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OxfordshireChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval of Approved Prospective Adopters as Foster Carers

RELATED GUIDANCE

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015)

Fostering For Adoption: Practice Guidance (Coram, BAAF)

AMENDMENT

This procedure was significantly amended in November 2017 to reflect local practice and guidance.

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Examples of Situations Where Placements with Dually-Approved or Fostering for Adoption Carers may be appropriate
  3. Concurrent Planning
  4. Fostering for Adoption
  5. Temporary Approval of Approved Prospective Adopters as Foster Carers

1. Introduction

This procedure deals with the placement of a child with carers who are dually approved, i.e. approved both as prospective adopters and as local authority foster carers or with adopters who are temporarily approved as foster carers for a specific child via Regulation 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Review Regulations 2010 (please see section 5: The temporary approval as foster carers of approved prospective adopters). Concurrent planning is an established practice for placing children with dually approved carers. As these placements are foster placements, rather than placements for adoption, they could be made under previously existing legislation, however, the law has developed to make the situation more explicit.

In 2013, the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 were amended to allow approved prospective adopters to be given temporary approval as foster carers for a named child under Regulation 25A. This is known as Fostering for Adoption.

In July 2014, the Children and Families Act 2014 imposed a duty upon local authorities to consider placement with dually approved carers whenever adoption is being considered or where the decision has been made that the child ought to be placed for adoption, but where the agency does not yet have authority to place the child for adoption through either a Placement Order or parental consent.

The advantage of both FfA and Concurrent Planning is that the child will be placed with foster carers who, subject to a Placement Order being made, or parental consent being given, are expected to go on to become the child's adoptive family. The child therefore benefits from an early placement with his/her eventual permanent carers. Delay in finding permanent families for young children who have already experienced neglect early on in their lives may have a profoundly damaging effect on their development. This type of placement has the potential to significantly reduce this delay and before the any damage caused.

These placements are foster placements. The placement will only become an adoptive placement if:

  1. The Agency Decision Maker (ADM) has decided that the child should be placed for adoption; and
  2. A Placement Order has been made;

    or

    Parental consent to the child's adoption is given; and

    The proposed match is recommended by the Adoption Panel and ratified by the Agency Decision Maker.

It is possible that such a placement may not lead to adoption; either because the care plan for the child changes due to rehabilitation to the birth family proving successful, or due to suitable relatives or friends coming forward or the Court not agreeing to make a Placement Order. This may mean that the child returns to parental care or is moved to another permanence arrangement. However, provided that early decision making is appropriate, for the vast majority of children in such placements, adoption will be the final outcome.

Local authorities will need to ensure that prospective adopters who are willing to care for a child under a FfA or Concurrent Planning arrangement are fully aware that the placement may not lead to adoption, and that they have been given appropriate information and training so that they understand their role and legal responsibilities as foster carers. They will also need to receive ongoing supervision, support and training as foster carers once the placement has been made.

2. Examples of Situations Where Placements with Dually-Approved or Fostering for Adoption Carers may be appropriate

  • Where parents have had one or more child/ren previously placed for adoption or in other forms of permanent placement and the evidence strongly suggests that their circumstances have not changed and they pose the same risks as they did to their previous child/ren;
  • Where the local authority does not have a proactive plan to rehabilitate the child as the circumstances of the parents are such to pose a serious on-going risk;
  • Where this is the first child, but the circumstances of the parents and the risks to the child are such that there is no proactive plan to return the child to the birth parents or to other family members;
  • Where the parents have indicated that they may want their child adopted, but have not yet given formal consent.

The local authority should not consider such a placement where the child is Accommodated under section 20 Children Act 1989 and there is a reasonable likelihood that the child will be able to return to his or her birth parents or to be successfully placed with a relative or friend.

3. Concurrent Planning

Concurrent planning is usually used in cases where rehabilitation to the birth family is still being attempted, but it is expected that adoption will become the plan for the child should the rehabilitation not be successful.  It involves placing a Looked After Child at an early stage with approved foster carers who are also approved to adopt.

Children placed in Concurrent Planning arrangements are usually subject to an active rehabilitation plan and it is expected that the carers will be able to actively support that plan. If the rehabilitation plan proves to be unsuccessful, the foster carers will then go on to adopt the child once Care Proceedings are completed and the Placement Order is made.

The foster carers will actively support the child to have  regular supervised contact sessions with his/her parents and other relatives. In addition, the carer may spend time with the parents at both ends of contact sessions to update them on the child's progress. This enables a relationship to develop which is supportive to the parents. The agency will provide focused support via a contact supervisor whose role is to provide advice to  the parents to help them to change their lifestyle and improve their parenting skills with the aim of enabling their child to return home to them. If this is the outcome, the child will have maintained contact with his or her parents and have sustained his or her attachment through regular contact visits. However, given that the foster carers are also approved as adopters,  if the rehabilitation plan is not successful, the child can be placed with the carers for adoption, ensuring a continuity of attachment.

4. Fostering for Adoption

4.1 Duty to Consider Fostering for Adoption Placement

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, where the local authority are considering adoption for a child (see Section 4.2, Considering Adoption for a Child) or are satisfied that the child ought to be placed for adoption but is not yet authorised (either by consent or by Placement Order) to place the child for adoption, the authority must consider placing the child with a local authority foster carer who has also been approved as a prospective adopter.

In such a situation, the requirements on local authorities under Section 22 of the Children Act 1989 to ensure that placements allow the child to:

  • Live near the parents' home;
  • Be placed within the local authority area;
  • Remain at the same school;
  • To be placed together with sibling(s).

(The carers may be dually approved by being fully approved adopters and foster carers for any child, or they might be approved prospective adopters who have been temporarily approved as foster carers for a named child under regulation 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 – see Section 5, Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters.)

Such a placement must be approved by the Agency Decision Maker who must:

  • Be satisfied that:
    • The placement is the most appropriate placement available for the child and will safeguard and promote his/her welfare; and
    • The child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration, and the IRO has been informed; and
  • If their whereabouts are known, notify the child's parent(s)/guardian(s) of the proposed placement.

4.2 Considering Adoption for a Child

Examples of when a local authority may be considering adoption include:

  • Where the local authority is trying to rehabilitate the child with the birth parents, there are no suitable family or friends carers and, given the child's age and care and parenting needs, if rehabilitation does not succeed adoption is likely to be the best placement option for the child;

    Note: Where the local authority has decided at the permanence planning stage that adoption should be the plan for the child, the local authority must be able to demonstrate to the ADM and the Court:
    • Why the child cannot return home;
    • Why the child can not be appropriately placed with relatives or friends;
    • Why no other permanence plan is appropriate for the child;
    • Why adoption is the right plan for the child.
  • Cases where the birth parents have indicated that they are likely to consent to the child being placed for adoption, but have not yet consented;

A Fostering for Adoption placement can also be made after the ADM has made the decision that the child should be placed for adoption, but while the local authority does not yet have authority to place the child for adoption.

Fostering for Adoption placements can be put into effect  immediately after the child's birth and before a formal plan for adoption has been made if there is a clear likelihood that adoption will be the plan for the child, for example where siblings have been adopted and the birth parent's situation has not positively changed.

Situations where a local authority should not be considering adoption include where:

  • The child is likely to return home;
  • The Local Authority is aware that there are relatives or friends who can care for the child;
  • A permanence placement other than adoption is more appropriate for the child.

4.3 Notifications

Where a decision is made to place a child in a Fostering for Adoption placement, the adoption agency must:

  • Notify the prospective adopter in writing;
  • Explain the decision to the child in an appropriate manner, having regard to the child's age and understanding;
  • Explain to the birth parent(s) (including fathers without Parental Responsibility) / guardian(s) the legal implications;
  • Be transparent in the Court arena of about the nature of the placement. The permission of the Court is not required (where Proceedings have been initiated) in order for the local authority to be able to place the child with Fostering for Adoption carer(s), however, within the proceedings the Court should be informed that the child is, or is to be, placed with potential adopter(s) on a Fostering for Adoption basis: this should be included in the social worker's statement.

On those occasions where the child is voluntarily Accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act, the notification should remind the birth parents of their right to remove the child from the local authority's care and should provide advice on access to legal advice and appropriate advisory bodies. At this point, the Local Authority may wish to consider commencing Care Proceedings.

The parent(s) should be informed that the local authority cannot pre-judge the outcome of Care Proceedings and only the court can authorise placement for adoption if the parent(s) do not consent to their child being placed for adoption.

5. Temporary Approval of Approved Prospective Adopters as Foster Carers

Approved prospective adopters can be given temporary approval as foster carers under 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

This temporary approval can be given 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 gives 28 days' written notice that he/she no longer wishes to be temporarily approved as a foster parent in relation to the child and the 28 days have elapsed;
  • The child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopter in accordance with the Adoption and Children Act 2002.