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4.8.12 Matching Children with Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

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

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

AMENDMENT

This Chapter was amended in December 2013 in relation to the implementation of the Children’s Social Care Assessment.


Contents

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


1. Statutory Framework

Section 22C(5) and (6)(a) and (b) of the Children Act 1989 require local authorities to be satisfied that placement with a foster carer is the best way of meeting their duties towards the child and that the specific placement is the most appropriate having regard to all the circumstances (paragraph 3.80 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Volume 2 of Statutory Guidance).

Standard 15 of the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services 2011 addresses matching the child with a placement that meets their assessed needs.

Requirements include:

  • The need to take into account the child's care plan and recent assessments of the child and family;
  • Achieving matches by all relevant parties sharing information;
  • Identifying factors taken into account in matching in placement agreements and identifying carers' support needs to compensate for any gaps in matching;
  • Considering the child's assessed racial, ethnic, cultural and language needs and matching these with the carer;
  • Providing additional support where trans-racial or trans-community placements are made;
  • Where possible, giving the child the opportunity of a period of introduction to the proposed carer;
  • PAF 69 requires that children are placed within twenty miles of their home when initially placed in foster care;
  • That local authorities ensure that as far as reasonably practicable any placement allows the child to live near his or her home (Section 22C(7) to (9) of the Children Act 1989). Out of area placements require the specific authority of a Nominated Officer (for further information please see Looked After Children and Young People who are Placed in another Local Authority Area Procedure).


2. Assessing Children's Needs

2.1 Matching Guidance

This supports the good practice requirements of the National Minimum Standards and Fostering Regulations 2011 in respect of children placed in foster care.

2.2 Children Who Enter Public Care

Once a child becomes looked after the work of previous teams and other related professionals must be built upon to formulate a comprehensive assessment of need before a placement is made. This will include developing the Children’s Social Care Assessment completed by the Placing Social Worker for emergency placements and completing the Children’s Social Care Assessment for all planned placements. Specifically, the Service Enquiry Team will need a Child's Profile and Risk Assessment completing to be considered alongside the appropriate assessment. This work is undertaken by the Child's (Placing) Social Worker.

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

  • Whether the child was previously known;
  • The legal basis for current work with the child;
  • The reasons why the child needs to be Looked After;
  • The attempts made to arrange for the child to live with a relative or friend;
  • Who has been consulted about the child's current situation and the plan for the child;
  • What the immediate plan for the child is;
  • What the child's wishes and feelings are;
  • Why this plan has been chosen;
  • What needs to happen to achieve the immediate plan;
  • Without the explicit agreement of the relevant Group Manager.

2.3 Children Already in Public Care

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

For those experiencing placement breakdowns, matching will take place via the Duty and Placement Finding Team in conjunction with the child's Social Worker. The previous assessments of why the child came into care and previous matching information should be utilised and re-examined. This will include the Placement Plan, school reports and Personal Education Plan(PEP), medical assessments, reports from current carers, Assessment and Progress Records, childcare reviews and an updated Children’s Social Care Assessment. This information should be summarised into the Child's Profile and the Risk Assessment by the child's Social Worker.

Where a permanent placement is proposed, the plan must be approved by a statutory childcare review.


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

Matches will be achieved by means of information sharing and consideration involving all relevant professionals, the child and their family, potential carers and their families including other children they have in placement. Relevant professionals may include: the child's social worker, the supervising social worker for the carer, line managers, health and education staff and the agency decision maker.

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


4. Issues to be Considered in Matching

Children should have accessible information about the foster home as well as a visit where they can talk to the carer in private. Children must understand house expectations before the placement is made.

Good matching (and the full exchange of information prior to the placement) is linked in the outcome statement with placement stability. The movement of children for reasons other than their best interests should not happen.

Responsible authorities must be informed of any emergency placement moves within one working day.

4.1 Contact

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

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

For emergency placements, the Duty Officer will record the contact requirements on the outcome sheet when a placement has been agreed.

4.2 Siblings

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

For the Duty and Placement Finding Team (or Service Enquiry Team for Emergency Placements), keeping siblings together will be a priority and will be the overriding factor in identifying a placement.

4.3 Education

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

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

The Duty and Placement Finding Team will always seek to identify placements within the catchment area of the school but where this is not possible, the child's Social Worker will ensure that suitable transport to and from school is provided.

4.4 Race, Culture and Language

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

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

4.5 Religion

Where a child practices a religion, the carer's ability to facilitate and promote this needs careful consideration.

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

4.6 Disability

Disability requires careful consideration in the matching process and if a placement is not available immediately, steps are taken to locate a suitable placement as soon as possible. Support for the carer will be required to be in place e.g. access to required medical care, aids or adaptations necessary, specialist education, equipment, specialist advice and training.

4.7 Bedrooms

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

The outcome of this assessment must be recorded on the child's files and in the Carer's file, in the relevant risk assessment format.

4.8 Safe Caring Guidelines

Standard 9.3 of the Fostering Standards requires each home to provide safe caring guidelines. These must be explained to the child and cleared with their social worker.

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

Also see Safe Caring Procedure


5. Introductions

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

This should always be the case with a permanent placement.

An emergency placement may mean this is impractical but both child and carer should be provided with as much information as possible and their views considered before a match is confirmed.


6. Inter-Agency Placements

Where it is proposed to use a carer approved by another fostering services provider, the relevant Form F will be sent to the child's Social Worker. They will consider the detail in terms of matching requirements. It may also be appropriate to see the carer's most recent review.

No placement should be made with an external provider before the reports from the Ofsted have been checked to ensure there are no concerns regarding assessment, approval and review. External providers will normally be commissioned from the local authorities preferred providers through the Commissioning Team in conjunction with the responsible Fostering Manager and the child's Social Worker.

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

Children must, when they leave the home, be helped to understand the reasons and be supported with the transition- including return home and independence.

Foster carers must be supported to maintain links with children who leave their care.


7. Connected Persons as Carers

Regulation 24 of the Fostering Service Regulations 2011 allows for the immediate placement of a child with a person who is not a foster carer but is a relative, friend or other Connected Person of the child. Please see Placement with Connected Persons Procedure for more information.

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


8. Recording Matching Considerations and Decisions

Details of the matching process including the names and views of those consulted must be recorded on the child's file in Liquidlogic. The Duty and Placement Finding Team or SET will complete this.

For those children where matching has proven to be more problematic, details of all family finding must be recorded on their file.

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

A decision record will be placed on the Child's record and the carer's record when a match has been agreed and placement is to be progressed. This will also note why that carer has been matched with the child, any areas of risk identified and any actions to be completed by the Fostering Social Worker or the child's Social Worker.


9. Disruption of Permanent Placements

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

See Placement Planning, Maintenance and Disruption Meetings Procedure


10. Implementation and Review of the Policy

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

End