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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 (unless the placement is made under section 38(6) Children Act 1989 for the purposes of assessment, (and is therefore not subject to the Care Planning, Placement and Review Regulations 2010)).

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

The chapter has been updated in February 2019 to clarify the process for providing the Placement with Parents Consultation, Notification and Parental Agreement Forms. (See Section 5, Parental Agreement to the Placement with Parent).


Contents

1. Introduction
  1.1 Introduction and Overview
  1.2 Who is Covered?
  1.3 Parental Responsibility
  1.4 Financial Responsibility
2. Planned Placements
  2.1 Procedure and Practice Guidance
  2.2 Consultation
  2.3 The Child’s Views
  2.4 Assessment and Checks before Placement
  2.5 Placement
  2.6 Visiting the Child
3. Immediate Placement
  3.1 Assessment and Plan
  3.2 Visits to the Child
4. Court Ordered Placements on an Interim Care Order and Care Order
5. Parental Agreement to the Placement with Parent
6. Notifications following Approval of the Placement
7. Reviewing and Monitoring the Placement with Parent Plan
8. Ending the Placement
9. Revocation of the Care Order


1. Introduction

1.1 Introduction and Overview

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 those with parental responsibility.

Schedule 2 paragraph 2 also sets out that (all local authorities) Lincolnshire County Council Children's Services will ensure that the placement plan addresses:

  1. Details of support and services to be provided to parent during the placement;
  2. The obligation on parent to notify the responsible authority of any relevant change in circumstances, including any intention to change address, any changes in the household in which the child lives and of any serious incident involving the child;
  3. The obligation on parent to ensure that any information relating to child or child's family or any other person given in confidence to parent in connection with the placement is kept confidential, and that such Information is not disclosed to any person without the consent of the responsible authority;
  4. The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain the prior approval of the responsible authority for child to live in a household other than parent's household;
  5. The arrangements for requesting a change to the placement plan;
  6. The circumstances in which the placement will be terminated in accordance with regulation 19 (c)(ii).

An assessment and appropriate enquiries are needed to ensure that the placement is the most suitable way of safeguarding and promoting the child's welfare and will inform the decision making process. Section 3.77 of the Care Planning Regulations advises that particular care should be taken in the assessment to inform a decision to place a child with a parent and reminds that:

"A care order cannot be made under the 1989 Act unless the court is satisfied that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, and that this is attributable to the care given, or likely to be given, to him/her not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give; or the child being beyond parental control. It is therefore important to be especially careful to ascertain how far those factors that were identified as grounds for the current care order have been addressed before deciding whether a child can be placed back with parents or other person with parental responsibility."

The guidance reflects that, as set out above, the plan will be most effective when the local authority works in partnership with the parents and that for most children the best place for them to be brought up is within their own family.

Consideration should always be given to the length of time that a child remains living under placement with parent regulations. Placement with parent should not be considered an indefinite plan and revocation should remain part of the progress plan.

1.2 Who is Covered?

This guidance and procedure applies to any placement of a child on a Care Order or an Interim Care Order of more than 24 hours with:

  1. A parent or person with parental responsibility;
  2. A person who is not a parent but who holds parental responsibility for a child;
  3. A parent or person who held a Child Arrangements Order (or Residence Order) specifying with whom the child is to live immediately before the Care or interim Care Order was made;
  4. A child subject to an Interim Care Order/Care Order is in a foster placement with a parent/person with parental responsibility then consideration should be given to whether the placement is made under fostering regulations or placement with parent regulations. This will depend upon the reasons for the placement and for the parent being present and who is the primary carer taking responsibility for the child. The decision whether the placement is under fostering regulations or placement with parent regulations should be agreed before or at the start of the placement and recorded on the child's file on Mosaic (either under management decision or case discussion). If considered placement with parent then the appropriate assessment should be completed and authorisation by the Director or Assistant Director for Children's services will be needed prior to placement. It may be necessary to review the decision about the status of the placement dependent upon what responsibility the parent/person with parental responsibility continues to take. Any doubt about placement status could be discussed with legal services. If the parent/person with parental responsibility moves out of the foster placement with the child into independent living then placement with parent regulations will be required;
  5. A child returning home to live after having spent time in care;
  6. Regular visits in excess of 24 hours to a parent, as part of a reunification plan;
  7. Contact visits to a parent in excess of 24 hours as a means of maintaining family links;

Agreement and authorisation for a child to remain with their parent/person with parental responsibility under Placement with Parent Regulations can only be given by the Director Children's Services, Assistant Director Children's Services, Safeguarding or the Assistant Director Children's Services, Early Help.

These Regulations do not apply to:

  1. Those children remanded to the care of the local authority; 
  2. Those children accommodated and subject of an Emergency Protection Order;
  3. Children placed for Adoption;
  4. Those children placed with any other relatives or friends;
  5. Cases where the Court discharges the Order;
  6. Cases where the child is accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989.
  7. Assessing for rehabilitation during Care Proceedings where a child is subject to an Interim Care Order and overnight stays with the parents are involved under Section 38(6) Children Act 1989.

1.3 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.

If the child is of sufficient age and understanding then discussions about the placement and parental responsibility should include the child. 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 extent of the exercise of parental responsibility would also be discussed with 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.

1.4 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. Planned Placements

Planned placements can be either at the time of legal proceedings with a plan for the child to remain in the care of a parent/person with parental responsibility under an interim or care order or for a plan to rehabilitate a child back to the care of a parent with an eventual consideration of revocation of the Care Order.

2.1 Procedure and Practice Guidance

Consideration of placing a child with a parent/person with parental responsibility requires a full assessment to be completed which includes consultation with a number of professionals as well as, where appropriate, the child themselves. The assessment tool is on Mosaic and sets out the steps needed.

2.2 Consultation

As part of the assessment process consultation with and views must be sought from:

  1. The child/young person – if of an appropriate age and understanding;
  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 – this may include siblings in the same household as well as extended family;
  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 (consent will be needed from the person prior to the enquiry being made);
  6. The child’s current 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. Where appropriate the child's legal guardian;
  9. The Probation Service if it has contact with the family;
  10. The Police; to include PNC checks on any adult who will be living in the same house as proposed for the child;
  11. The Youth Offending Service if there is any contact with the family;
  12. The relevant Children’s Services Department if the child is placed in another local authority’s area;
  13. The child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

The consultation should be formal. The persons being consulted should be written to or emailed, requesting their views on the proposed placement. It is important that those who are consulted should reply in writing whether or not they have any concerns. Their replies should be recorded on the child's electronic record.

Please refer to Children's Services Forms for the Placement with Parents – Consultation Letter.

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 with a parent can be taken as a written record of the consultation with those in attendance. In those circumstances further consultation letters will not need to be sent to anyone who was part of that Looked After Review.

2.3 The Child’s Views

Taking into account his or her age and understanding, the views of the child are essential and should be recorded. 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 Assessment (which can be found on MOSAIC) must be completed. The Assessment should first be signed off by the Team or Service Manager. Once completed the assessment will require the signed authorisation of the Director of Children's Services or Assistant Director Children's Services, Safeguarding or Assistant Director Children's Services, Early Help. The Placement must not be confirmed or started until the signed authorisation is obtained.

The suitability of the proposed placement should be assessed through:

  • A Review the Child's case file and a summary of their history;
  • The wishes and feelings of the child;
  • Details of why it is proposed to place the child with parents at this time. The aims and objectives of the proposed placement and the long term plan for the child;
  • Summary of the parent's family history and any involvement with children's services for any other child in or has been in their care or during their own childhood. Their relationship with their parents and siblings. Considering any history of domestic abuse, substance misuse, mental health difficulties or involvement with police or probation. Parents past and present employment/sources of income and how placing the child back in their care may impact this;
  • The assessment should include any evidence of parent's previous experiences of looking after children, to include any expert reports and any findings against/involving parents; information about whether a parent has any other child subject to any order and details given including background and circumstances;
  • Assessment of the parent's capacity and the capacity of other members of the family household to care for the child/ren. Can the parent enable the child to develop and maintain secure attachments to the parents and other relevant family members;
  • The identity and background of all adult members of the household including their age and their relationship with the parent and child (whether that is partner or friendship);
  • Explore other family members who although not part of the household may have regular contact with the child;
  • To assess how the parent will provide for the child's physical and emotional needs and will protect them adequately from harm, including keeping safe from any person who presents a risk of harm to the child;
  • To ensure that any concerns highlighted at the time of the legal proceedings and the reasons why the Interim Care Order or Care Order was granted are fully explored. Record evidence of positive change or help and support put in place with the family to support change to allow the child to be placed back with the parent;
  • To ensure that the emotional needs of the child are met and any other particular needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin or cultural and linguistic background are met. To ensure that any disability the child has is supported and needs met;
  • To ensure that the parent will meet the medical and health needs of the child including seeking appropriate medical and dental help and care;
  • Visit to the proposed home and accommodation to be provided for the child. To ensure that the home environment is safe and meets the needs of the child. Also where relevant, the need for risk assessment of any pets and the way in which they are kept;
  • To promote the child's learning and development by engaging with education and forming good relationships;
  • Checking criminal convictions and cautions of the proposed carer and all members of the household aged 18 and over with;
  • The Police (Public Protection Unit); or
  • The parents and adult members of the household through them applying for a basic DBS check (see DBS Basic Checks Guidance);
  • To assess the health (emotional, physical and mental) of the parent and other adult members of the household. Check with the carer’s GP (with their signed permission) and Children's Services records;
If the case has recently been through legal proceedings and a number of the above criteria are contained within reports provided then these can be attached as evidence/information to the placement with parent assessment and do not need to be repeated.

2.5 Placement

A Placement plan should be available by the end of the assessment process. This should be reviewed via a looked after review where the plan can be amended/updated. Family and where appropriate the child, should have a copy of the plan.


2.6 Visiting the Child

Where a care order has been made in relation to a child under Section 31 of the 1989 Act and the child is placed back home under placement with parent regulations the child must be visited within one week of the making of the care order and then at intervals of no more than six weeks. The social worker should see and speak to the child alone unless the child is of sufficient age and understanding to refuse, or where the social worker considers it inappropriate to do so (having regard to the child's age and understanding). Any difficulties in communication must be identified and appropriate specialist resources put in place to allow the child to express their wishes and feelings.


3. Immediate Placement

3.1 Assessment and Plan

There are some circumstances where a child may be placed back in the care of a parent without previous planning. For instance in the case of an unforeseen breakdown of a foster placement requiring the child's immediate move and where the permanence plan for the child was to consider returning them to the care of a parent. In those circumstances it may be appropriate to place the child back with a parent rather than in a further short term foster placement. Before this placement is made the following must be completed:

  1. A face to face meeting with the parent to obtain as much of the assessment information as possible. Practitioners to meet with all the other members of the household in order to have a complete understanding of the household composition and relationships before placing the child. This is particularly relevant to identifying issues such as domestic abuse and substance misuse which may affect the child's safety;
  2. The full assessment as set out in the placement with parent regulations must be undertaken within ten working days of the child being allowed to live with the parent. An early looked after review will also enable the parent, social worker and other agencies involved with the child to share information about progress and any difficulties which may have an impact on the child;
  3. Within ten working days of the completion of the assessment (i.e. Within 20 working days of the date that the child was placed) a decision must be taken as to whether the placement should be confirmed or not and the sign off of the assessment should be completed by the team or service manager and then sent for consideration of authorisation by the Director of Children's Services, or an Assistant Director of Children's Services;
  4. A Placement plan (as set out in 1.1) should be developed at the same time as the assessment and shared with the parents as soon as possible after placement;
  5. If the Director or Assistant Director of Children's Services agrees and authorises the placement then the Placement plan will need to be reviewed via a Looked After Review and if necessary updated/amended;
  6. The review will set out any support which will be provided to the parent and child to meet the identified needs;
  7. If the decision is not to confirm the placement with parents then it must be terminated.

3.2 Visits to the Child

A child placed back home with parents before the assessment is completed must be visited at least weekly until the time of the first review and subsequently at intervals of not more than 6 weeks or until the completion of the assessment. The social worker should see and speak to the child alone unless the child is of sufficient age and understanding to refuse or where the social worker considers it inappropriate to do so (having regard to the child's age and understanding) Any difficulties in communication must be identified and appropriate specialist resources put in place to allow the child to express their wishes and feelings.


4. Court Ordered Placements on an Interim Care Order and Care Order

Where a child is subject to an Interim Care Order the Care Plan must always be ratified by the Court.

If there is an instance where a child living at home is made subject to an Interim Care Order but unexpectedly the Court does not agree removal of the child and directs the child should remain at home in the care of their parent, the most senior person from children's services attending the Court should make immediate contact with the Service Manager who will offer guidance and consider the need to speak with an Assistant Director to discuss the proposal and explain the circumstances. The direction given by the Service Manager/Assistant Director will be followed. Once discussed and if the child will remain at home the process for an immediate placement should be followed.

Where a placement with parent assessment has been completed but the outcome does not support the child remaining in the care of their parent and this is presented to the Court with a plan to remove the child, if the Court does not agree with the decision and indicates it will override the decision to remove, then immediate contact should be made with the Service Manager who will speak with the Assistant Director to inform and discuss. The direction of the Service Manager/ Assistant Director should be followed.

On both the above occasions if the social worker, practice supervisor or team manager believes or anticipates that there may be a difficulty with either the child's guardian or the Court not agreeing with the plans of Children's Services following the Placement with Parent assessment outcome, then there should be an urgent discussion with the Service Manager and Assistant Director for advice and guidance.


5. Parental Agreement to the Placement with Parent

Once authorisation for the placement with parent has been completed, a visit is to be completed with the parent/person with parental responsibility with whom the child is going to live. They are then required to sign the Placement with Parents – Parental Agreement Form which is their agreement to the placement indicating they understand their role and responsibility, acknowledging that the child remains subject to an Interim or Care Order. A Copy of the signed agreement should be indexed to the child's electronic case file.

Please refer to Children's Services Forms for the Placement with Parents – Parental Agreement Form.


6. Notifications following Approval of the Placement

Once the proposal for the child to be placed with their parent, either immediate or planned and the Director or Assistant Director has signed and authorised the placement and the parent has also signed their agreement to the placement, notifications in writing giving the date, details and address of the placement should be sent to:

  1. Any other parent or person with parental responsibility with whom the child is not going to be living (unless to do so may pose a risk to the child and/or parent);
  2. Education – school or nursery where the child is or may in the near future attend;
  3. Health – as appropriate – GP, health visitor, midwife, school nurse, dentist;
  4. The Independent Reviewing Officer;
  5. The child's Guardian (where still involved);
  6. Persons working with the child and family, i.e. Early Help worker, YOS, probation etc;
  7. If the address of the parent is within another local authority then notification should be sent to the appropriate authority notifying of a child subject to an interim or care order within their area on placement with parent regulations.

Notifications should be made within 5 working days of the authorisation of the placement and agreement of the parent.

Please refer to Children's Services Forms for the Placement with Parents – Parental Notification Form.


7. Reviewing and Monitoring the Placement with Parent Plan

7.1 Visits

Visits to children under Placement with Parent regulations should be weekly until the first Looked After Child Review and thereafter at intervals of no more than six weeks - see Visits to Children Procedure.

7.2 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 first review will take place within 20 working days of the date of the placement.


8. Ending the Placement

The Placement plan should be regularly reviewed to ensure that it is still relevant. Placement with parent should not be considered as a long term or permanent placement type.

Considering ending a placement with parent arrangement would normally be made and ratified at a Child Looked After Review. Changes may be either a planned move or immediate action.

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 or where the child is deemed to be at immediate risk of harm.

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 right of the parent and child under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In exceptional circumstances a more immediate decision may be required to safeguard the child.

Written notification of a decision to terminate the placement and remove the child from a parent must be sent to:

  1. The child if they are of an appropriate age and understanding;
  2. The person with whom the child is placed;
  3. Other parent or person with parental responsibility;
  4. If the child resides within another local authority then they should also be notified.


9. Revocation of the Care Order

As set out above, placement with parent should not be considered as a long term or permanent arrangement for the child. Regular reviews and consideration of the ongoing status of the placement is indicated.

As part of the Looked After Child review of the placement with parent plan consideration should also be given to whether the Care Order remains relevant or whether further assessment is needed to assess the ongoing care of the child and when/if revocation of the Care Order is indicated with a possible step down to a Supervision Order.

End