SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
N.B. Where any placement of a Looked After Child with a Connected Person is proposed for a continuous period of sixteen weeks or more, in addition to the assessment and checks set out in Section 1, Assessment and Checks before Placement, the Connected Person will have to be assessed as a foster carer and the child's social worker should start this process as soon as practicable after the placement is made by making a referral to the Fostering Service - see Section 5, Assessment of Relatives/Friends as Foster Carers.
In November 2017, Section 1, Assessment and Checks before Placement was updated to include matters that should be considered when placing a child with a Connected Person should include an initial risk assessment of any pets, together with the environment in which the pet is kept.
- Assessment and Checks before Placement
- Relevant Plans
- Approval of Placements
- Notification of Placements
- Assessment of Connected Persons as Foster Carers
- Support and Monitoring of Placement
- Ending of Placements
1. Assessment and Checks before Placement
A Connected Person is defined as “A relative, friend or other person connected with a child. The latter is someone who would not fit the term 'relative or friend', but who has a pre-existing relationship with the child. It could be someone who knows the child in a more professional capacity such as (for example) a child-minder, a teacher or a youth worker.”
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."
Before any placement with a Connected Person is made, the child's social worker must assess its suitability including the level of support likely to be required and the effect of the proposed placement upon the child's contact with parents, siblings and other relatives and friends who are significant to the child.
Matters to be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a Connected Person to care for the child are:
- The nature and quality of any existing relationship with the child;
- Their capacity to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child (or children) concerned, to provide for his/her physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care; to protect the child adequately from harm or danger including from any person who presents a risk of harm to the child; to ensure that the accommodation and home environment is suitable including where relevant an initial risk assessment of any pets, together with the environment in which the pet is kept; in relation to the child's age and developmental stage, to promote his/her learning and development; to provide a stable family environment which will promote secure attachments for the child, including promoting positive contact with parents and other connected persons, unless this is not consistent with the child's welfare;
- State of health (physical, emotional and mental), and medical history including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
- Family relationships and the composition of the household, including particulars of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of any relationship with the connected person and each other including any sexual relationship; any relationship with the parents; any relationship between the child and other members of the household; other adults (not members of the household) likely to have regular contact with the child; any current or previous domestic violence between members of the household, including the connected person;
- Their family history, including their childhood and upbringing, and the strengths and difficulties of their parents or others who cared for them; their relationship with parents and siblings and each other; educational achievement and any learning difficulty/disability; chronology of significant life events; particulars of other relatives and their relationships with the child and the connected person;
- Any criminal offences;
- Past and present employment and other sources of income;
- Nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and the Connected Person.
The child's wishes and feelings (subject to age and understanding) must be ascertained and recorded and wherever possible, an opportunity must be provided for the child to visit the home before the decision.
The views of parents / those with Parental Responsibility must also be obtained.
In making such an assessment of suitability:
- The proposed carer must be interviewed by the child's social worker to ascertain how well he or she knows the child and clarify the nature of the care and commitment he or she can offer;
- The accommodation must be inspected by the child's social worker;
- Information must be obtained about other persons in the household and they must be asked to sign a Declaration of Suitability (Standard Form available);
- The proposed carer and all members of the household aged 18 and above must be checked with the Police Family Protection Team (by telephone), the family's GP and Children, Young People and Families records.
The social worker must ask the proposed carers to sign written consent for statutory checks to be undertaken and to complete applications for DBS checks; the social worker should then arrange for them to be sent as soon as practicable for checks to be made.
In addition, prior to the placement, a written agreement must be completed by the child's social worker for signature by the carer confirming their commitment to meet their duties in relation to the placement, as set out in the Placement Plan.
The placement may only continue after sixteen weeks if the relative or friend is approved as a Foster Carer - see Section 5, Assessment of Connected Persons as Foster Carers.
2. Relevant Plans
The child's placement with a relative or friend must be part of the Care Plan, which should be drawn up before the placement begins or, in exceptional circumstances, within a maximum of ten working days of the placement starting.
For the required documentation, see Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure.
3. Approval of Placements
Prior to any placement with a non-approved relative or friend, the child's social worker must obtain approval for the immediate placement and the proposed financial arrangements to support the placement through the Nominated Officer.
This temporary approval can be extended for a further period of up to 8 weeks (if it is likely to expire before the assessment is completed) or until the outcome of the Independent Review (if the outcome of the assessment is that the Connected Person is not approved and seeks a review of the decision - see Assessment and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure.
Before deciding whether to extend the approval, the Local Authority must consider if the placement is still the most appropriate placement available, and it must be considered by the Fostering Panel before the above approval is given.
4. Notification of Placements
In order to ensure the appropriate arrangements to pay carers are in place, the child's social worker must complete a Movement Form on FWi within one working day.
In addition, the child's social worker must provide the necessary information to the team administrator so that Framework-i can be updated. The placement address, contact details should be recorded and looked after episode should be started.
As soon as Placement Duty receive notification of the placement they will inform the Designated Nurse for Looked After Children, the IRO administrator, the Virtual School and others involved in the decision making process of the placement. The Placement Duty officer will also notify the relevant Children's Social Care Services if the placement is outside of the county within 5 working days.
If the child was not previously Looked After, the child's social worker will send a notification of the child's placement and a request for the child's first Looked After Review to the Independent Review Unit.
A placement could also be following a court remanding a child to local authority accommodation - see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.
If the child was already looked after, the social worker will send notification of the placement to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.
The social worker must also ensure that the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician; and that a Health Assessment takes place - see Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure.
5. Assessment of Connected Persons as Foster Carers
If the plan is for the placement to last longer than 16 (sixteen) weeks, the child's social worker must immediately refer the case to the Fostering Team for the assessment of the Connected Person as carer to commence. The case will be allocated to a supervising Social worker in the Fostering Team to carry out the assessment. The referral should be accompanied by the social worker's report on the assessments and checks which have already taken place in accordance with Section 1, Assessment and Checks before Placement, together with confirmation of the Nominated Officer approval to the placement.The supervising social worker will carry out the full assessment for presentation to the Fostering Panel.
Having regard to the existing relationship between the child and the carers, the requirement for the carers to attend Preparation Groups prior to their approval may be waived.
The assessment will usually be at Level Two, following Schedule 3 of the Fostering Regulations, as described in the Assessment and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure.
In relation to proposed permanent foster carers, however, the assessment will proceed as a Level 3 Assessment and therefore on the basis of BAAF Form F.
During the assessment the relationship between the Connected Personas carers and the child's parents should be explored. The assessing social worker should read the child's file and discuss the case with the child's social worker. The assessment report in all cases must be accompanied by a report on the progress of the child in the placement.
The procedure for approving the assessment via the Fostering Panel is the same as the procedure for the approval of all local authority approved foster carers and is described in the Assessment and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure.
The foster carers, once approved, will be asked to sign a Foster Carer Agreement.
The procedures relating to the review and support of the foster carers will be the same as for any approved foster carer - see Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure and Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
6. Support and Monitoring of Placement
The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement at least once each week until the first Looked After Review and thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks during the period of temporary approval.
Thereafter visits should be at intervals of no more than 6 weeks during the first year of the placement. In the second and subsequent years, social work visits must be at intervals of not more than 6 weeks (3 months if the placement is intended to last until the child is 18).
Wherever possible, the child must be seen with the carer and alone. If this is not possible, a further visit must be made at short notice in order that the child can be seen alone and observed with the carer.
The social worker must ensure that Placement Plan Reviews are conducted as set out in the Placement Plan Reviews Procedure.
A supervising social worker will also be allocated to provide support and supervision to the kinship foster carer - see Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure.
7. Ending of Placements
The child's social worker will inform Placement Duty if the placement ends and the Duty Placement Officer will notify the Designated Nurse for Looked After Children, the IRO administrator an, the Virtual School. The Placement Duty officer will also notify the relevant Children's Social Care Services if the placement is outside of the county within 5 working days.
The child's social worker must also ensure that the address and contact details are amended and the looked after episode is ended. The Placement Duty Officer will end the care package. Where applicable, a Disruption Meeting will be held - see Disruption Meetings (Foster and Residential Care) Procedure.