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3.2.11 Placement for Permanent Fostering

RELATED CHAPTER

This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Permanence Planning Strategy and the Transfer and Allocation Procedure.

Other relevant chapters include the Matching Children with Foster Carers Policy, Placement Plans Procedure and Support for Permanent / Long Term Fostering Placements Procedure.

This chapter was included in the Children's Manual in August 2104. It identifies the procedures and processes required for placing a child in a Foster Placement on a permanent basis.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in December 2013 by adding an updated Permanency Planning Flowchart (See Appendix 1: Permanency Planning Process Flowchart).


Contents

  1. Planning for Permanence
  2. Obtaining Agency Approval for Permanent Fostering
  3. Preparation of the Child for Permanent Fostering
  4. Support for Birth Parents
  5. Post-placement Contact
  6. Identification of Permanent Foster Placements – Family Finders Process
  7. Identification of Permanent Foster Placements – Current Placement
  8. Approval of Matching Permanent Foster Carers
  9. Planning the Placement

    Appendix 1: Permanency Planning Process Flowchart


1. Planning for Permanence

Every Looked After Child must have a Permanence Plan by the date of his or her second Looked After Review. For further information on the responsibilities and the transfer process, please refer to the Transfer and Allocation Procedure.

For those children aged 13 and under, the Permanence Plan and decision making should be subject to and part of an Agency Decision Making (ADM) Oversight. The following procedure outlines this process.


2. Obtaining Agency Approval for Permanent Fostering

2.1

As soon as Permanent Fostering is the Permanence Plan for the child, the child's social worker must:

  • Arrange a date for the case and Child Permanence Report (CPR) to be referred to the Quality Assurance (QA) Panel.

    This date must be a maximum of 2 months from the date when the permanence plan was ratified at the child's Looked After Review. Where this timescale is not met, the reason should be recorded;
  • Continue to provide counselling for the child;
  • Complete a Family Finding referral form and send to the family.finding@lincolnshire.gov.uk.
2.2 If not already obtained, the FAST Team's social worker should obtain 2 certified copies of the child's full birth certificate.
2.3 Where one or both of the birth parents cannot be found, the FAST Team's social worker must make extensive enquiries as to their whereabouts. The social worker should write to the parent's last known address and contact the Department for Work and Pensions and other agencies as appropriate. Consideration should also be given to the need to place advertisements in the local and national press and legal advice should be sought as to any additional steps that should be taken.
2.4 The child's social worker must contact the child's health visitor or school health for current information in relation to the child's health and development.
2.5 The child's social worker must contact the child's school or the relevant local education service for current information in relation to the child's educational needs.
2.6 The child's social worker must ask the child's carer to complete a report on the child. (This will be required for the Child's Permanence Report (see paragraph 2.8).       
2.7

The child's social worker must ensure that the permanence plan addresses the issue of post-placement and post-placement contact. This will include a possible meeting between the parents and the foster carers.

If the child has siblings, the plan must analyse the relationship between each child in the sibling group and, if the decision is to place siblings separately, (following sibling assessment using the BAAF Model Together or Apart?) address the issue of post-placement contact between them.

2.8

Using all the information obtained in relation to the above, the child's social worker must prepare the Child's Permanence Report. The Child's Permanence Report must be written by a qualified social worker with suitable experience.

The following areas must be included or addressed in the Report:

  • Profile of the child, based on a report from the child's current carer as well as other information about the child's personality, nationality, racial origin, religious persuasion, legal status and relationship with his/her birth family;
  • The child's wishes in relation to the permanence plan and his or her preferred method of communication;
  • A Chronology of the child's life since birth;
  • The preparation work, undertaken and planned, with the child and the views of the child in relation to the permanence plan and future contact with his or her birth family;
  • The views of the Children's Guardian (where possible);
  • The views of the birth family and significant others in relation to the adoption plan and contact and their opportunity to receive and comment on the report before the report is presented to QA Panel;
  • A report of the child's educational history and current needs, including the Personal Education Plan (PEP) (where the child is old enough to require one);
  • Any other relevant specialist reports on the child;
  • An assessment of the child's emotional and behavioural development;
  • An assessment of the child's needs for post-placement contact, including with siblings;
  • An analysis of the options for the child's future care and why the alternatives to permanence have been considered and discounted. This must be a balanced view, taking into account all current case law, and, where experts' assessments are available, their contents and recommendations should be included;
  • Where the child has siblings, whether the decision is to place siblings separately or together and the rationale for the decision based on a written sibling assessment using the agreed BAAF Template.

A copy of the Report or the relevant sections of the Report should be provided to the parents and the child where appropriate. The parents should be asked to sign the Report and provide any written comments they wish to make.

Presentation to the Quality Assurance Meeting

This must take place within 6 weeks of the completion of the Child's Permanence Report. To enable the Quality Assurance meeting to consider whether the Report is of sufficient quality to assist the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) in making their decision, the child's social worker must present the following reports:

  1. A front sheet stating what is being reported, the reports included, the recommendations sought;
  2. The Child's Permanence Report (including the Medical Adviser's comments) signed by the child's social worker, the manager and the parent (if willing), and a photograph of the child, together with Form EC (the parents' comments).

In all cases the Child's Permanence Report and all completed paperwork must be quality assured and countersigned by the Practice Supervisor or Team Manager prior to forwarding to the Quality Assurance meeting administrator. This should take place at least 1 week before the papers are forwarded to the Quality Assurance meeting administrator.

The Quality Assurance meeting will consider the written reports and any additional information. The Quality Assurance meeting will provide advice to the ADM regarding as to whether the information provided is sufficient to enable a decision to be made.

Where the Advice to the ADM is that the child should be placed in Permanent Foster Care, it must consider and may give advice as to future contact arrangements for the child, the separation of siblings.

The Quality Assurance meeting advice and decision will be recorded in writing, together with reasons. A copy of the relevant notes must be held on the child's Case Record. Panel admin will scan a copy of the decision and add a case note to the child's record.


3. Preparation of the Child for Permanent Fostering

The child's social worker will ensure that the preparation for placement including the Life Story Work (see Life Story Work Guidance) with the child continues throughout the process with the aim as far as possible that:

  • The child has an understanding of the reasons for the Permanency Plan and what it will mean;
  • The child has an opportunity to express his or her wishes and feelings about the future; and,
  • The child has information on his or her birth family, which is kept safe and provided to the foster carers and the child at the appropriate time.

As part of the above, the child will be given a ‘Children's Guide to Fostering’. Any information given to the child should be confirmed in writing and any discussions with the child should be fully recorded. The child's preferred method of communication should be known and there should be no assumption that a child is unable to communicate. An interpreter should be arranged where necessary to ensure that there is effective communication with the child.

The social worker should specifically ensure that the child's wishes in relation to permanent fostering, religious and cultural upbringing and contact with his or her birth family are ascertained.

Where a child's wishes are not acted upon, for example a child's wish to be placed with his or her siblings, this should be explained to the child, with reasons, and should be fully recorded.

The foster carers' Supervising Social Worker will support the foster carers in playing their part in the implementation of the plan, including careful recording by the foster carers of any changes in the child's behaviour.

Once a permanent foster placement has been identified and approved, the child's social worker is responsible for ensuring the child is properly prepared for the first meeting with the prospective family and is appropriately counselled during the period of introductions.

As part of the preparation of the child for the placement, information will be provided to ensure that s/he has a proper understanding about the accommodation and others living at the prospective foster home, the contact arrangements with the birth family and how to contact his or her social worker. (See paragraph 6.7 and paragraph 9.2.)


4. Support for Birth Parents

The child's social worker must explain to both parents the reasons for the Permanency Plan and the key stages of the Permanence process, including the likely time-scales and possible contact arrangements.

The child's social worker must also seek to ascertain the parent's views on the matters set out in e) and g) below. It offers the parents the opportunity to express their views in relation to the plans for the child, and to be involved in planning for the child's future wherever possible. The child's social worker should consider signposting the parents to Independent Support and Advocacy as required.

The specific needs of parents arising from their ethnicity must always be taken into account. An interpreter must be arranged where English is not their preferred language.

The following matters should be discussed and parent and carers views obtained for the following:

  1. Explaining the key stages of the Permanence process and likely time-scales;
  2. Explaining the parents' legal rights, including the right of the unmarried father to seek a Parental Responsibility Order or a Child Arrangements Order relation to the child;
  3. Explaining the role of the Agency Decision Maker;
  4. Ascertaining the parents' views on the plan, any specific ethnic, cultural or religious needs of the child, and any plan to separate a sibling group. Their views on these issues should be recorded;
  5. Dealing with grief and loss;
  6. Ascertaining the parents' views on post-placement and contact including whether they would wish to meet the adoptive foster family and if so, how they might prepare for this;
  7. Providing information to the parents on national and local support groups, and other possible sources of help;
  8. Explaining how the parents may be able to provide information to be passed to foster carers, for example, on the child's birth and early life, which may be of benefit to the child;

The parents should be encouraged to seek legal advice. Where there is an unmarried father without Parental Responsibility, the social worker should also ascertain if he intends to apply for a Parental Responsibility Order or a Child Arrangement Order.

The parents and their solicitors, if appropriate, must be sent copies of any written records of their views.

The social worker should arrange for photographs to be taken of the child and, if they agree, the parents and other significant people and places, for inclusion in the childcare Life Story Book.


5. Post-placement Contact

The child's social worker must undertake, as part of the CPR, a written assessment as to the best interests of the child to support any contact proposals as part of a Permanency Plan, or reasons why. This assessment will take account of the views of the child, the parents, the foster carers and any other significant family members, as well as evidence of attachment and the quality of relationships, based on observations of contact and the child's behaviour before, during and after contact.

Where there is a sibling group, each child must be assessed separately and together as a group regarding the issue of contact.

The assessment should determine whether post-placement contact between the child and the parents and/or siblings would be in the child's best interests, and if so, what form it should take. The nature and frequency of contact will be influenced by the need to maintain attachments and/or long-term identity issues.

Post-placement and contact may take the following forms:

  1. All plans for contact should contain all details of any social media planned contact;
  2. Direct letter box and/or telephone contact between the foster carers parents and the birth family;
  3. Direct face-to-face contact between the child and the birth family, which may be organised and maintained by Children's services, where such continuing support is appropriate.

Any proposed post-placement contact should be in line with any Court Orders.

Where post-placement contact is considered to be in the child's interests, it should be part of the information shared with prospective foster carers during the matching process.


6. Identification of Permanent Foster Placements – Family Finding Process

Please refer to Appendix 1: Permanency Planning Process Flowchart.

6.1

In line with current Statutory Guidance, there should be a clear focus on minimising delay prior to the matching and placement of a child.

The overall time-scale for matching a child with a prospective foster family is:

  • The match is to be identified, recommended by the Permanence Panel and approved within 6 months of the agency's formal approval that the child is suitable to be placed for Permanency. 
6.2

Family Finding

The child's social worker should complete a Family Finding referral form CS2/240 and forward this to Permanence and Permanence Family Finding Co-ordinator at family.finding@lincolnshire.gov.uk. Following the referral to the Family Finding co-ordinator, the timing of the start of family finding, will depend upon the legal position and be agreed between the child's social worker and the Family Finding co-ordinator.

The Family Finding is undertaken in conjunction with the child's social worker. The Family Finding meetings are held every month. At the Family Finding meeting, the Family Finding Plan CS2/241 should be completed and placed on the child's electronic record.

The following should be considered during the meeting and recorded within the plan:

  1. A decision about the most appropriate type of family for matching the child's need;
  2. Geographical considerations;
  3. Consideration to the availability of in house approved families, prospective foster carers at Stage two of the assessment process;
  4. Whether advertising for families through local media sources;
  5. Particular skills required by potential carers;
  6. Whether the child should be placed with other children;
  7. The progress and timescales of any proceedings;
  8. Contact issues;
  9. Preparation of the child for Permanence;
  10. Consideration of the need for additional reports from specialists;
  11. Agree timescales for the family finding.
6.3 Where no potential match for a child/ren has been identified within 3 months, a Family Finding Review Meeting will be chaired by the Head of Service Regulated, to ensure that the family finding plan is updated and drift is minimised. These Reviews are held monthly and SW's will be required to attend, together with their PS or TM.
6.4

The child's social worker and the Family Finding co-ordinator will address the following issues:

  1. The preparation of the child's profile and to identify any other information about the child, which is needed in order to identify a suitable family;
  2. To consider who should undertake the preparation of the child, and to determine how the child may be involved in and express views about the process of finding a family;
  3. To discuss parental involvement in the placement process (and parental consent to advertising, if applicable);
  4. To agree that the social worker will keep Legal Services informed of developments and seek the Court's leave to advertising where Court proceedings are ongoing;
  5. To consider whether or not the child's current carer would be appropriate as a prospective permanent placement;
  6. The child's social worker, current foster carer, their supervising social worker and the family finder co-ordinator will complete the child's profile, identifying the child's needs in relation to a new family, including ethnicity, culture, religion, language, contact with birth family and existing networks, education, health, other special needs and location, and the qualities required in the foster family, based on the child's identified placement needs. The profile should identify which needs are essential and which preferred.

    Where the profile indicates the child should not be placed locally, there should also be a written risk assessment to support this conclusion and this should be recorded on the child's electronic record.
6.5

The child's social worker family finding co-ordinator will consider whether there are any potentially suitable in-house approved families (including families within Stage Two of the assessment process) by sharing the child's profile with the recruitment, assessment and support team within the fostering service and reading copies of any available Foster Carers Reports.

Please refer to the Matching Children with Foster Carers Policy.
6.6

Where there are potentially suitable in-house foster carers identified the family finder will send the CPR for the child to the SSW and the Form F for the foster carers to the child's social worker. The supervising social worker will make contact with the foster carers to have an initial discussion about the child to see whether or not they wish to be considered and if they do then they will arrange a joint visit with the child's Permanence SW to discuss:

  • The child's needs in terms of health, development, education, contact;
  • The ability of the foster carers to meet these needs, their strengths and their support needs;
  • Any challenges which there may be either now or in the future i.e. contact plans between siblings placed elsewhere.

If they wish to receive more information on the child, the family's Supervising Social Worker and the child's social worker will visit to provide further information and to clarify whether they wish to be considered. The child's social worker will provide a full description of the birth family including any siblings and the reasons for any decision to place the child separately, the child's medical history, and the carer's report on the child, the current school reports and the child's PEP. The items provided should be clearly recorded and the prospective foster carers should be asked to sign confirmation of receipt of this information.

Following this meeting the foster carers would be asked to make a decision within a timescale of one week.
6.7 The Child's social worker will arrange an Information Sharing Meeting to give any further information to the family and ensure they have a clear picture of the child and understand fully the implications of the information they have received. The child's foster carers and any other persons who have direct knowledge of the child will be invited, e.g. nursery or school personnel, any Social Workers who have had case responsibility for the child and heath personnel. The foster carers should have the opportunity to meet other specialists involved with the child, separately from the Information Sharing Meeting. The Team Manager or his/her nominee will chair the meeting. The meeting will be minuted.
6.8

The meeting should consider:

  • The preparation of the child for Permanence;
  • Information about the birth family including any potential genetic implications for the child;
  • A chronology of the child's journey to date including the time spent in foster care;
  • Consideration of the implications for the future due to the impact of neglect and abuse, and discussion of potential attachment issues in the foster family;
  • Any proposed contact arrangements including a consideration of social media issues where relevant;
  • Any gaps in information or further work to be completed with the child;
  • Should the agency and the prospective foster family agree to proceed the following to be considered: Panel timescales and a draft timetable of introductions;
  • The designated roles and responsibilities for completing the child's Permanence Placement Report and the proposed LAC Support Plan will be confirmed.
6.9

Ethnicity must not be placed above everything else when identifying potential carers for children.

It is unacceptable for a child to be denied permanence solely on the grounds that the child and prospective carers do not share the same racial or cultural background.

If a prospective carers can meet most of the child's needs, but, for example they do not share the child's racial or cultural background, the core issue is what qualities, experiences and attributes the prospective carers can draw on and their level of understanding of the discrimination and racism the child may be confronted with when growing up.


7. Identification of Permanent Foster Placements – Current Placement

For some children remaining with their current task centred carers, this maybe the most suitable plan for permanence. Where the child's current carer expresses an interest in permanently fostering a child they are looking after and the care plan for the child is permanence, this arrangement is to be formally considered following the process outlined below:

  • All permanence options are to be discussed with the carers;
  • The Supervising Social Worker will update the carers Form F;
  • The CPR will if appropriate, be updated by the child's Social Worker;
  • The Permanence Placement Report will be jointly completed and presented to the Permanence Panel for the match to be considered;
  • If the carers as considered suitable, presentation of the match to the Permanence Panel must take place within 6 months from the agency's formal approval that the child is suitable for permanence.


8. Approval of Matching Permanent Foster Carers

The overall time-scale for matching a child with a prospective foster family is:

  • The match is to be recommended by the Permanence Panel within 6 months of the agency's formal approval that the child should be placed for Permanence.

Where these timescales are not met, the Permanence Panel should record the reasons.

Presentation to the Permanence Panel

The Supervising Social Worker and Child's Social Worker must present the following reports to the Panel:

  1. A front sheet stating what is being reported, the reports included, recommendations sought and who will be attending Panel;
  2. The Child's Permanence Report;
  3. The Prospective Foster Carers Report, updated as necessary, on the identified foster carers and the most recent Adult Health medical;
  4. The Placement Planning Report;
  5. The proposals regarding post-placement and contact;
  6. The views of the prospective carers on the prospective carers report and the proposed contact arrangements.

The relevant reports are sent to the Panel Administrator at least 10 working days before the date of the Panel.

The child's social worker and the Supervising Social Worker will attend the Panel during consideration of the matter.

The Panel's recommendation as to whether the child should be placed for Permanency with the particular carers will be recorded in writing, together with reasons, in the Panel's minutes. The Panel must also consider and may give advice in relation to the proposed arrangements for contact and any proposed restrictions on the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the carers and/or the birth parents. A copy of the relevant minute must be placed on the child's and the prospective carers' Case Records.

The Supervising Social Worker will convey the Panel's recommendation orally to the prospective carers within 24 hours if they did not attend panel.

After the Panel has considered the reports and made a written recommendation, the minute and reports considered by the Panel will be sent to the Agency Decision Maker who will make a decision based on this information within 7 working days of the Panel meeting. In urgent cases, for example where the Court timetable requires it, this timescale can be reduced. The decision will be recorded in writing.

If the Panel has given advice in relation to proposed contact and/or the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the prospective carers and/or the birth parents, the Agency Decision Maker may express a view on such advice.

Where the Agency Decision Maker is minded to disagree with the Panel recommendation, he/she must first discuss the case with another senior officer with relevant experience, who must not be a Panel member. This discussion must be recorded and placed on the child's and the prospective carers Case Record.

The Supervising Social Worker will convey the decision orally to the prospective carers within 2 working days.

The Panel Administrator will send the written notification, signed by the Agency Decision Maker, within 5 working days. Copies of this letter will also be sent to the family finder and the child's social worker and child's supervising social worker. The Panel administrator will scan the ADM decision and add as case not to the child's record.


9. Planning the Placement

9.1 Once the matching has been approved and the legal position allows it, the child's Social Worker will convene a Placement Planning Meeting. Please refer to the Placement Plans Procedure for further details of what should be covered within this meeting and who to invite.
9.2

In addition to the necessary requirements and format, additional areas to be considered at the Placement Planning Meeting include:

  • The proposed date of the placement,
  • Who will be present when the placement takes place;
  • Dates of planned introductions prior to placement;
  • The arrangements for the monitoring and supervision of the placement (including contact details of key support staff during office hours and out of hours) and frequency of visits by the child social worker and the child's supervising social worker;
  • The date and arrangements for the first LAC Review;
  • Clarification of who will make the necessary notifications of the placement.

It will also set out the steps required leading up to the child's placement with the prospective carers, including the first meeting between the child and the prospective carer's family, the programme of and detailed arrangements for their introductions (dates, times, venues, transport and accommodation), the reimbursement of any expenses of the introductions, and where appropriate, a meeting between the parents and the prospective carers.

As part of the preparation of the child for the permanent placement, information will be provided to ensure that s/he has a proper understanding about the accommodation and others living at the prospective carers home, the contact arrangements with the birth family and how to contact his or her social worker.

N.B If the child has remained in a Task Centred placement which has become permanent and ratified by the ADM, a placement planning meeting is not required.

9.3 The Permanence Placement Plan will also address when the prospective carers will be supplied with all relevant written information about the child and who will provide it. Delegated authority to the carers must be agreed. (See Placement Plan Procedure.)
9.4 The child's social worker must ascertain the child's views and report these to the meetings.
9.5 Those attending Placement Planning Meetings will be the child's social worker, his/her manager as appropriate, the foster carers, the foster carers' Supervising Social Worker, representatives of the health trust (where appropriate), the prospective foster carers and their SSW and any other worker engaged in direct work with the child.
9.6 The child's first meeting with the prospective carers should be on the child's familiar territory (unless the child is older and requests otherwise) and a social worker should be present. The pattern of introductory visits thereafter will depend on the child's age, needs and stage of development but consideration will be given to a gradual introductory programme involving visits increasing in length, progressing to an overnight stay, a weekend stay and in exceptional circumstances with an older child, a longer period prior to the final move.
9.7 The child's social worker will advise the parents of the plan. Parents should be involved in Placement Planning meetings where at all possible, providing that there is not identified risk that would require maintaining the confidentiality of the placement.
9.8

At the mid-point of the introductions, a review of the progress so far will be undertaken by the child's social worker with the input of all those involved in the original placement planning meeting at which the following areas will be addressed:

  1. The progress of the introductions - has the necessary action identified at the previous meeting been taken, and the plan been followed? - If not, why not?
  2. The views of each participant as to the above;
  3. The identification of the positives;
  4. The identification of any difficulties;
  5. The development of the next stage of the plan;
  6. The finalisation of the arrangements for the placement.
9.9 A further meeting can be called by any of the parties if issues of concern arise.
9.10 All Placement Planning Meetings should have the same people invited and take place at a venue accessible to all parties.
9.11 A copy of the final Placement Plan, signed by the child's social worker, should be given to the prospective carers, their Supervising Social Worker and the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.
9.12 Where contact is part of the Permanence plan, the proposals must be drawn up in written agreements to be signed by the birth parents and the prospective foster carers. The agreements must specify the form and timing of the contact and the arrangements for putting the contact in place. The agreements must also specify that the arrangements may change dependent upon the wishes of the child. This will be reviewed on a regular basis on the LAC review.
9.13 If the Permanency Placement Plan is ended in an unplanned way the Fostering Team Manager should consider the best way to conduct a disruption meeting - see Disruption of Placement Procedure.
9.14 In the event of the placement's termination, direct work will be undertaken with the child to make sense of the reasons why the placement broke down and to prepare the child for any future placement.
9.15 For ongoing support throughout Permanent/ Long Term Fostering Placements, please refer to the Support for Permanent / Long Term Fostering Placements Procedure.


Appendix 1: Permanency Planning Process Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 1: Permanency Planning Process Flowchart.

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