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OxfordshireChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Placements in Foster Care

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all planned placements (other than permanent placements) of Looked After children in foster care including placements with Independent Fostering Agencies.

 

Contents

  1. Consultation and Planning
    1. Consultation
    2. Planning
  2. Placements Process - Planned Placements
    1. Definition of Planned Placement
    2. Placement Request
    3. Matching and Approval of Placement
    4. Placement Planning
    5. Notification of Placement
  3. Support, Monitoring and Ending of Placements
    1. Support and Monitoring of Placements
    2. Ending of Placements
    3. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters

 

1. Consultation and Planning

1.1  Consultation

At the point that it is determined that a placement may be required, and throughout the subsequent process of identification, planning and placement, the social worker must consult and take account of the views of the following people:

  • The child;
  • The child’s parents;
  • 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;
  • The child’s school or education authority;
  • The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them.

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.

1.2  Planning

See Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure for procedures relating to the initial decision to look after a child, obtaining the approval of the Placement Matters Meeting to the placement and the drafting and approval of the Care Plan.

NB Placements with permanent/long-term foster carers require additional approvals.

2. Placements Process - Planned Placements

2.1 Definition of Planned Placement

A Planned Placement is the placement of a child in a foster home following an assessment and planning process whereby, at the time of the placement, the necessary approvals have been obtained for the placement and a Care Plan and Placement Plan (recorded on a Placement Information Record) Placement Information Record) are in place.

Where the above has not occurred, the placement is deemed to be an Emergency.

2.2 Placement Request

Where a decision has been made that a child requires a short term foster placement, the child’s social worker should complete Placement Request Referral Form on Frameworki.

The Referral Form contains information about the child, the type of placement sought, 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. 

The referral form must be approved by the appropriate Team Manager.

Where a placement in foster care is agreed, an appropriate in-house resource will be identified wherever possible.

Where there is no suitable available in-house resource, the Agency Budget holder will approve the child’s placement with an Independent Fostering Agency (IFA). All internal resources must have been explored before seeking this agreement. We should only consider using Independent Fostering Agencies with an Ofsted rating of good or above.

For referrals to and placement with the Multi-Dimensional Treatment Foster Care Programme, see the Treatment Foster Care - Oregon (formerly MTFC) Procedure.

2.3 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/language/religion;
  • 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;
  • Work commitments.

Where an in-house resource is identified, the Placement Service Worker will then contact the foster carer, the foster carer’s Supervising Social and the child’s social worker to agree the proposed placement. 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.

In relation to the sharing of bedrooms, each child over 3 should have their own bedroom, or where this is not possible, the placing authority must agree to the sharing of the bedroom and this must therefore be addressed during the matching process.

The placement planning process can start - see Section 2.4, Placement Planning. If the placement is outside the foster carer’s terms of approval or an exemption is required - see Altering the Approval of a Foster Carer and Exemptions Procedure.

If a placement with an independent fostering agency has been authorised by the Placement Service Manager, the Placement Service Worker will consult appropriate providers, identify possible placements and liaise with the social worker about their suitability. This will include a consideration by the Placement Service Worker and the social worker of the prospective carer’s Form F’s. Where the placement is with independent foster carers who live outside the local authority area, see also Out of Area Placements Procedure.

NB In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid placements that disrupt a child’s education,the Nominated Officer 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 Looked After Children Procedure.

The Placement Service Worker will initially approach providers approved through approved frameworks or contracts.

The Placement Service Worker should arrange for a copy of any brochure or written material that is available for the proposed placement to be forwarded to the social worker.

At this stage initial discussions will be held with the providers as to the appropriateness of the referral, time-scales for vacancies and the basic costs of the placement. 

The Placement Service Worker will ascertain the services included in the basic cost, what would be regarded as extra cost and the conditions relating to the notice period, and liaise with the child’s social worker and relevant manager as necessary.

Where the provider is not part of an agreed framework or contract or a provider known and used on a regular basis, the Placement Service Worker will undertake the following:

  • Request a copy of the provider’s registration certificate and the most recent inspection report;
  • Obtain at least 2 verbal references from other local authorities who have placed children with the provider in the last 12 months;
  • Liaise with social workers who have previously used the provider.

Where the proposed placement is with a foster carer living outside the county, the views of the local authority where the foster carer lives must also be sought and taken into account.

Where there is a child already in the proposed foster placement from a different local authority, the consent of that child’s local authority should be sought by the Placement Service Worker.

As long as no concerns have been raised in relation to a proposed external placement, and where time permits, the child’s social worker will arrange to visit the placement and then discuss its suitability with the Placement  Service Worker.

The social worker may then arrange visits to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate).

When the placement has been agreed as suitable, the Placement Service Worker will negotiate the terms and conditions of the placement with the provider. Where the provider is a member of a framework or contract, this will be in line with the standardised contract. All contracts will provide for a review after a minimum of 3 months if costs for additional services are agreed.

The provider’s admissions procedure will then be followed.

2.4 Placement Planning

As part of the placement planning process, the social worker should carry out a Risk Assessment in relation to the risks to the placement, unmet needs of the child and risk of harm to the child and/or the carers.

Before the child is placed, the child’s social worker will liaise with the, foster carer and the foster carer’s supervising social worker (where the placement is with in-house carers) or independent fostering agency to arrange a pre-placement planning meeting. The Placement Service Worker should also be invited to attend where a placement is made with an independent fostering agency.

The child, parents and any other significant family members and relevant professionals should also be invited. 

The purpose of the meeting is to share information about the child and finalise the Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record), consider the Risk Assessment, plan the timing of the placement and ensure that a Placement Information Record is drawn up. The Placement Information Record should address issues raised in the Risk Assessment.

In addition the pre-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/Placement Information Record should cover the following issues in addition to those for all placements set out in the Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure:

  1. The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
  2. 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;
  3. The child’s personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
  4. 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;
    • Education;
    • 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.
  5. 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;
  6. Where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact;
  7. 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; delegated authority;
  8. The Local Authority’s arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
  9. The obligation on the carers to comply with the terms of the foster care agreement.

Following the meeting, 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, within five working days of the placement. 

The Children's Guide and other relevant information will be sent to the child by the Placement Duty Team. If the child is being placed in a placement from an independent fostering agency, the social worker must also ensure that the child is provided with information on using the authority’s Complaints Procedure and access to their records.

In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in.

The social worker will update Framework-i with the placement address and contact details and start the LAC episode. The Placement Duty Team will start the care package.

2.5 Notification of Placement

The child's social worker should confirm with the Placement Service Worker when the child is moving to the placement.

The Placement Service Worker will notify 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 Service Worker will also notify the relevant Children's Social Care Services if the placement is outside of the county within 5 working days.

The social worker must complete a Movement Form on Frameworki for all internal fostering placements to trigger the payments to the foster carer.

The allocated social worker must also notify an already allocated Independent Reviewing Officer or, if it is the first Looked After Placement, the Independent Chairs/Quality Assurance Unit. This notification will trigger, if necessary, the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer, who will contact the social worker to make arrangements for a Looked After Review.

It will be necessary for the social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to them or in the area where they are placed - with in-house foster placements, the foster carer will actually make the necessary arrangements.

In relation to a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to arrange a Health Assessment (see procedures contained in Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure).

The social worker must also complete a Personal Education Plan.

3. Support, Monitoring and Ending of Placements

3.1 Support and Monitoring of Placements

The child’s social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and then at specified intervals; see procedures in Social Worker Visits Procedure.

The Placement Service Manager (will maintain contact with independent fostering agencies in relation to the children placed with them. The child's social worker should inform the Placement Service Manager if they have particular concerns or requests are made by the agency for additional funding. All requests for additional costs have to be agreed by the Designated Manager (External Placements). If specific requests are made for additional funds for clothing or mileage travelled the Placement Service Manager should be contacted to ensure these costs are not included in the standard contract.

Where there are any concerns that the child’s placement may break down, the social worker must consult with the supervising social worker and consider the need to hold a Placement Plan Review as a problem solving meeting where the need for additional resources to support the placement can be considered. Where necessary, a referral should be made to the Residential and Edge of Care (REoC) Service via Frameworki.

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 Reviews Procedure.

3.2 Ending of Placements

The Placement Service Team must be notified when placements are coming to an end by the child's social worker. They will then inform those notified about the start of the placement that it is coming to an end. Please note that if the child is placed with an independent fostering agency, Placement Service are required to give 28 day's notice in writing of the placement ending and must be notified well in advance.

The Placement Service Worker will notify the the Designated Nurse for Looked After Children, the IRO administrator, the Virtual School that the placement is ending. The Placement Service Workerwill 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 will need to end the LAC episode and change the child's address and contact details on Frameworki and Placement Service will end the care package.

The child's social worker must complete a movement form on Frameworki for all internal foster carers so that the fostering allowance ceases on the day the child moves.

All written information on the child, which the foster carer holds, should be transferred to the foster supervising social worker for transfer to the child’s social worker.

Children must, when they leave the home, be helped to understand the reasons and be supported with the transition - including return home and independence.

Foster carers must be supported to maintain links with children who leave their care, where appropriate.

The child’s social worker should also provide an End of Placement Report for the foster carer’s supervising social worker. This will contribute to the foster carer’s next annual review - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

Where a former carer’s records are requested by a new agency, these must be made available within one month of the request.

3.3 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.