This chapter was added to the manual in November 2017.
- Who Should be Informed?
- What Legislation will Govern Placement of Children Overseas?
- At the Start of the Case
- Deciding Who is Best Placed to Complete the Assessment
There is a strong ethos that children's welfare is best served by long term care from a family member and on occasion this means that assessments overseas are required.
Sometimes requests for assessments can be made very late in the court process.
This guidance sets out the areas that you need to think through and take action on if such a request is made.
2. Who Should be Informed?
If a child with links to a foreign country is involved in care proceedings, the relevant embassy should be informed, unless to do so would place either child or family at risk. For a list of embassies in the UK see GOV.UK, Foreign embassies in the UK.
3. What Legislation will Govern Placement of Children Overseas?
The Hague Convention applies to ratified countries worldwide.
Note that 1996 Hague Convention states that in certain cases permission needs to be sought from the other state before an English court can make an order for placement of the child in that country.
The Brussels IIa Regulation applies to all EU member States
See Practice Guide for the application of the Brussels lla Regulation.
Where the Hague Convention or Brussels II applies the main point of contact is the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit ( ICACU). For cases where neither of these applies, the Embassy is the main point of contact.
Contact for ICACU is by email: ICACU@offsol.gov.uk
4. At the Start of the Case
- Plan- be clear what needs to be covered by the assessment;
- Draw up an estimate of costs for each stage of the process;
- Brief your Area Social Care Manager as to the situation and potential costs;
- Convene a planning meeting with your manager, senior manager, fostering team worker and legal representative;
- Ensure that the relevant embassy is informed; the embassy can also provide information regarding different approaches to child protection policy in their respective country;
- Decide who is best placed to do the assessment.
5. Deciding Who is Best Placed to Complete the Assessment
- CFAB is one of the few agencies set up to complete assessments overseas but their assessments take time, can be of variable quality and may not always focus on the issues that you think are key;
To contact CFAB ring the Advice Line 020 7735 8941 or visit www.cfab.org.uk
- Split assessments can be arranged where a proportion is completed by the UK social worker and a proportion by the local social worker abroad. If you go down this route it is crucial to be really clear about expectations in terms of division of work;
- Assessments completed by the key worker for the child and Fostering Team. This may be preferable if time is short, if the risks are perceived as high or if the case is particularly complex.
Aspects to Consider:
Note that some assessments completed by local social workers may not comply with our expectations.
How do you know if government agencies are adequate?
- Hold discussion with the social workers that are identified to complete the assessment;
- Get a sense of their awareness of cultural pressures;
- Be aware that some government agencies may not support a plan for the removal of a child. E.g. 'Romanian children for Romanian families' pressure group. Many countries disagree in principle with non-consensual adoption.
What are some of the common drawbacks in assessments by other agencies:
- Lack of verification of references;
- It can be difficult for other agencies to assess a child's prospective welfare if they are not aware of the history for the child;
- Assessments can sometimes fail to consider longer term abilities of prospective carers to protect for example from the child's parent.
Recognise that if another agency does the assessment, it is likely that workers from OCC will still need to visit at the point that the child is placed.
- Consider whether these can be conducted over the 'phone'. This may be a sensible course of action if the prospective carers do not wish to travel, if there are time constraints or other issues;
- If you conduct a telephone assessment, you will need to set time for the conversation and be prepared with the areas you need to cover;
- Prospective carers can be invited to travel to the UK. In this case you will need to consider the need for any immigration requirements. Do not automatically offer to pay fares, but this is something you may well be approached to do. If in doubt check with UK Borders agency;
- Note that for EU countries, prospective carers can get their own medical checks using the same format as UK carers, from their GP;
- When prospective carers visit the UK it would normally be in their interest to meet the child. Consider the impact of this on the child and how this can be done with minimal emotional risk to the child. Consider where the meeting will take place and who will be present.
It would be expected that the prospective carers meet with the GAL for the child.
If Local Authority Workers Carry Out the Visit:
- It is expected that two people, the child's social worker and a worker from the Fostering Team attend;
- Check that you are qualified to practice in the country and have a right to work there. Are permits needed? Check with the relevant Embassy for advice on correct visas, travel documents and permissions;
- See CFAB's Factsheet on ''UK Social Workers Practising /Overseas'' at www.cfab.org.uk;
- Check Foreign Office guidance on visiting the country - is it safe to travel there? If it is not safe for you is it safe for the child? There may be political concerns about UK social workers carrying out assessments abroad;
- Complete a risk assessment that should include how you will manage if you are not well received by family members. The assessment should cover actions you will take if you perceive an immediate or longer term risk;
- Do you need any health protection e.g. inoculations;
- Tourist travel insurance may not be enough. You need to consider whether you need insurance that specifically covers work situations;
- Check arrangements for finances. Your admin staff can support you in making flight bookings and setting up foreign currency;
- Check that you have a Smart 'phone and check network coverage for the country of travel. Check that your mobile 'phones are authorised for access in other countries;
- Planning needs to be comprehensive- before you travel set up visits with relevant agencies, family members and referees. Be aware that it may be difficult to access the records that you need;
- Check whether you will need interpreters set up for any interviews/ assessments;
- Avoid travelling with (especially by air) family members;
- Ensure that you have made contact with any other services that will be needed e.g. schools, health and that any appointments are set up before you travel;
- Ensure your Service Manager knows details of your next of kin, has a photocopy of the front and back of your passport and visa pages, driving licence and plane tickets and a copy of your insurance details;
- Consider your own remuneration. You may be working long hours. Discuss this with your team manager before you embark on travel;
- Ensure you are carrying details for who you are working for, name and passport number with you in case of emergency;
- Think through cultural issues e.g. will your presence pose a risk or create stigma to the family and therefore for the child;
- Consider the landscape of local resources, specific cultural dynamics and social norms around communication relating to the country you are visiting.
The European Union:
Check European Communitis (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Reg 29007, Directive 2005/36/EC for info on how to get temporary registration to practice in another European country and who to contact to gain approval to practice there.
On the conclusion of an assessment:
- Case needs to be taken to fostering panel;
- The panel will approve or not;
- If approved the local authority will pay an allowance.
Recognise that the payment to carers may mean a reluctance to seek mirror orders in own country.
Recommendation and granting of an SGO does not ensure a right to financial support.
What happens when an order is made?
Ensure that it is recognised as valid in the country the children are to be resident in. Legal and immigration advice will be required about which orders are available in that country, the child travelling to the receiving country and their immigration status there. It may well be necessary to obtain this from a lawyer in the receiving country who will charge for this. The child also needs to have a passport in good time for travel.
- Ensure that there is agreement and about who will do any future monitoring visits;
- Note that the receiving authority may ask for costs;
- Ensure that arrangements are in place for any future reviews.