Placements in Foster Care
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all placements of children in foster care including placements with independent fostering agencies.
For placements of Looked After children with Connected Persons who are not approved foster carers at the start of the placement, see Placement with Connected Persons Procedure.
See Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure for procedures relating to the initial decision to looked after a child, and the drafting and approval of the Child / Young Person's Plan and other essential documentation.
Children may also be placed in foster care having acquired Looked After status following a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation, see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.
AMENDMENTSection 9, Long Term Foster Placements was reviewed locally and updated in November 2016. A new flowchart has been added which sets out in a visual format the steps required to confirm a Long Term Foster Placement as the plan for permanence.
At the point that it is determined that a placement may be required, and throughout the subsequent process of identification, planning and placement, the child's social worker must consult and take account of the views of the following people:
- The child;
- The child's parent(s) / person(s) with Parental Responsibility;
- Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
- Other members of the child's family who are significant to the child or who have a Contact Order in their favour in relation to the child;
- The child's school or the education service;
- The Youth Justice Service, if the child is known to them;
- Any other relevant person, e.g. nursery, health care professional, Children's Guardian.
The views of these people should be given by them, in writing, or should be recorded by the social worker. If the child's wishes are not acted upon, the reason should be given.
2. Placement Request
Before a child first becomes Looked After, all efforts will be made to ensure that support services have been put in place and all reasonable and timely alternatives explored. A request for a child to become looked after will be considered at the weekly Legal Gateway Panel (see Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure). In case of an emergency request for a child to become Looked After, initial approval may be given by an Assistant Head of Service or via the Emergency Duty Team if out of hours, and the case will be presented to the next available Legal Gateway Panel.
Once the approval of the Legal Gateway Panel for the child to become Looked After has been given, a request for a foster placement; residential placement or agency placement can be made to the Placement and Commissioning Team. For a move from one placement to another the request may be made directly to the Placement and Commissioning Team.
In making this request to the Placement and Commissioning Team, the social worker will be asked to provide information about the child, the objectives of the placement, the type of placement sought, the Care Plan, the date by which the placement is required, the likely length of time for which the placement is required and the expected level of contact between the child and parents. This information should be entered onto the Placement Plan Part 1 and 2 documents by the child's social worker; this document is usually part-completed by the referring Social Worker and is then fully completed in a direct, telephone conversation between the Social Worker and a member of the Placement and Commissioning Team.
It is at this point that the Placement and Commissioning Team will ask the social worker to consider the appropriateness of direct contact being made by a member of the team, the referred child / young person and/or their family members who know the child best.
The Placement and Commissioning Team member will check whether an in-house placement is available that appears to be appropriate to meet the child's needs. If such a placement is available or if there is a possibility of a placement by the required date, the social worker will be advised accordingly.If an appropriate placement is not available then all attempts must be made through careful planning and risk management to seek a suitable interim placement for the child. This should be a time limited placement with regular updates and meetings as appropriate between the carers, the Fostering SW, the Child's SW and the relevant Team Managers to review the continued welfare of the child and any other children in placement, who may be affected. This should continue until such time as the original placement request is realised and matched, appropriate support services are put in place to maintain the child in this placement longer time or an alternative / agency placement as a result of an in-house resource remaining unidentified is agreed and sourced. All requests for an agency placement must be presented to Legal Gateway Panel.
3. Matching and Approval of Placement
The matching process should consider the child's needs especially regarding the following key areas:
- The child's education;
- The expectations around contact with relatives and friends;
- The child's identify / race / culture;
- The child's history;
- The child's behaviour;
- The child's health;
- The focus of the placement.
The matching process should also consider the carer's availability and:
- Their experience;
- Their strengths;
- The family composition;
- The distance from the foster home to the child's school;
- Other children in the placement;
- The foster carer's children.
As part of the matching process the child's Placement Plan information will be shared with the foster carers. Once a potential placement has been identified, the child's social worker will liaise with the foster carer's fostering social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency) to agree arrangements for the placement. At this stage, the social worker will also discuss the child with the prospective foster carer and, in particular, share any risks associated with the placement with the foster carers and the fostering social worker. Wherever possible, the child's social worker should visit potential carers and as required consult with other professionals, prior to a decision about the appropriateness of a placement being made.
If the placement is outside the foster carer's terms of approval or an exemption is required, see Fostering Exemptions and Out of Approvals Notices Procedure.
N.B. In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education, an Group Manager must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency / where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury - see Education of Children Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure.
If the proposed placement is with an independent fostering agency, or residential agency the manager responsible for commissioning will draw up a written agreement with the fostering agency or residential agency setting out the precise terms and conditions between the local authority and the agency in relation to the placement. This forms part of the contract between the local authority and the fostering or residential agency.
If the relevant manager approves the foster placement, the placement planning process can start - see Section 4, Placement Planning.
The social worker may then arrange an introductory visit to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate). It is good practice to facilitate contact between the carers and the parents in most cases and this should only be prevented were there are significant and real risks to the children and adults.
4. Placement Planning
Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will arrange a Placement Planning Meeting after liaising with the foster carer and the foster carer's fostering social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency). The meeting will usually be held in the new placement. See also Placement Planning, Maintenance and Disruption Meetings Procedure.
Participants will include:
- The parent;
- The child (if appropriate);
- The foster carer;
- The fostering social worker;
- Any other relevant professionals, e.g. a representative from the child's school;
- Anyone else considered appropriate or who will have a role in the placement.
The purpose of the first Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan. This will involve a discussion of the child's needs to ensure careful matching, including the child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin as well as health and education needs and how these are to be met. It will also include the arrangements for registering the child with local health professionals (GP, dentist and optician). The content of the planning meeting should focus on agreeing what the foster carer can do for the child without recourse to family members or the social worker Delegated Authority as much as it focuses on sharing information between all parties.
In addition the placement planning meeting will consider the type of introduction process required, for example whether arrangements should be made for the child, parents and the social worker to visit the foster home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. Children should be able to visit the foster home and talk in private with the carer. If this is not possible, arrangements may be made for the carers to visit the child and parents; or for information about the foster carers to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the foster home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child's behaviour within the home.
For children placed in foster care, the Placement Plan should cover the following issues in addition to those for all placements set out in the Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure:
- The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
- Where the authority has, or is notified of, Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the day to day arrangements put in place by the appropriate person (placement provider) to keep the child safe;
- The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
- Where the child is Accommodated:
- The respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents / anyone with Parental Responsibility;
- Any delegation of responsibility by parents / anyone with Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority and/or the foster carer(s) in relation to the following matters (and identifying any of these matters on which the local authority / parents / persons with Parental Responsibility consider that the child may make a decision):
- Medical and dental treatment;
- Leisure and home life;
- Faith and religious observance;
- Use of social media.
- Any other matters upon which the local authority / parents / others with parental responsibility consider appropriate.
- The expected duration of the arrangements and the steps to bring the arrangements to an end, including arrangements for the child to return to live with parents / anyone with Parental Responsibility; where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact;
- The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain in advance the Local Authority's approval for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays;
- The Local Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
- The obligation on the carers to comply with the terms of the foster care agreement;
- And, where there are child protection concerns relating to a child and/or where the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the Placement Plan must include information agreed between the local authority and the Foster Carer about the day-to-day arrangements put in place to keep the child safe. A Missing Persons Action Plan and Risk Assessment should be completed with the child, their parent(s), the carer and the local Police authority.
The meeting also provides an opportunity to ensure that the foster carers have a copy of any relevant court order and that full information is shared with them about the child's needs and any behaviour management issues.
Except in emergency placements, the Placement Planning Meeting should be held before the placement. Where this is not possible, it should be held at the latest within 5 working days of the placement.
The child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan and Placement Plan to the child, parents and foster carers before or at the latest, within 5 working days of the placement.
At the time of the placement, the foster carers should also be given any additional information about details of the child's day to day needs which are not covered by the Placement Plan but are important to ensure that the carers are in the best possible position to help the child settle in the new placement, for example any particular fears at night-time or the child's favourite toys.
The child's social worker must provide the child and the parent with written information about coming into care, including information on using the Complaints Procedure.
When a child first becomes looked after, the Consent to Health Assessments, Medical Treatment and Immunisations form must be signed by parents or those with Parental Responsibility. If the child has become looked after under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, the Parental Consent Section 20 Arrangements must be signed by parents or those with parental responsibility.
In addition as indicated above, the social worker should ensure that any other information about the placement that is available for the child is obtained and given to them. Children must understand house expectations before the placement is made. It is the foster carer's responsibility to go through the safe caring policy with the child in an age appropriate way (see Safe Caring Policy).
The fostering social worker should advise the Out of Hours Services and/or Merlin Bridge Support Services and Marlborough of specific issues that may lead to a placement disruption and of the contingency plan, should placement disruption occur out of office hours.
In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in. Suitable luggage should be used and a child's belongings should never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers.
5. Notification of Placement
The child's social worker will update the child's electronic records with the details of the placement and ensure that notification is sent to the Team coordinator or operational support team member responsible for changing the specific Placement address and loading the Care Package for finance purposes. It is the responsibility of the Fostering Social Worker to complete the gen(4) to start / stop payments to Hull Foster Carers. Agency carers or residential children's homes providers will submit invoices for their services, accordingly.
Notification of the placement will also be sent to the Independent Review Team, the Designated Nurse for LAC, the Virtual School for Looked After Children, the relevant local targeted services (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority) and the child's GP.
The Decision Record for the placement is written by the Placement and Commissioning Team worker. These notifications must be made in writing (on Liquidlogic), advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the person with whom the child is to be placed. Where a placement address is within the boundaries of another local authority, the Placement and Commissioning Team will inform that Local Authority of our intention to place a child within their boundary. Further, if the proposed placement address is NOT within a local authority area that borders Hull City Council, the decision to place a child, MUST be signed off by the Director of Children Services.
The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.
The child's social worker should also notify - preferably in writing but it may be verbally - all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including nursery / school and any health professional or YJS worker actively involved with the child.
It will be necessary for the foster carer or the child's social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to them (which is preferable) or in the area where they are placed.
In relation to a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to liaise with the Designated Nurse for LAC to arrange a Health Assessment. See Health Assessments, Health Plans and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire's Procedure.
The social worker must also contact the relevant school or, where the child does not have a school place, the relevant education officer with a view to the completion of a Personal Education Plan. See Education of Children Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure.
For any new placement, every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are reasons, which would be detrimental to their well being.
The notifications should be before the start of the placement, wherever possible, or within 5 working days.
6. Support and Monitoring of Placements
The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within 1 week of the placement and then, at a minimum, every 6 weeks during the first year, thereafter every 6 weeks (3 months if the placement is intended to last until the child is 18) during the first year, thereafter every 3 months. For children in long-term foster placements visits after the first year should not be less frequent than 6 monthly - see Social Worker Visits Procedure.
The foster carer will also receive support and supervision from their fostering social worker (for in-house placements) - see Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure - and from the independent fostering agency (for external placements).
Where there are concerns in relation to the progress of the placement, consideration should be given to seeking additional resources to assist the carers.
Where there are any changes to the type of placement or to the child's legal status during the placement, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records.
A Looked After Review should be convened where:
- The child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
- The placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm; or
- The child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified.
See also Looked After Children Reviews Procedure.
7. Ending of Placements
When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records and notify the Team Coordinator or operational support staff responsible for updating Events. The social worker will also send copies to those notified when the placement was made. The Fostering Social Worker will end payments to the Foster Carer immediately. Where a child is placed outside of the Hull boundary and leaves placement, the Placement and Commissioning Team will inform that local authority of this event.
All written information on the child, which the foster carer holds, should be transferred to the Fostering social worker for transfer to the child's social worker.
In appropriate cases, the foster carer should be asked to complete an end of placement report.
Feedback from the Child's Social Worker will be sought at the end of each placement in the form of a FP24 form which should be returned to the Independent Fostering Review Officer (IFRO) for discussion with the Foster Carer and to inform the Carer's Fostering Review, held annually.
Where the placement ends in an unplanned way, consideration should be given to holding a Disruption Meeting - see Placement Planning, Maintenance and Disruption Meetings Procedure. In all cases where a placement ends in an unplanned way, it is good practice to arrange a restorative meeting between the child / young person who has left placement and the foster carers.
8. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
A person who is approved as a prospective adopter may be given temporary approval as a local authority foster carer for a named Looked After child, where the local authority consider that this is in the child's best interests.
Before giving such approval, the responsible authority must:
- Assess the suitability of that person to care for the child as a foster carer; and
- Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the responsible authority, the proposed arrangements will safeguard and promote the child's welfare and meet the child's needs as set out in the Care Plan.
The temporary approval period expires when:
- The placement is terminated by the local authority;
- The approval as a prospective adopter is terminated;
- The prospective adopter is approved as a foster carer;
- The prospective adopter gives 28 days' written notice that they no longer wish to be temporarily approved as a foster parent in relation to the child; or
- The child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopter.
9. Long Term Foster Placement
Where it is the case that the most appropriate route to permanence is long-term foster care, the regulations set out the arrangements for making such a placement, including:
- That foster care is the plan for permanence and is recorded in the child's care plan (Reg 5(a));
- That the foster carer has agreed to act as the child's foster carer until the child ceases to be looked after;
- That the responsible authority has confirmed the nature of the arrangement with the foster carer(s), the birth parent and the child; and
- The child and foster carer have a clear understanding of the support services they will receive to promote the placement.
Long-term foster care as a route to permanence should not be as a result of drift. Where it is deemed that long-term fostering is the permanence plan for the child / young person, this must be reflected in the Child's Plan / Pathway Plan. (For more information please see Confirming Permanence Plan of Long Term Foster Placement Flowchart).
Where the decision has been taken that the plan for permanence is long-term foster care and the child is in an existing foster care placement, it may be that the carer and (where appropriate) the child want the existing foster placement to be the long-term foster placement. Such a proposal should be considered in a reasonable timescale taking into account the existing relationship between the child and the foster carer, the length of time in placement, the child's relationships with the foster carer's wider family and community. Consideration should also be given to the progress the child has made in the placement, recorded through the case review process.
There may be circumstances where it is not considered appropriate to assess the ability of the current foster carer as the long-term carer for the child. In these instances, the reasons for this decision should be clearly set out in writing to the foster carer if they have expressed an interest in being the long term carer. This decision should also be communicated to the child where it is appropriate to their age and understanding.
Determining the appropriateness of a long term foster placement should involve a robust assessment and planning process which addresses the ability of the identified long-term foster carer to care for the child both now and in the future. The support and services which will be needed to ensure that the placement is stable, secure and meets the child's needs should be identified taking into account the carer's previous fostering or other childcare experience, family configuration (including placement of other children under fostering arrangements), existing relationship (if any) with the child, knowledge and skills and capacity to care for the child long term under a fostering arrangement. The assessment should be carried out by the child's social worker and fostering social worker, in consultation with the carer; child / young person; parent(s) or others with Parental Responsibility; and Independent Review Officer.
It is imperative that the foster carer fully understands and explicitly agrees to the long term commitment they are making to the child (regulation 22B (2)(f)), in that they intend to act as the child's foster carer until the child ceases to be looked after. A record of the discussion of these matters including the outcome should be made as part of the assessment process.
The Placement Plan should be created / updated to reflect any changes in the frequency of LAC visits, reviews and responsibility held by the foster carer (see Hull Template / Form for Delegating Authority to Foster Carers) under the Permanence Plan.
The decision to place a child in a long-term foster placement with a particular foster carer should be discussed and recorded as part of the review process. If this is ratified at the Child Looked After Review, then the decision should then be recorded in the placement plan and agreed and signed by the foster carer (regulation 9(3)).
In order to recognise the change to permanency there must be a change in approval of the identified Foster Carers. Approval should be sought through Panel or agency decision maker, via the carer's Fostering Social Worker. The Social Worker for the Child is required to update the Child's Plan / Pathway Plan within 10 working days of the decision being ratified and also notify the Permanence Tracking Panel. Following which, the Head of Service will record the decision on the child / young person's record.
Where it is agreed that the child will be placed in a long-term foster placement, this should be communicated clearly to the foster carer, the child's parents or any other person who is not a parent but has parental responsibility and the child. (Reg 2(1)).