SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This guidance covers the provision of an Assessment Placement for Parent(s) and Child(ren). This provision sits within the Fostering Team and incorporates a specialised team known as the Parent Assessment and Support Team (PAST Team). PAST placements can be sought for a range of reasons such as - ordered by the Court; identified within a Pre-Birth assessment; a referral through safeguarding; etc. and run for a standard assessment period of 12 weeks, although this can be extended if required.
This new guidance was added to the procedures in October 2018.
The Placement and Child Placement Policy has been designed and written to ensure that all Placement Assessment and Support Team (PAST) Providers and Parents receive the same information about the placement task they are going to undertake.
The policy provides clear guidance and information for each professional / individual involved and enables effective co-ordination of placements.
The Section 2.2, Pre-Placement Planning Meeting and Placement Agreement (see Placement Planning and Placement Agreement form) are essential tasks to be completed prior to any placement. Failure to do so could result in delaying making a placement or a poor placement outcome.
The PAST team recognises the duty to Placement Providers and parents to ensure the best help and support is provided from the outset. Establishing a clear Placement Agreement (see Placement Planning and Placement Agreement form) clarifies for all parties involved, their roles and responsibilities to the placement.
Although Placement Providers will contribute to the assessment, its completion remains the responsibility of the PAST Assessing social worker.
Parent Assessment and Support Placements are specialised placements which accommodate parent(s) and child(ren). Child(ren) are generally aged from birth to 2 years although consideration can be given to older child(ren).
Dependent on the age and legal status of a parent(s) and the legal status of the child(ren), a placement will fall under the regulations of either a Placement with Parent or a Parent and Child Arrangement. See Appendix 1: Legal Basis for Parent and Child Fostering.
A PAST placement provides a safe and friendly environment which will enable the parent(s) to be supervised and supported with their child(ren). The placement will consolidate existing parenting skills as well as improving these through support, encouragement, role modelling and the teaching of further skills to expand their capabilities.
At the Planning Meeting (see Section 2.3, Planning Meeting below) a clear statement as to the objectives of the placement must be provided, and the Initial Screening Tool (IST) completed by the child(ren's) social worker.
PAST placements are 12 weeks in duration but can be extended to 16 weeks if agreed by the PAST Manager. The decision to extend a placement should be based on an identified need for ongoing parenting work or assessment. In exceptional circumstances placements may continue beyond 16 weeks, this will need the agreement of the Head of Service.
Subject to the recommendations of the PAST assessment it may be necessary to offer short-term transitional outreach support to the family, it is expected that this function would be carried out by the Placement Provider.
All PAST providers offering this specialist service must be fully supported by a designated and experienced PAST Fostering social worker who will offer a minimum of 4 weekly support and supervision. The expectation of the child's social worker will be to undertake a minimum of monthly visits to the placement.
No placement will be agreed until a Police Check on parents has been received and a Risk Assessment completed. Any known or potential risks to a Placement Provider or their family from members of the child's family or others must be assessed. No Placement Provider or member of the placement household should knowingly be placed in a position of risk as a consequence of providing a PAST placement.
Parents will have the opportunity within a nurturing environment to achieve greater independence through guidance from the Placement Provider in relation to housekeeping, cooking and budgeting. The Placement Provider, along with the PAST social worker, will support and provide help / advice in relation to the outcomes and future plans for parent and child, including signposting to other support agencies.
Daily diary notes and observation sheets will be shared by the Placement Provider with the parent to highlight and encourage further discussion. These will also be shared with the PAST Assessing social worker to inform the assessment.
Placement Providers may also offer long term foster placements. Where it is the case that a Placement Provider has a vacancy, any new placement will only be agreed after consulting with the PAST Fostering social worker and any other involved parties.
It would not be appropriate for a Placement Provider to take Fostering Leave during an Assessment Placement period and they will not be granted a period of respite unless this is a result of an emergency situation or it has been pre-arranged prior to the placement and discussed during the Pre-Placement Planning Meeting.
Prior to a placement commencing, the referral process MUST be followed, including a Pre-Placement Planning Meeting and a Planning Meeting.
Referrals may be generated for various reasons, such as a Court Order or by a need identified in a Pre-Birth Assessment, or for existing children via a Social Care Assessment. Irrespective of the avenue that a need for a Parenting Assessment has arisen the referral process remains the same.
When a Child Care social worker has identified a potential family for a PAST Placement, then they must contact the PAST Team to have a discussion about the suitability of the family. If this discussion determines that the family would be suitable for a placement, then the social worker will be advised to either speak to a Head of Service or book a place on the Legal Planning (Gateway) and New Admissions Panel. However, the social worker must be mindful that no official placement offer will be made by the PAST Team until a Police Check has been completed, and any identified risks been assessed.
Prior to attending the LGP the social worker making the referral must provide the PAST Team with:
Following attending the LGP the child's social worker must inform the PAST Team of the Panel decision.
If the Legal Gateway Panel agreed to a placement being made, and the above steps have been followed, the PAST Team will initiate the process of arranging a placement.
The PAST Team will send an Initial Screening Tool and a Risk Assessment to the child's social worker for completion. The Screening Tool and Risk Assessment need to be returned to the PAST Team before the Planning Meeting takes place.
The Pre-Placement Planning Meeting is used as an opportunity for parent(s) to meet with a member of the PAST Team in advance of the Planning Meeting. Although not a formal meeting, the Pre-Placement Planning Meeting is based around the Pre-Planning Meeting Form, which is completed by the PAST worker in conjunction with the parent(s). Often the Placement Provider will also attend this meeting, but if this is not possible then arrangements will be made for introductions to take place prior to the Planning meeting.
By holding this meeting prior to the more formal Planning Meeting parent(s) are given the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the process to which they will be signing up to. A copy of the Placement Timeline will be given to parent(s) and the process for the 12 week placement will be fully explained, along with information on what they can expect from the Placement in terms of supporting their own skills, expectations of them within the placement, and the process of observing them [as parent(s)] and writing reports which may be used as part of the legal process.
All placements are voluntary and parent(s) cannot be forced to take part, even those who need to fulfil a PLO can refuse, although this may have consequences from the Court. If there is doubt about the parent(s) Mental Capacity Procedure to understand the requirement to undergo assessment this needs to be addressed.
The Planning Meeting must be held prior to a placement commencing. Unlike the Pre-Planning Meeting, this is a formal multi-agency meeting to which all professionals involved with the family are invited, including any voluntary agencies.
It will be the Fostering social worker's responsibility to arrange the meeting and distribute invites. In all cases the referring social worker, and if different, the case holding social worker must attend the meeting.
The Planning Meeting will be chaired by a member of the PAST Team, and will be structured around the PAST Placement Agreement. A copy of the Placement Agreement will be distributed to all attendee's following the meeting. The PAST Team will have responsibility for the distribution of the agreement.
The Initial Screening Tool which will already have been completed by the social worker prior to the Planning Meeting will be discussed and will provide a framework for the ongoing assessment within the placement.
At this meeting it will be requested that the social worker makes a referral to a Supported Housing Scheme for the family, and also an application for a Leave of Absence if parent(s) currently have their own rented property.
Before finalising the Planning Meeting a Placement start date must be agreed, and all placement review dates booked.
PAST placements rely on numerous people fulfilling specific roles; an overview of each of these roles is provided below:
Placement Provider will respect and give recognition to the importance of a parent and child's ethnic origin, cultural background, religion, language, gender, sexuality and any disability.
The Placement Provider will be expected to offer guidance and assistance to the parent(s) in managing the care tasks of the child(ren). This may include direct instruction, modelling, responding to questions, practical support such as accompanying the parent to parent / baby groups, health visits, shopping etc. The Placement Provider will be expected to show the parent how any technical appliances work so that they are able to use cooking and cleaning facilities appropriately. If the placement progresses positively it must be expected that the parent demonstrates less reliance on the Placement Provider's support. If at any point it is determined that a child would be at risk under the supervision of their parent(s), the Placement Provider should intervene.
The Placement Provider will be expected to keep daily recordings and observation sheets, detailing the parent's ability to respond to their child's needs and routines, along with the practical tasks of washing, ironing, shopping, budgeting etc. The Placement Provider will be open and honest about the parent's strengths and difficulties when recording their observations; these must be available to be viewed by parent(s).
Placement Providers should ensure that medical advice or treatment is sought if a child becomes ill or sustains an injury whilst in placement, this should be carried out by the Placement Provider should the parent(s) be unwilling or unable to do so. Incidents should be recorded in the daily recording and reported to both the child's social worker and the PAST team.
During the first 3 weeks of the placement, Placement Providers will be expected to transport parents and child(ren) to appointments if required. It is anticipated, that should the placement be in a remote location that assistance will be given beyond the 3 weeks to enable access to public transport.
Placement Providers will care for the child(ren) if parent(s) are required to attend appointments that are not suitable for the child to attend, such as counselling sessions, drug testing, etc. In addition to this Placement Providers may provide 'child minding', providing that this does not exceed more than once a week and there is no conflict in the stipulations of the 'Placement Plan'. Whilst some assessment sessions are taking place between the parent(s) and Assessing social worker; Placement Providers may be requested to undertake care for the child to ensure that sessions are purposeful and without interruption for the parent.
The Placement Provider will provide a fully furnished bedroom, including a cot (if parent(s) are not providing this themselves), bed linen and towels.
For the first week of placement, Placement Providers are expected to supply basic toiletries and 3 meals per day, to enable parent(s) and child(ren) to settle in. In week 2 of the placement it will be expected that Placement Providers will assist parent(s) to do their shopping, and by week 3 parent(s) should be completing their own shopping with assistance provided by Placement Provider in the areas of meal planning and budgeting.
Placement Providers will liaise with any professional involved in the case, if required and will attend and be prepared to contribute to any meetings that are in relation to the placement, such as: reviews, Core Groups, Child Protection Conferences, etc. Placement Providers will not share any details of the parent(s) circumstance or history with anyone other than professionals involved in their case.
Should the placement be terminated by the local authority due to a serious breach of the Agreement, including a parent leaving the placement or the wellbeing of the child being compromised, then it is expected that the child will remain in the placement until an alternative Foster Placement is identified, it is unlikely that this will exceed 7 days.Placement Providers are involved in the decision making process for the parent and child and potentially required to give evidence within a court arena. If a child cannot remain in their parents care due to a negative assessment outcome, the Placement Provider or their extended family will not be considered as a long term care option for the child.
Parent(s) are expected to fully engage in the placement provision and adhere to their individual Placement Agreement.
Parent(s) must not disclose their placement address to family and friends.
Parent(s) are expected to care for their baby / child at all times, and must be aware that this will be observed throughout the placement term, dependent on the individual Placement Agreement this in most cases will be supervised by the Placement Provider in the first few weeks of placement.
Parent(s) will be expected to manage the day / bedtime routine, which fits in with the Placement Provider's household. When the parent(s) is settling the child for their bedtime routine, it is their responsibility to check on the child throughout the evening until they retire to bed, and then throughout the night.
Parent(s) will be expected to shop / budget / cook for themselves and their baby / child. However, in order to assist the transition in to the placement, Placement Providers will supply basic toiletries and 3 meals per day for the first week of placement.
Parent(s) must ensure that their weekly Placement Cost Contribution is paid. This must not fall in to arrears by more than 2 weeks. Any arrears will be discussed at the next upcoming review.
Parent(s) will be responsible for keeping their room clean and tidy. Any personal belongings and clothing should be kept in their room, unless in use. Parent(s) will also have due regard to the tidiness of any communal areas (living room / kitchen / bathroom), making sure that they are left as they were found.
To ensure safety parent(s) need to allow their room to be observed on an ad-hoc basis. This can be without notice and will be undertaken by either the Placement Provider or a professional involved in the placement.
Parent(s) must make sure that they give advance warning to the Placement Provider if they have to attend an appointment which is not suitable to take their child such as counselling sessions, drug testing, etc. Parent(s) must return to their caring role as soon as their appointment is over.
If agreed in the Placement Plan, parents can request that the Placement Provider provides child care. This cannot be more than once per week and the request must be made at least 24 hours prior to the need.
Parent(s) are not allowed to smoke in Placement Provider's home. Parent(s) must be mindful that if the go outside the home to smoke that their child(ren) are supervised. If parent(s) bring alcohol in to the home, the Placement Provider must be made aware of this.
It is recognised that a parent may come in to placement on a treatment programme (ie methadone) and this is acceptable and supported as long as the programme is adhered to. Parent(s) must be aware that the use of non-prescribed drugs will not be permitted whilst in placement; this includes bringing any illegal substances in to the home. Any breach to this condition could result in termination of the placement.
Parents will contribute to the wellbeing of everyone in the Placement Provider's home and in public by demonstrating non-aggressive / non-threatening behaviour.
The PAST Team is overseen by a team manager. The Team Manager has over-riding responsibility and decision making capacity in relation to the running of the service.
This includes supervision of PAST Fostering social worker, Assessing social worker and PAST Support Worker, including individual, group and reflective supervision.
The Fostering social worker (FSW) holds responsibility for the following:
The PAST Assessing social worker is responsible for completing an assessment of the placement. This is comprehensive assessment which should include recommendations for a move-on plan. The assessment will utilise the Parenting Assessment Manual Software (PAMS). Areas covered in PAM are:
In association with carrying out the assessment the Assessing social worker will:
The PAST Support Worker has responsibility for contributing to the smooth running of the service, assisting the PAST Assessing social worker and Fostering social worker as required. The Past Support Worker contributes to the service in the following ways:
All children in a PAST placement will have a social worker. The social worker has a role to play from the outset of making a placement request, this role includes:
Only valid for 48hrs