there remain a number of outstanding issues which have not been addressed and these require that further assessments prior to the commencement of a parent and child foster placement. This will necessitate high levels of contact being offered which is beyond that which can be provided through the contact service. The position of the parents in such that a full time parent and child placement is not warranted at this stage. However by attending extended contact sessions with a prospective parent and child foster carer; offers the opportunity to gather further information and assessment and may produce sufficient positive indicators to justify a full Parent and Child Foster Care Placement;
  3. The parent(s) would be able to provide primary care to the child but needs intensive support to develop parenting abilities and this can best be achieved by placement of the child together with the parent in foster care for a short period;
  4. The parent(s) are able to respond to the child's needs at birth but they will need assistance in understanding and responding to the changing needs as the child develops. A parenting program may be appropriate to assist the parent(s) in developing their understanding in order to keep the child safe, and both child and parent should remain at home whilst this work is done;
  5. The strengths within the family indicate there is no need for social work intervention at this time. There will be ongoing professional health input to monitor the situation;
  6. There is no realistic prospect of a successful process of further assessment or intervention to provide safe care. Other options for permanent safe care should be considered.

It is important that the social worker is clear about the reasons that have led to such conclusions so that the plan is formulated by an evidenced based assessment that is grounded in child development and based on careful considerations of 'what works'.

It is important that parent and child foster care is not used as the default method of parenting assessment; although if a parent and baby placement is not to be used the assessment must be able to show clearly why other arrangements are more appropriate. It will be critical here to consider the question of the maintenance of the prospects for attachment as well as any actual attachment. For children who are the subject of legal proceedings, it is critical that the reasons for not choosing a parent and child placement must be fully recorded, child centred and evidence and research based.

There will be some circumstances when there is additional information which is required prior to a decision being made the parent and child placement is appropriate and in the best interests of the child. This will include those circumstances where the motivation and commitment of the parents remains dubious. In order to further assess such issues the social worker may consider that it is appropriate to consider the possibility of access to an Extended Contact within a Parent and Child Foster Care Placement on a sessional basis, for up to two weeks (in exceptional circumstances up to a maximum of three weeks may be considered). This resource is not intended to replace the parenting assessment but to build and compliment that information which has been accumulated. In addition such a scheme provides both parent and carer with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with each other prior to a full parent and child assessment taking place.

This will require a tailor made plan whereby the parent is able to spend longer periods of time with their child than would be allowed through the contact service but not necessitate the need for the parent to reside with the child on a full time basis whilst further information is gathered.

Thus the use of an Extended Contact within a Parent and Child Foster Care Placement can be utilised. The parent may spend extended contact sessions with the child in line with the needs of the assessment. The available sessions include the following:

  • Morning session; 9 am to 1pm;
  • Afternoon session; 1pm to 5pm;
  • Overnight session; 6pm to 9am.

It is important that all parties have a clear understanding of the commitments and expectations of the extended contact sessions and these should be recorded on the Extended Contact within a Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement. (see Appendix 3: Extended Contact within a Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement).

When considering this as a resource it will be imperative that an early referral is making to the fostering team in order that all efforts can be made to consider the geographical area of a family and which carer might be best placed to offer services. During this placement, the carers will receive the full fostering allowance for the child who will be in placement and a pro rata amount of the assessment element, 1/7th for each day/part day the parent is with the child in placement.


5. Pre Placement Planning

The decision that a foster placement for parent(s) and child would be in the child’s best interests would be made by the Support Panel which would also consider if that placement should be made within legal proceedings. Once a placement had been identified the following guidelines should be followed. A flow chart of the process is provided as Appendix 5: Placement Planning Process.

5.1 Placement Planning Meeting

Prior to placement a placement planning meeting must be convened by the child’s social worker, chaired by the Team Manager (TM) / Practice Supervisor (PS) to establish the expectations of the social workers, the carer(s), the parent and any other professionals involved and to draw up an agreement.

Every person in attendance at this meeting should be given a copy of the completed pre-birth or latest Social Care Assessment so that the purpose of the placement can be clarified, particular areas to be addressed identified and objectives agreed. At the meeting the following will be discussed:

  • Purpose and potential outcomes of the placement;
  • Local Authority’s expectations of the placement including the roles and responsibilities of the professionals involved, the carer(s) and the parent(s);
  • Parents’ obligations and expectations;
  • Foster carer’s expectations of parent;
  • Financial Arrangements;
  • Timescales;
  • Contingencies in the event of breakdown or placement termination;
  • Who will make the agency decision to terminate the placement?

This meeting may also act as the Placement Planning meeting required in the Children Looked After procedures.

5.2 Purpose and Potential Outcomes of the Placement

A clear understanding must be reached and recorded on the Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement (see Appendix 2: Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement) or Extended Contact within a Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement (see Appendix 3: Extended Contact within a Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement) as to the purpose of the placement and the potential outcomes. Should the placement fall within the regulations of Placement with Parents please refer to the Placement with Parents Procedure. It is essential that the parent(s) understand why they are being asked to commit to living in a foster home with their child and understand the range of potential outcomes. These will include:

  • Return to live independently or with support in the community with their child;
  • The Local Authority seeking an order from the court to permanently remove their child from their care.

5.3 Expectations of the Placement

If a parent and child are to be placed in foster care together it must be on the basis that the parent will provide the primary care for the child - albeit with support from the carer. It is essential therefore to be clear about the role and responsibility of the parent and the carer as well as the roles and responsibilities of the professionals involved.

5.4 The Role and Responsibility of the Parent

As the primary carer the parent will generally be expected to attend to their baby’s needs - getting baby up, washed, dressed, fed, attending at parent & baby groups, the family centre, the health visiting clinic etc. The parent will be expected to demonstrate their ability to manage a routine, interact positively with their child, and attend to the child’s needs appropriately alongside keeping their living space clean and tidy, washing and ironing their clothes and bedding at regular intervals and managing their finances.

The parent will need to know the carer(s) current routine in order to fit in with the household. Thus the carer(s) need to be clear about times to get up, wash, cook, go to bed etc.

The parent will need to know what their financial allowance will be. They will generally be entitled to income support but not child benefit. It is essential that the parent is aware of this so that they may budget for their own needs. Parents will not be expected to make a financial contribution to the placement but will be expected to provide for the child, for example, by purchasing nappies or milk. This is to be established at the Placement Planning Meeting. (See Placement Plans Procedure)

Clarification needs to be given as to what the carer will be expected to provide financially for the baby and what the parent is expected to provide. The carer will be given an allowance for the baby in placement so careful consideration will need to be given to the financial arrangements. The parent may request or be provided with a separate cupboard in the kitchen for their food supply.

5.5 The Role and Responsibility of the Foster Carer(s)

The foster carer(s) will be expected to offer guidance and assistance to the parent in managing the care tasks for the baby. This may include direct instruction or modelling, it may include responding to questions, or it may include practical support such as accompanying the parent to parent/ baby groups, health visiting clinic, shopping etc. The foster carer will be expected to show the parent how any technical appliances work so that they are able to use any cooking and cleaning facilities appropriately. Of course, if the placement progresses positively it must be expected that the parent will demonstrate less reliance on the carer(s) support having internalised the advice and guidance.

The foster carer will be expected to keep a daily record noting observations of the parent’s ability to respond to the child’s needs, manage the routine, manage the practical tasks of washing, ironing, shopping, budgeting etc. These observations will be summarised in a weekly summary record and will inform any parenting program that has been agreed and the Social Care Assessment.

Records should be maintained on the recording pro-formas provided and forwarded to the social worker each week. These recordings should be shared with the parent who should be encouraged to add any comments relating to the foster carers’ observations.

If a situation arises where there is inconsistency between the verbal information provided by the carers and written information this will be taken up with the support worker of the carers in order to ascertain why this situation has evolved.

Carers will not be provided with respite other than in emergencies during the placement to ensure consistency in the assessment and work with the parent/s.

5.6 The Role and Responsibility of the Social Worker

The child’s social worker must visit the placement every week for the first month. During these visits the social worker should check that the baby is well, developing appropriately, attaching to the parent and being kept safe at all times. The social worker should discuss with the foster carer and parent the foster carers’ recorded observations to ensure that the records are fair, objective and helpful to assessment process so that any planned intervention remains relevant to the objectives developed.

The social worker must check that the room the baby is sleeping in is safe and that the bedding is clean. The social worker should check that the parent is participating appropriately with the agreed plan and whether they have any concerns/anxieties/difficulties that need to be addressed. The social worker should establish that all appointments have been kept by the parent in relation to their child’s development. It may be agreed with the TM/PS that after the initial month, visits will be two weekly.

5.7 The Role and Responsibility of the Health Visitor

It should be clarified at the placement planning meeting whether the health visitor will visit the placement and how often or whether the parent should attend with the child at the health visitors clinic and how often. Furthermore it should be clarified whether or not the carer will be present during these visits and if not whether the health visitor will give feedback and to whom.

It is critical that information about the child’s health and development is available to the Social Worker and carer thus access to health information about the child must be part of the of the placement agreement and signed by the parent at the making of the placement agreement.

5.8 The Role and Responsibility of the Family Support and other Professional Input

If parenting work is to be provided, the objectives of this work need to be clear alongside who is doing it, when and for how long and how the parent will access it (transport costs/issues etc). Furthermore it will need to be made clear whether the parent should attend for any work with the baby or whether the carer will look after the child at these times. The parent may need to make themselves available for specialist assessments or intervention. It should be clarified whether the child will accompany the parent for these appointments or whether the carer will look after the child at these times.

5.9 The Role and Responsibility of the Supervising Social Worker (SSW)

The Supervision Social Worker is responsible for ensuring that the foster placement has all the required equipment for the placement and that support for the carer is in place as agreed at the planning meeting. The SSW will visit the placement at least fortnightly and be available to offer advice and support to the carer throughout the placement.

5.10 The Arrangements for Contact

If another parent is available to the baby, but not placed with the foster carers, arrangements will need to be made for contact. Depending on the characteristics of the relationship between the parents, the contact arrangements may be facilitated entirely by the Local Authority. It is important that any arrangements are clearly defined at this meeting. If the child is to be the subject of legal proceedings, contact arrangements will be a matter for the court. The social worker will need to consider the effects of particular contact options on the parenting assessment programme.

5.11 The Contingency Plan

Finally, it is of real importance that the contingency plan is outlined so that all parties are clear about what will happen if the agreement made at this meeting is breached or otherwise comes to an end. If the contingency plan is to separate parent and child, a new child placement should be identified for the child whereby the primary care will be available from a foster carer.

The plan must anticipate the possibility of:

  • Breach of the agreement by one or other parent;
  • A decision by the foster carer to terminate the placement;
  • A decision that the placement is too risky or is otherwise failing.

5.12 Parent’s Expectations of the Local Authority

It may be necessary to consider the support and assistance that can be provided to promote or continue the parent’s personal development in relation to attendance at parenting programmes, parent/ baby groups, college, leisure and social activities etc.

It will be important to establish whether the parent should have any time out from the baby on their own and if so, when and who will care for the baby.

5.13 Obligations of Parent in Placement

The parent must be clear about the foster carer(s) house rules in order that parent and child may fit in with the existing household. It is important to clarify what these house rules are. For example:

  • To be responsible for cleanliness of own room and baby’s room;
  • When out with baby to be back during the day at agreed time for return;
  • To change bed clothes every week;
  • To clean bathroom after use;
  • No smoking in the placement;
  • When out for evening to be back at agreed time;
  • To always be in to bath baby early evening;
  • To attend to baby during the night as required;
  • To negotiate with parent who visits the house and for how long;
  • To be clear about who is not allowed to visit the home;
  • To be responsible for washing own and baby’s clothes;
  • To attend family centre as required;
  • To attend all health appointments;
  • To attend all appointments with social workers;
  • To ask advice if parent does not understand anything or needs support with anything;
  • To provide and promote adequate stimulation and entertainment for baby in accordance with his/her development;
  • To provide for the child as agreed at the Placement Planning Meeting;
  • Plan, shop and cook for themselves;
  • To provide for their own self care and personal effects.

5.14 Foster Carer’s Expectations of Parent

The foster carer may expect the parent to contribute to household tasks such as cleaning. If so, it is necessary to be clear about this from the outset. The carer will need to be clear about his/her role in terms of supervision. Careful consideration will need to be given to whether the carer needs to supervise parent and child at all times, whether the parent needs to ‘check in’ with the carer every so many hours etc. Because the carer will be paid an allowance for the baby, he/she will need to know when to buy items such as milk, nappies etc. It is important to clarify whose responsibility it is to ensure that these items are monitored. The carer(s) need for respite will need to be discussed and appropriate arrangements developed as necessary.

5.15 Family Support Expectations and Agreement

Any work to be undertaken by the Family Support should be properly planned. This means that the parent should understand the purpose of the work - what they will learn, how it will be recorded and who the recordings will be shared with and how the outcome of this work will inform the ongoing planning process. It should be clear how the parent is to get to and from the family centre and whether the parent should bring the child. If the child is not to be brought to family centre sessions arrangements will need to be clarified as to who will be caring for the child during these times.

5.16 Recording the Agreements made at the Placement Planning Meeting

The Parent and Child Foster Care agreements will be recorded as outlined above at the Placement Planning Meeting. This agreement can be adapted to individual circumstances.

However please note: if the child is subject to an Interim Care Order, then the agreement made at the planning meeting will also meet the requirements of the Placement with Parents Regulations. Therefore the agreement must include and cover these regulations also. These can be found on the Placement with Parents Procedure and added to the Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement rather than duplicating the process.

5.17 Where the Parent is also a Looked After Child

There may be exceptional circumstances where a parent in a parent and child placement is also a Looked After Child. As such, they will be unable to claim any benefits for themselves for their self-care. The foster carers will be receiving an allowance for the child but to recognise the additional costs of providing for the parent who is looked after, carers will receive an additional £50 per week to cover the additional expense of providing clothing, personal care items and pocket money for the parent.


Appendices

Appendix 1: Referral of Parent and Child for a Parent and Child Foster Placement Form

Appendix 2: Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement

Appendix 3: Extended Contact within a Parent and Child Foster Care Placement Agreement

Appendix 4: Review of Parent and Child Foster Placement Form

Appendix 5: Placement Planning Process

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