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3.2.4 Placements with Parents

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to any placement of a child, on a Care Order or an Interim Care Order, with a parent or person with Parental Responsibility or person who held a Child Arrangements Order specifying with whom the child is to live immediately before the Care Order was made.

This procedure also applies to Parent and Child Foster Care Placements, where the child is subject to an Interim Care Order.

RELEVANT LEGISLATION

Sections 22 and 23, Children Act 1989

Regulations 15 - 20 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulation 2010 and associated guidance. Children may also be placed with parents having acquired Looked After status following a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation.

AMENDMENT

In June 2017, Section 2.4, Assessment and Checks before Placement was updated to include consideration should be given as to whether the home environment is safe for the child including where relevant, the need for a risk assessment of any pets and the environment in which they are kept.


Contents

1. Purpose
  1.1 Introduction
  1.2 Who is Covered?
  1.3 Circumstances Covered
  1.4 Parental Responsibility
  1.5 Financial Responsibility
2. Procedure and Practice Guidance
  2.1 Planning
  2.2 Consultation
  2.3 The Child’s Views
  2.4 Assessment and Checks before Placement
  2.5 Recommending the Plan
  2.6 Immediate Placement
  2.7 Court Directions Overriding the Regulations
  2.8 Approval of the Placement
  2.9 Notification of Placement
  2.10 Short term Placements
  2.11 Supervision and Support of Placement
  2.12 Social Work Visits During the Placement
  2.13 Reviews
  2.14 Ending of Placement


1. Purpose

1.1 Introduction

This chapter describes the legal framework set out in Regulations 15 to 20 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulation 2010 governing practice and decision making in Lincolnshire County Council regarding the return of children, who are the subject of Interim Care Orders or Care Orders, to the care of their families.

The regulatory framework reflects the philosophy of the Children Act 1989 that children in need can be assisted most effectively if the local authority works in partnership with their parents and that for most children, the best place for them to be brought up is in their own family.

The procedure applies to children subject to Interim Care Orders and Care Orders. Serious circumstances would have led to an Interim Care Order or a Care Order being granted by the Court. Therefore, placing the child back at home or with the parent in a foster placement setting must be part of a well thought out and implemented plan.

In the light of these conditions, great care is needed regarding the decision to place such children back with their parent(s). Children’s Social Care must be satisfied that the placement is the most suitable way of safeguarding and promoting the child's welfare and will undertake appropriate enquiries and assessments to assist the decision making process.

A Placement Plan must be negotiated with parental cooperation. The Placement Plan will contain provision(s) for ongoing work with and support to the family. This should aim to enhance the parents’ role, increasing the scope of parental discretion wherever possible and reviewing regularly the possibility of the Care Order being discharged.

Where it is decided that a child's best interests are met by such a placement, careful consideration must be given as to whether the Care Order is still appropriate and whether an application should be made to the Court to discharge the Care Order, and if so the timing of any such application. It would generally be the case that the child’s placement with the parents would take place before an application is lodged and after the placement, the appropriateness of such an application would be considered at the child’s next Review of the Child's Plan for Looked After Children (LAC).

Where the Court discharges the Order or where the child is Accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, these Regulations do not apply.

1.2 Who is Covered?

The procedure relating to the placement of children with their parents under Regulations 15 to 20 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) regulations 2010 apply where a child in care is to be placed:

  1. With a parent(s) i.e. mother or father whether or not married;
  2. A person(s) who is not a parent, but holds Parental Responsibility (PR);
  3. A person in whose favour a Residence Order / Child Arrangements Order was in force immediately before the Care Order was made.

A child placed under these Regulations will be subject to an Interim or full Care Order made under the Children Act 1989.

For a child subject to a Care Order, a proposed full time placement should be part of a plan to revoke the Care Order. A child should not be placed under these regulations indefinitely.

1.3 Circumstances Covered

Examples of where the Regulations apply:

  1. A child returning home to live after having spent a number of years in care;
  2. Regular visits in excess of 24 hours to a parent, as part of a reunification plan;
  3. Contact visits to a parent in excess of 24 hours as a means of maintaining family links;
  4. Assessing for rehabilitation during Care Proceedings where a child is subject to an Interim Care Order and overnight stays with the parents are involved.

Where a child is under 16 years these Regulations apply and must be complied with prior to placement.

It is possible that these Regulations and the Fostering Service Regulations operate in tandem. For example, a child may live with foster carers during the week and return to a parent at weekends, or during a programme of increasing staying contact leading to rehabilitation.

1.4 Parental Responsibility

Where the local authority shares Parental Responsibility for a child through a Care Order or Interim Care Order, Children’s Social Care can determine the extent of the exercise by others of Parental Responsibility, where necessary, to safeguard or promote the child's welfare. This will be discussed with the proposed carer prior to the placement.

These discussions will also involve the child who is of sufficient age and understanding. The Placement Plan should clearly define the extent to which the parent can exercise Parental Responsibility without reference to the local authority.

Where the proposed carer is an unmarried father who has not acquired Parental Responsibility by agreement with the child's mother or by a Court Order, the local authority should draw his attention to these provisions. Should he not wish to or is unable to obtain Parental Responsibility, the placement will be agreed on the basis of delegated rather than shared responsibility.

The same would apply to a non-parent in whose favour a Residence Order / Child Arrangements Order was in force immediately prior to the Care Order being made when their Parental Responsibility ceased. However the need to discuss and agree the terms of the placement applies equally to these carers as they do to those with Parental Responsibility.

1.5 Financial Responsibility

Financial responsibility for the maintenance of the child rests with the carer. Social workers in planning such placements must ensure that entitlement to benefits is considered.


2. Procedure and Practice Guidance

Consideration of a placement under the Regulations should arise as part of the overall planning for the welfare of a child. The following are procedural stages in the process for a child under these Regulations.

2.1 Planning

The welfare duty contained in Section 22 (3) of the Children Act 1989 applies to all decisions made by a local authority in relation to the placement of a child under these Regulations. In order to decide whether such a placement is the best way of meeting a child’s needs, all aspects of the child’s welfare must be considered and include consultation with significant people and relevant agencies.

The ‘placement decision’ should only take place following an appropriate planning meeting, a Review of the Child's Plan for LAC or under the direction of the Court.

The planning and review procedures will include consideration of all aspects of a child’s welfare.

Consideration of the level of contact and the possibility of reunification with parents will be part of an ongoing assessment and review and will be regularly considered within the LAC Review process.

2.2 Consultation

Before a child is placed, the following people must be consulted and their views accounted for:

  1. The child;
  2. Both parents (including a parent who is not the proposed carer of the child);
  3. Any person with Parental Responsibility;
  4. Any other member of the family who is significant to the child;
  5. Relevant health practitioners including any health visitor known to the child, the child’s GP, as well as the GP and any health visitor known to the person with whom it is proposed the child will be placed (with the person’s consent);
  6. The child’s school and the local education service where the child will live;
  7. The child's current foster carer and supervising social worker or the manager of the children’s home currently caring for the child;
  8. The Probation Provider if it has contact with the family;
  9. The Police;  to include PNC checks
  10. The Youth Offending Service;
  11. The relevant Children’s Services Department if the child is placed in another local authority’s area;
  12. The child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

The consultation should be formal. The persons being consulted should be written to, requesting their views on the proposed placement. It is important that those who are consulted should reply in writing; their written replies should be placed on the child's case record.

If no formal written response has been received within 14 days a case note of follow up discussion between the child's social worker and professional/family member must be recorded on the child's electronic record.

Minutes of a LAC Review which recommended the child's placement can be taken as a written record of the consultation with those in attendance.

2.3 The Child’s Views

The views of the child are essential, taking into account his or her age and understanding. The social worker should make sure that the child is given all necessary information and the opportunity to express opinions and develop choices. This should include the social worker discussing the proposed placement with the child alone. On occasions other people may be better placed to do this e.g. the child’s carer. Whatever arrangements are made the child should be provided with the opportunity to share in decision making and to receive support and guidance.

2.4 Assessment and Checks before Placement

A Placement with Parents (PWP) Assessment must be completed and recorded using the PWP Assessment Proforma and stored on the Child's electronic record. The Assessment must be authorised by the Team Manager and approved by the Children's Service Manager.

The suitability of the proposed placement should be assessed through:

  • Review the Child's case;
  • Assessing relevant information about the proposed main carer or carers and all members of the household;
  • Inspecting the accommodation; and
  • Checking the proposed carer and all members of the household aged 18 and over with the Disclosure and Barring Service, the carer’s GP, NSPCC and Children's Services records.

The assessment should take account of:

The parents' capacity, and the capacity of other adult members of the household, to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child:

  1. To provide for the child 's physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care;
    • To protect the child adequately from harm or danger, including any person who presents a risk of harm to the child;
    • To ensure that the home environment is safe for the child including, where relevant the need for a risk assessment of any pets and the environment in which they are kept;
    • To ensure that the child's emotional needs are met and he/she is provided with a positive sense of self, including any particular needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin, and cultural and linguistic background, and any disability the child has;
    • To promote the child's learning and intellectual development through encouragement, cognitive stimulation and the promotion of educational success and social opportunities;
    • To enable the child to regulate his/her emotions and behaviour, including by modelling appropriate behaviour and interactions with others;
    • To provide a stable family environment to enable the child to develop and maintain secure attachments to the parents and other persons who provide care for the child.
      • The parents' state of health (physical, emotional and mental), the parents' medical history, including current or past issues of Domestic Violence and Abuse, substance misuse or mental health problems;
      • The state of health (physical, emotional and mental) of other adult members of the household and their medical history, including current or past issues of Domestic Violence and Abuse, substance misuse or mental health problems.
  2. The parents' family relationships and the composition of the parents' household, including:
    • The identity of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of their relationship with parents and one another, including any sexual relationship; their relationship with any parent of the child;
    • Other adults who are not members of the household but are likely to have regular contact with the child;
    • Current/previous Domestic Violence and Abuse between household members including the parents.
  3. The parents' family history, including:
    • The particulars of the parents' childhood and upbringing, including the strengths and difficulties of their parents/carers;
    • The parents' relationship with their parents and siblings, and their relationships with each other;
    • The parents' educational achievement, including any specific learning difficulty/disability;
    • A Chronology of significant life events;
    • Other relatives and their relationships with the child and parents.
  4. Criminal offences of which the parents or other members of the household have been convicted or cautioned;
  5. Parents' past and present employment/sources of income;
  6. The nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and parents.

The assessment should include any available information about the parents' previous experiences of looking after children, to include any expert reports and any findings made against parents. Where a parent has other children subject to care/Adoption Orders, earlier case records must be explored to ascertain the circumstances which led to social work involvement and any indication that the capacity of the parent to bring up children has changed.

2.5 Recommending the Plan

Once the Placement with Parents (PWP) Assessment has been completed, the Social Worker will send this to the Team Manager for authorisation (Team Manager to authorise within 5 working days).Thereafter the PWP Assessment, together with the proposed LAC Pan and Placement Plan is to be forwarded to the Children's Service Manager for approval.

As well as the usual contents, the proposed Placement Plan must include the following:

  1. Details of the support and services to be provided to the parents during the placement;
  2. The obligation on the parents to notify the Local Authority of any relevant change in circumstances including any intention to change address, any changes in the household in which the child lives and any serious incident involving the child;
  3. The obligation on the parents to ensure that any information relating to the child or the child's family or any other person given in confidence to the parents in connection with the placement is kept confidential and that such information is not disclosed to any person without the consent of the Local Authority;
  4. The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain the prior approval of the Local Authority for the child to live in a household other than that of the parents;
  5. The circumstances in which the placement of the child with the parents pending completion of the assessment of suitability will be terminated if the decision following completion of the assessment is not to confirm the placement.

The Plan should be presented at the LAC Review for approval.

2.6 Immediate Placement

In exceptional circumstances, a child may have to be placed before it is possible to complete the ‘Placement Plan’. In such circumstances the placement (whether on a full time basis or for the purpose of overnight contact) can be made with the verbal approval of the Children's Service Manager and the completed Placement Plan must be made available to the Children's Service Manager within 10 working days of the placement commencing.

In some cases this may be the best option for the child e.g. where a foster placement has broken down and this means that the child has to be removed immediately. In these circumstances, Regulations 15 to 20 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 still apply except that only the following basic checks are needed prior to the placement:

  1. Interviewing the parent(s) or the person with whom the child is to be placed;
  2. Inspecting the accommodation;
  3. Obtaining information about other people living in the household.

The decision to place must be made by the Team Manager in full consultation with the Service Manager within 10 working days of the date of the placement.

2.7 Court Directions Overriding the Regulations

A Court may make an Interim Care Order to the Local Authority of its own volition thus making a child the subject of Placement with Parent Regulations before an assessment has been undertaken. In such circumstances the Children's Service Manager on the day should be contacted immediately. The Children's Service Manager should satisfy him or herself that the placement is safe, and that an appropriate and immediate plan is in place to ensure management of the situation. Where the Children's Service Manager is not satisfied that the child is safe, immediate consultation with the Assistant Director is required together with consultation with the Local Authority Solicitor. In addition the procedure for Placement with Parent Assessment must be started retrospectively with immediate effect.

In addition, and where a Care Order is granted, the Court may also override an unfavourable Placement with Parent Assessment that has been completed by the Local Authority and makes it clear that it expects the child to remain in the care of the parents/current carers with parental responsibility. It is generally expected that this possibility may have been anticipated and discussed in advance with the Assistant Director who holds the ultimate responsibility for agreeing the Placement with Parents in this situation. Where the Assistant Director agrees the placement he or she will need to be satisfied that the proper and safe management arrangements are in place pending completion of the Placement with Parents Regulations Process. 

Where the decision of the court is unexpected the Assistant Director should be contacted as soon as possible. The Assistant Director is responsible for judging the safety of the child and will either decide with the Local Authority Solicitor on the next steps to refuse agreement for the placement or will require satisfaction on the immediate plan to manage the child's placement. The procedure for the placement with parents assessments must still be adhered to in order to ensure that the appropriate arrangements for overseeing such a placement are in place in the longer term if so required.

2.8 Approval of the Placement

The relevant Team manager will ensure that the Social Worker completes the relevant documents for approval by the Children's Service Manager.

  • Placement with Parents Assessment;
  • Agreement with Parents;
  • Proposed LAC Care Plan and Placement Plan.

Upon receipt of the agreed documentation, the Team Manager will authorise within 5 working days and forward to the Children's Service Manager for approval. This may be a provisional decision as statutory checks may not have been received at that point. The Team Manager will record the authorisation in the child's electronic record.

The Children's Service Manager must be satisfied that:

  • Wishes and feelings of the child has been ascertained and given due consideration;
  • The IRO has been consulted;
  • The Placement with safeguard and promote the child's welfare.

The Children's Service Manager will record their approval of the placement on the Child's electronic record.

2.9 Notifications of Placement

The child's social worker will update the child's electronic record with the details of the placement.

Notification of the placement will be sent in writing by the child's social worker to all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement, as well as all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including school and any health professional, the child's GP or YOT worker actively involved with the child.

In addition, the Local Authority where the child will reside if outside of Lincolnshire must be notified.

The child's social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer.

These notifications must be made in writing advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the Children's home where the child is to be placed.

The notifications should be within 5 working days.

2.10 Short Term Placements

Where the relevant plan provide for a series of short term placements of a child with a parent, or is part of a rehabilitation plan, the requirements as to consultation, enquiries and checks can be carried out once only rather than every time a placement is made, provided that:

  • All the placements take place within a twelve months period;
  • No single placement is for a period of more than four weeks; and
  • The total duration of the placements does not exceed 90 days.

2.11 Supervision and Support of Placement

The return of a child to the care of their family will need careful preparation and support over the settling in period until the child is reintegrated into the family.

A gradual period of introduction may be necessary e.g. visits over weekends, school holidays etc.

The process of reunification involves major adjustments for both the child and family and it is the responsibility of the social worker and team manager to assess and plan the support and assistance needed. This should be addressed during the child’s Looked After Reviews or planning meetings and include drawing up or revising the Placement Plan.

Needs change over time and should be addressed as part of the ongoing supervision and monitoring of the placement. Any amendments to the plan or Placement Plan must be recorded in writing and notified to all parties within 5 working days.

2.12 Social Work Visits During the Placement

The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and thereafter every six weeks - see Visits to Children Procedure.

If the child is placed with parents pending assessment social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.

2.13 Reviews

The placement of children in care with their parents is subject to the Review of the Child's Plan for Looked After Children. Once the child is placed with their parents, a discussion should be held with the child's Independent Reviewing Officer as to whether the date of the next LAC Review should be brought forward so that an early review can take place following the placement.

The assessment and review of the child's case must be completed within 28 days or where possible prior to the LAC review (whichever is sooner).

2.14 Ending of Placement

Wherever possible the decision to end a placement should be made at a Looked After Review and the ending should take place in a planned way. In Re DE (A Child) [2014], the High Court stated that not less than fourteen days' notice of a removal of the child should be given to the parents, save in an emergency. 

The Court further stated that any removal of a child in circumstances where the child's welfare does not require immediate removal, or without proper consideration and consultation, is likely to be an unlawful interference with the rights of the parent and child under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In emergencies, the social worker must discuss the case with his/her manager, who will make the decision. Legal advice should always be sought. The Care Order gives the local authority power to enable the child to be removed by the social worker but this power should only be used after obtaining legal advice; the use of other orders (e.g. a Recovery Order) might be appropriate in some circumstances.

All those notified of the placement starting should be notified (see Section 2.9, Notifications of Placement), in writing, when it ends; preferably notifications should be made prior to the ending, or as soon as practicable thereafter.

A letter should also be sent to the parents and child explaining why the decision was made.

End