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3.3 Family and Friends Care Policy

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter sets out a range of family arrangements and placements to achieve both temporary support and permanency for all children if required. The chapter seeks to identify the status and range of supports in respect of these placements and highlights key processes and legislative links. All practitioners should be familiar with the range of options and clear as to the status for each child at any particular time.

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Recognising and Assessing Private Fostering Arrangements Procedure

Permanence for Children Procedure

Placements with Connected Persons Procedure

Assessments and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure

Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters Procedure

Special Guardianship Orders Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was substantially amended in March 2015 to bring the chapter up-date with regard to permanency planning and other changes, both national and local.


Contents

  1. Values and Principles
  2. Legal Framework
  3. Services and Support
  4. Financial Support
  5. Supporting Contact
  6. Family Group Conferences
  7. Family and Friends Foster Carers
  8. Permanence
  9. Complaints


1. Values and Principles

The following values and principles underpin our policy for family and friends care:

  • Children are enabled to live within their families unless this is not consistent with their welfare;
  • Support provided to children placed with family and friends carers should be based on and tailored to the needs of the child, rather than their legal status;
  • Support should be provided to family and friends carers to ensure that children do not become, or remain longer than is needed in the care of the Local Authority;
  • Permanence should be sought for all children to facilitate emotional, physical and legal security and also to give a child continuity, commitment and identity;
  • Children's wishes and feelings should be taken into account fully in all processes including assessments, planning and decisions.


2. Legal Framework

2.1

Family and friends carers are identified as 'Connected Persons' Section 105, Children's Act 1989 as amended by Section 75 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. This defines relatives and friends or other people connected with the child where there is a pre-existing relationship.

Relative means grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt by full blood, half blood or by marriage or civil partnership (or step parent).

2.2

Informal family care of the child by a relative

The child is not a Looked After Child.

Parental Responsibility remains with birth parents but the relative who care s for the child may do what is reasonable to safeguard or promote the child's welfare. There is no entitlement to support services, but the Local Authority can assess the child to identify need and provide services and support based on assessed need under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.

2.3

Care of a child by a person(s) who is not a close relative: Private fostering

This is a private arrangement where the child is being cared for a period of 28 days or longer by a person(s) who is not a close relative. The child is not a looked after child.

The carer arrangements are assessed by the Local Authority and monitored.

The relevant legislation is set out in Part 9 and Schedule 8 of the Children's Act 1989. This was further strengthened by measures in Section 44, The Children Act 2004.

Parental Responsibility remains with the birth parents.

See Parents and Carers Guide to Private Fostering and Recognising and Assessing Private Fostering Arrangements Procedure.

2.4

Family and Friends foster carers

The child must be a Looked After Child, this would normally be an Interim Care Order or a Care Order following Care Proceedings. In exceptional circumstances the child may be accommodated voluntarily under Section 20, Children's Act 1989.

The family and friends foster carers must be approved in accordance with Fostering Services Regulations. When an 'emergency placement' is made the carers must be approved under Regulation 24 and assessed via Schedule 4 of the Care Planning Regulations 2010.

The Local Authority have Parental Responsibility when the child is subject to an Interim Care Order or a Care Order.

2.5

Child Arrangements Orders - Section 8 of The Children Act 1989

These orders decide who the child is to live with and/or who the child will spend time with, and can be granted to more than one person whether they live together or not. If a Child Arrangements Order states that the child will live with a person, that person will have Parental Responsibility for that child until the Order ceases. Contact with a child can either be direct e.g. fact to face meetings, or indirect e.g. by letter or exchange of cards.

Some Orders will make very specific arrangements for the child, other Orders will be more open with detailed arrangements to be made between the parties by agreement. Child Arrangements Orders are not only made in respect of parents; there can also be Orders for arrangements between siblings and wider family members. Sometimes the Order will give directions that contact is to be supervised by a third person, or that contact is to take place in a specific location.

Failure to comply with an order may result in the court making further Orders specifying activities for a party to undertake or the court making other enforcement orders which can include an order for unpaid work.

2.6

Parental Responsibility - Sections 3 and 4 of The Children Act 1989

Parental Responsibility means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority, which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.

The birth mother of a child will always have Parental Responsibility unless it is extinguished by the making of an Adoption Order to another person.

Where the child's father and mother are married to each other at the time of the birth, they both have Parental Responsibility for the child.

Where the child's mother and father are not married to each other at the time of the birth the general rule is that the mother has sole Parental Responsibility for the child. However, an unmarried father will have Parental Responsibility for a child born after 1st December 2003 if he is named on the Birth Certificate/Register.

Other ways in which a father can obtain Parental Responsibility are by:

  1. Drawing up an agreement with the mother (a Parental Responsibility Agreement), which is a specific form that has to be signed by both parents;
  2. Marrying the mother;
  3. The court making a Child Arrangements Order for Parental Responsibility if the parents cannot agree on the father having Parental Responsibility.

Other people may acquire Parental Responsibility by entering into an agreement if they are the husband or civil partner of the mother, or if they obtain a child Arrangements Order for residence.

More than one person can have Parental Responsibility for the same child at the same time. Parental Responsibility is shared between everyone, but where more than one person has Parental Responsibility for a child each of them may act alone in meeting that responsibility except in circumstances where the consent of everyone with Parental Responsibility is required.

2.7

Special Guardianship Orders

Special Guardianship gives the carer clear responsibility for all aspects of caring for the child and taking decisions to do with their upbringing.

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 provides the legal framework for Special Guardianship under the Children's Act 1989. (See Section 115, Adoption and Children Act).

The Special Guardianship Regulations 2005 were implemented in December 2005.

This legislation is supported by the Special Guardianship Guidance produced by the Department of Education and Skills.

Parental Responsibility is shared with the parents, although the Special Guardian only has to consult with them about decisions to do with the child's upbringing in exceptional circumstances.

(See also Special Guardianship Orders Procedure).

2.8

Adoption

An approved foster carer can apply for an Adoption Order after a year of caring for the child. (See Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters, Fast Track Procedure for Approved Foster Carers).

Other informal carers could apply for an Adoption Order if the child has lived with them for a period of three years.

Adoption gives the carers full legal and Parental Responsibility for a child, a commitment for life.

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 Regulations outlines the legal framework for adoption.

(See Assessment and Approval of Prospective Adopters Procedure and Adoption Support Procedure).


3. Services and Support

Family and friends carers should be able to access full information about services and support which will assist them in their caring role, particularly when they have taken on the care of a child in an emergency.

They may be less aware of local services and children and young people than others who are bringing up children, particularly if they have not had children or are of a different generation to most parents.

In Bolton these services can be accessed through the Family Information Service via local libraries.


4. Financial Support

4.1

Parents retain their responsibility to provide for the maintenance of their children placed with informal family and friends carers and should agree with the carers the financial support they will provide for the child.

4.2 However, it is recognised the carers may experience financial difficulties as a result of raking on the care of a child or children, particularly in an emergency. Also if the child's parents are on benefits or unwilling to provide financial support, the carers can apply for benefits.
4.3

Carers will need to be aware of their entitlement to any state benefits and allowances, such as Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit and also whether they are able to apply for any discretionary financial support.

Bolton residents have access to a free Welfare Rights service provided by the council. This service is based in the Town Hall in Victoria Square, Bolton, telephone no: 01204 333820 and is open between 8.30 - 17.30 Monday to Friday.

For an overview of benefits see the headings Money and Tax, and Benefits at www.gov.uk.

Additionally, advice can be provided by the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

Free and confidential legal advice is available for people who are eligible for legal aid from Civil Legal Advice (CLA) or by telephoning 0845 345 4345.

4.4

Children in Need and Section 17, Children Act 1989

This imposes a general duty on the Local Authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need. Also in so far as is consistent with that duty to promote the upbringing of such children by their families, in particular by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs. These are generally referred to as family support services.

In undertaking an assessment to see whether a child is in need of support services under Section 17, social workers must ensure firstly that families are accessing the full range of support services and benefits they are entitled to.

Section 17 provides that family support services via the local authority may include giving assistance in kind and may include giving financial assistance.

Section 17 has been amended by the 2008 Children and Young Person Act in order to remove the restriction on the Local Authority to provide financial assistance only "in exceptional circumstances".

A local authority may now provide financial support on a regular basis under Section 17.

In undertaking an assessment of the need for financial support full details need to be taken of the family's income and outgoings. As mentioned earlier, access to benefits the family are entitled to must be ensured.

Financial support can usually be provided in one off payments for essential equipment for the family or immediate assistance whilst the family wait for benefits to be secured. In such circumstances the family should be required to repay this funding when the benefits have come through and been backdated.

Regular financial payments can be considered in circumstances where it is felt necessary to prevent a child becoming Looked After.

Regular financial payments should only be made in relation to specific, defined, ongoing need, after a full assessment. The payments can be tailored to fit each individual situation. There should always be a defined time limit for the need for the payments and regular reviews. It is important that the need for this provision is fully considered so that access to financial support is never a reason for a child becoming Looked After.


5. Supporting Contact

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

For children who are not living with their parents, contact with them and their immediate family is generally a positive experience, and also helps them to maintain a sense of identity and belonging.

However, managing contact can be a source of conflict and anxiety for some family and friends carers. It can place emotional and practical strains on families.

Families should be referred to family mediation services so that the issues creating contact difficulties can be worked through and resolved.

When there are safeguarding concerns there may be a need for involvement of Children's Social Care to ensure the contact arrangements are safe.


6. Family Group Conferences

When difficulties arise the families may need support to help them identify resources available to them with a potential to enable children to remain within the extended family.

Family Group Conferences are an effective way of engaging the support of either family or friends at an early stage when there are concerns about a child who may not be able to live with their parents.

A Family Group Conference should be considered at an early stage. The requirements of the Public Law Outline (PLO) state that a family group conference must be considered prior to the initiation of Care Proceedings.

If a child becomes looked after following an emergency or crisis without a family group conference this should be considered as soon as possible.

In Bolton, family group conferences are provided through Barnardos and referrals are taken through the family support centres.


7. Family and Friends Foster Carers

The Fostering Services Statement of Purpose Procedure sets out the aims and objectives of the Fostering Service and this is applicable to family and friends foster carers. It also sets out in detail the composition of the Fostering Service and the range of services including financial support that are available to foster carers including family and friends foster carers.

There is a tailored specific workbook, Training, support and development standards for family and friends foster carers. All approved family and friends foster carers will be required to undertake this training.

Within the wider Fostering Service there is a small specialist team specifically for family and friends foster carers, this comprises of a full time Team Manager and the equivalent of 5.5 Social Worker posts, full time. This team has expanded in recognition of needs of family and friends foster carers and the new Regulations, Minimum Standards and Guidance.

Looked After Children Living with Connected People Procedure outlines in detail the arrangements for assessment, approval and ongoing support of family and friends foster carers.


8. Permanence

Please refer to Permanence for Children Procedure and Fostering for Adoption/Concurrency Procedure.

It is the policy of the department to promote the best form of permanence for all children, whether this be with their own family or through Adoption, Special Guardianship, Child Arrangements Orders or long term fostering.

In principle it is believed that children develop and reach maximum outcomes better when they have the optimum, most secure and appropriate permanent family relationship.

Children's Services staff are available to offer advice on how to achieve the best form of permanence for a child, or to signpost a carer to where this can be provided.


9. Complaints

The Fostering Services Statement of Purpose Procedure referred to earlier provides detailed guidance on how family and friends foster carers can complain if they are unhappy with the service.

See Managing Children's and Adults Social Care Complaints Policy for details of how carers can make a complaint. Children's and Adult social care complaints follow a multi-stage process which ensures formal complaints are investigated thoroughly and complainants have a right to an appeal.

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