Family and Friends Policy
This policy was reviewed in May 2018.
Children may be brought up by members of their extended families, friends or other people who are connected with them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different arrangements.
This policy sets out the approach of Hull City Council, Children and Families Service towards promoting and supporting the needs of such children and covers the assessments which will be carried out to determine the services required and how such services will be provided.
In drawing up this policy, we have been guided by evidence about what works in supporting family and friends carers to meet children's needs and knowledge about the services which carers and children want to be available to them.
We have consulted with the Hull Foster Carer's Support Group in the writing of this policy.
Nationally it is estimated that there are up to 300,000 children cared for full time by a relative, friend or other person previously connected to a child. Of these approximately 7,000 are looked after children placed with family members and friends who have been approved as foster carers. All of these arrangements are referred to in this policy as family and friends arrangements although there are a range of different legal statuses.
2. Values, Objectives and Principles
- Consideration of children's welfare and best interests will always be at the centre of the work we do;
- Children should be enabled to live within their families unless this is not consistent with their welfare.
2.2 Key objectives
- To ensure that children's wishes and feelings are taken into account in all decision making;
- To make strenuous efforts to identify potential carers from within the child's family and friends network;
- To provide support based on the needs of the child and family for any such arrangements;
- To ensure, where possible that children do not become looked after or do not have to remain looked after longer than is needed;
- To promote permanence for children;
- To offer training in ways that are appropriate and encouraging for family and friends carers.
- We will work to maintain children within their own families, and facilitate services to support any such arrangements, wherever this is consistent with the child's safety and well-being. This principle applies to all children in need, including those who are looked after by the local authority;
- When a child cannot remain or return home, the preferred option is for them to live within their extended family where possible;
- Children in Family and Friends placements will only be defined as looked after in specific circumstances (see Section 3, Legal Framework) and where possible as a temporary measure until permanence can be achieved including through the use of legal orders to children's carers;
- There should be an emphasis on empowering families in decision-making for their children (including through Family Group Conferencing).
3. Legal Framework
The following legislation and guidance may apply to the situations that lead to a child receiving care from a family member or friend:
- Children Act 1989;
- Adoption and Children Act 2002;
- Children Act 2004;
- Adoption Support Regulations 2005;
- Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations (2010);
- Special Guardianship Statutory Guidance, DfE 2017;
- Adoption Statutory Guidance (DfE 2013);
- Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance 2011;
- The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (DfE, 2015).
All local authorities have a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need living within their area and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families. The way in which they fulfil this duty is by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's assessed needs (Section 17, Children Act 1989). This can include financial, practical or other support.
It is important to note that local authorities do not have a general duty to assess all arrangements where children are living with their wider family or friends network rather than their parents but it does have a duty where it appears that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need.
To clarify the children who may come within the definition of children in need, see Hull Safeguarding Children's Partnership Procedures, Threshold of Need Framework and Guidance.
Children in Need may live with members of their family or friends in a variety of different legal arrangements, some formal and some informal. Different court orders are available to formalise these arrangements.
Looked after children will always come within the definition of children in need, whether they are accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (with parental consent) or in care subject to a Court Order whereby the local authority shares Parental Responsibility for the child. The local authority has a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for a looked after child to live with a member of the family (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989).
For a detailed summary of the meaning and implications of different legal situations, the rights of carers and parents, and the nature of decisions which family and friends carers will be able to make in relation to the child, please see Appendix 3: Caring For Somebody Else's Child – Options. Section 4, Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friends Carers sets out the local authority powers and duties in relation to the various options.
Family and friends carers will need information about what resources (including universal, targeted and specialist services) are available to support children in the local area. Appendix 2: Useful National Organisations and Information for Family and Friends Carers contains a list of local and national services that may assist them in their caring role.
4. Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friends Carers
A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent or close relative, where the child is to be cared for in that home for 28 days or more. Close relative is defined as 'a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent.' It does not include a child who is 'looked after' by a local authority. In a private fostering arrangement, the parent still holds parental responsibility and agrees the decision making arrangements with the private foster carer. Private foster care arrangements should be notified to the local authority in the area where the child and carer reside, who will then undertake a private fostering assessment.
Hull Children's Social Care will assess, support and review all private foster carers. If the child is also assessed as a child in need the local authority has a responsibility to provide services to meet the assessed needs of the child under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Following assessment, a child in need plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. This can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support.Privately fostered children are not Looked After children. See Private Fostering Procedure.
4.2 Informal family and friends care arrangements
Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, the family may make their own arrangements to care for the child by a relative i.e. grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (by full blood, half blood or by marriage or civil partnership), or a step-parent. This is an informal family and friends arrangement. If the person is not a close relative but in the wider network of family and friends and the arrangement lasts longer than 28 days it becomes a private fostering arrangement (see Section 4.1, Private fostering arrangements).
Informal arrangements are those made between family members where the relative has chosen to take on the care of the child but does not have Parental Responsibility and the arrangement was made by the parent(s) and relatives and not by the local authority. In these circumstances the child is not a looked after child. Families may need help and assistance to make their own arrangements, for example, with Family Group Conferences or other family meetings. This Children's Social Care support does not mean that the child is a Looked After child: if the arrangements are initiated by family members, they remain in the category of informal arrangements.
The local authority does not have a duty to assess informal family and friends arrangements unless it appears that the child may be a child in need and services may be required to safeguard and promote his/her welfare. If this is the case a Children's Social Care Assessment should be undertaken to ascertain whether the informal family and friends arrangements are appropriate to meet the needs of the child and whether support by the local authority under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 is required.
Most issues that family and friends carers have to deal with in fulfilling their role as carers can be addressed through means other than the local authority acquiring parental responsibility and the child becoming looked after. Where appropriate, the preferred option would be to support the family and friends carer to obtain a Child Arrangements Order, Special Guardianship Order or Adoption Order for the child, with the option of other court orders if additional support is required. In these cases of informal family and friends arrangements of non looked after children, the local authority does not have a duty to provide financial support to Special Guardians or Child Arrangements Order holders, unless support is required under Section 17 as above. However, in the case of Special Guardianship applications, the local authority will undertake an assessment and report to court and will write to the proposed Special Guardian informing them that they can request a support services assessment. The assessor can offer a support services assessment if they consider it to be appropriate.
Informal arrangements have a different legal basis to family and friends foster care, where the child is looked after (see Section 4.3, Children in Family and Friends Care who are Looked After). The nature of the arrangement (i.e. whether it is an informal arrangement or whether the child is looked after and placed by the local authority with family/friends) should be explicitly addressed with the carers, parents and child at the start of the arrangement.Appendix 1: Entitlement to Support by Family and Friends Carers under Children Act 1989 Section 17 and Section 20 contains a summary of entitlement to support by family and friends carers under Children Act 1989.
Whether or not a child who is cared for by a family and friends care should be deemed to be 'looked after' by the local authority will be a matter to be decided on a case by case basis. The key question will be whether the child appears to require accommodation for one of the reasons in Section 20(1) CA89: (a) there being no person with parental responsibility for the child; (b) their being lost or having been abandoned; or (c) the person who has been caring for him being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing him with suitable accommodation or care. It may not always be easy to determine whether a child who is cared for by a family or friends requires accommodation for the purposes of Section 20 or whether the child's needs should be met by providing support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.
Whenever a child has to become looked after, the local authority will make strenuous efforts to identify family and friends carers from within the child's network and will aim to empower the family to identify carers themselves. Family Group Conferences should always be considered as part of this process.
In some circumstances a family may apply for a Child Arrangements Order in respect of the child. In exceptional circumstances a Care Order may be necessary to protect the child and assist a family and friends carer to undertake their role as the child's primary carer, for example, if there is a serious risk that the child's placement would be disrupted by a parent.
When a child looked after by family and friends becomes looked after or when a looked after child is placed with family and friends the procedures for Placement with Connected Persons applies (see Section 4.4, Family and Friends Foster Carers – Connected Persons). The carer must be approved as a local authority foster carer.
Where a child is looked after by the local authority, we have a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for the child to live with a member of the family who should be approved as a foster carer (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989). The child can be placed with the family members prior to such approval, subject to an assessment of the placement, for up to 16 weeks. This temporary approval can only be extended for a further 8 weeks in exceptional circumstances. In this context the carer is referred to as a Connected Person and the process of obtaining approval for the placement is set out in the Placement with Connected Persons (formerly Family and Friends) Procedure. Where temporary approval is given to such a placement under the procedure, the carers will receive financial support on a regular basis. This may cover placements at very short notice.
In addition the child will have a Placement Plan which sets out the specific arrangements surrounding the child and the carers including the expectations of the foster carers and the support they can expect to receive to enable to fulfil their responsibilities for the child.
The assessment and approval process for family and friends who apply to be foster carers for a specific looked after child will be similar to that for any other foster carer. The timescales for the assessment are different where a child is already in the placement as indicated above and assessments of Connected Person foster carer/s use the CoramBAAF Form C rather than the CoramBAAF form F that is used for foster carers who are not connected persons. In all other respects the process is the same as for any other potential foster carers and is set out in the Assessment and Approval of Foster Carer Procedure. An information pack will be available to potential foster carers about the process and they will be given the name and contact details of the social worker allocated to carry out the assessment. The financial support that the carers receive will be in line with the fostering allowance.
Once approved as foster carers, they will be allocated a supervising social worker from the Fostering Team to provide them with support and supervision; and they will receive fostering allowances for as long as they care for the child as a foster carer.
Authority for day-to-day decision making about the child should be delegated to the carer(s), unless there is a valid reason not to do so.While the child remains a looked after child, as a connected foster carer, they will be expected to cooperate with all the processes that are in place to ensure that the child receives appropriate care and support, for example, contributing to reviews of the child's Care Plan, cooperating with the child's social worker and promoting the child's education and health needs. Connected Foster Carers are also expected to undertake training including completion of the Training, Support and Development Standards Portfolio. See hull.gov.uk for further information on support for foster carers.
4.5 Child Arrangements Order
A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order which sets out the arrangements as to when and with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.
A Child Arrangements Order may give parental responsibility to the person in whose favour it is made. Parental responsibility is shared with the parents. Authority for day-to-day decision making about the child should be delegated to the carer(s), unless there is a valid reason not to do so.
Child Arrangements Orders may be made in private family proceedings in which the local authority is not a party nor involved in any way in the arrangements. However, a Child Arrangements Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is placed may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.The local authority may pay Child Arrangements Order Allowances to relatives or friends, unless they are a spouse or civil partner of a parent, with whom a child is living under a Child Arrangements Order. This is set out in paragraph 15 of Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, however this is discretionary.
4.6 Special Guardianship Order
Special Guardianship offers a further option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security without absolute severance from the birth family as in adoption.
Relatives may apply for a Special Guardianship Order after caring for the child for one year. As Special Guardians, they will have Parental Responsibility for the child which, while it is still shared with the parents, can be exercised with greater autonomy on day-to-day matters than where there is a Child Arrangements Order.
Special Guardianship Orders may be made in private family proceedings and the local authority may not be a party to any such arrangements. Or, for a looked after child, a Special Guardianship Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a 'Looked After' child.
In either case, whether the child was a looked after child or not, the local authority is required to undertake an assessment and report to court in respect of all Special Guardianship applications. The local authority will write to the proposed Special Guardian and let them know that they can request a support services assessment and also while investigating for their report the assessor will offer a support services assessment if they consider it to be appropriate. In all cases where the child was looked after immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order, a support services assessment including assessment of the need for financial support will be undertaken.Payments to Special Guardians may be made when connected foster carers are granted a Special Guardianship Order in respect of a looked after child that they are caring for. See Applications for Special Guardianship Orders Procedure for information on support which may be available to Special Guardians,
4.7 Adoption Order
Adoption is the process by which all parental rights and responsibilities for a child are permanently transferred to an adoptive parent by a court. As a result the child legally becomes part of the adoptive family.
An Adoption Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a Connected Person) with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a Looked After Child.
Local authorities must make arrangements, as part of their adoption service, for the provision of a range of adoption support services. They then have to undertake assessments of the need for adoption support services at the request of the adopted child, adoptive parents and their families, as well as birth relatives. The support required is then set out in an Adoption Support Plan and this may include financial support. In Hull the Adoption Team undertake these adoption support services.
5. Support Provided by the Hull Family and Friends Team
Hull Children and Families Service have a dedicated Family and Friends Team whose purpose is to increase placement choice for children by enabling them to be looked after by their family or friends.
The Assessment team complete fostering assessments of family and friends carers of looked after children. When these Connected Person foster carers are approved they are allocated a Family and Friends Social Worker who provides information, advice and guidance on an ongoing basis. The Family and Friends Social Worker provides supervision visits (three monthly) and support visits (monthly) and additional support at times when it is needed. Connected person foster carers have access to the full programme of events and training offered by Hull Fostering and are encouraged to attend. They are also encouraged to attend Family and Friends Support Group and their own children are invited to join the 'Children Who Foster Group'.
Family and Friends Team Social Workers also signpost families to universal and targeted support services within the community. Please see list of resources in Appendix 2: Useful National Organisations and Information for Family and Friends Carers.
In cases where connected person foster carers become Special Guardians or named in a Child Arrangements Order for a looked after child that they have been caring for, they may receive ongoing support, including financial support. The Family and Friends Team may support the family in the transition from connected person foster carers to carers for a child that they have Parental Responsibility for.The child's social worker also undertake viability assessments when potential family and friends carers come forward during court proceedings offering to care for a looked after child.
6. Provision of Financial Support - General Principles
There are three categories of payment, which may be considered. One or more of these may be applicable, depending on the particular circumstances of the case:
- Subsistence crisis (one-off) payments
These should be used to overcome a crisis, following the best assessment that can be achieved in the circumstances;
These are for such items as clothing, furniture, or bedding. The social worker must be satisfied that the carers' financial position justifies the payment through a financial assessment. Assistance may be given subject to conditions, including repayment in certain situations. However, in most situations, it will be inappropriate for the Department to seek to recover money provided under these circumstances;
- Weekly living contribution
It is possible for the local authority to make regular payments where family members or friends care for a child whether or not the child is Looked After. Where regular payments are to be made, to a relative carer for a child who is not Looked After they should be assisted to maximise their Income/Benefit as regular payments may adversely affect an individual's claim to income support. However, where regular payments are made to a relative carer for a Looked After Child, this is a non taxable payment and will not affect the carers' income. It should be remembered that in such cases the relative carer cannot claim any benefit associated with the child.
In all cases where regular financial support is agreed, a written agreement will be drawn up detailing the level and duration of the financial support that is to be provided, and the mechanism for review.
The following criteria will be applied to all such payments:
- The purpose of the payments must be to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- As part of the assessment, a view should be taken as to whether the carers need financial support based on their reasonable requirements in taking on the care of the child;
- There are no other legitimate sources of finance;
- Payments will be paid to the carer, not the parents;
- The payment would not place any person in a fraudulent position.
The local authority works with housing services to ensure that, whenever possible, family and friends carers living in social housing are given appropriate priority to move to more suitable accommodation if this will prevent the need for a child to become looked after.
8. Supporting Contact with Parents
Where the child is not Looked After, we are required to promote contact between the child and his/her family 'where it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard and promote his or her welfare'. As part of the support arrangements, it may be identified that specific assistance is required to ensure that any such contact can be managed safely. If necessary, information will be made available to family and friends carers about local contact services.Where a child is Looked After, we are required to endeavour to promote contact between the child and his or her family 'unless it is not practicable or consistent with the child's welfare'. The overall objective of the contact arrangements will be included in the child's Care Plan and the specific arrangements will be set out in the child's Placement Plan.
9. Family Group Conferences
Family Group Conferences are meetings held between family members and other people who are significant in the family network, which are facilitated by professionals. They promote the involvement of the wider family to achieve a resolution of difficulties for children, and may help to identify short-term and/or permanent solutions for children within the family network.
We will offer a Family Group Conference or other form of family meeting at an early stage. If a child becomes Looked After, perhaps following an emergency, without a Family Group Conference having been held, then (where appropriate) we will arrange one as soon as possible.
Where a family or friends carer is not satisfied with the level of support provided to enable them to care for the child, or they have some other complaint about our services, then they have access to the local authority's complaints procedure. Our aim would be to resolve any such dissatisfaction without the need for a formal investigation but where an informal resolution is not possible, then a complaint investigation will be arranged. See Representation and Complaints Procedure.