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6.1.9 Looked After Children Living with Connected People

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Fostering Services Statement of Purpose

Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure

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

National Minimum Standards: Fostering Services 2011

AMENDMENT

This chapter was significantly updated in September 2014 to include updated material in Section 10, Assessment Process in respect of the two stage assessment and approval of foster carers, a new section on Family/Friends Carers Who Want to Become Mainstream Carers, together with new appendices and updated legislative links.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Definition
  3. Placements and Assessments
  4. Suitability of Applicants
  5. Termination of Approval
  6. Support
  7. Contact
  8. Plans to place Children Long Term with Family/Friends Connected Person
  9. Suitability (Viability) Assessments for Planned Placements
  10. Assessment Process
  11. Timescales Re Presentation to Fostering Panel
  12. Carers Agreement
  13. Support to Family/Friend (Connected) Carers
  14. Maintenance Allowances, Equipment etc
  15. Family/Friends Carers Records/Files
  16. Family/Friends Carers Who Want to Become Mainstream Carers

    Appendix 1: Assessment Process Flow Chart

    Appendix 2: Referral Form, requesting a Family and Friend’s Carers Assessment (Connected Person)

    Appendix 3: Assessment Report Regulation 24 Relative or Friend of a Child or Connected Person as temporary approved foster carer, pending full approval of a Named Child

    Appendix 4: Family and Friends Care Agreement

    Appendix 5: Viability (Suitability) Assessment Report for a Relative or friend of a child or Connected Person as an approved foster carer, for a named child

    Appendix 6: Family and Friends Assessment (Form C)

    Appendix 7: Child(ren)'s Needs (Information) (over 10s child profile)

    Appendix 8: Post Approval Case Management Flowchart


1. Introduction

1.1 The purpose of this document is to describe the Department's process of assessing; supporting and reviewing family/friends carers of Looked After Children (LAC).
1.2 The importance of family preservation and maintaining a child's identity mean that potential placements within family and friends require full consideration, when the child's own parents cannot provide care.


2. Definition

2.1 Who is defined as a family or friend or Connected Person? A connected person means a relative (Section 105 Children Act 1989, as amended by Section 75 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004), friend or other person connected with the Child Looked After where there is a pre-existing relationship.
2.2 Local Authorities differ regarding their definitions of family & friends care, kinship care and connected care. For the purpose of this procedure, we will be using the term 'Family and Friends care', which includes care by both family and friends.
2.3 Family and friends carers are relatives within the Children Act 1989, Section 105 definition, i.e. 'someone who is a grandparent, brother or sister, aunt, or uncle, whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership or a step parent. A step parent is someone who is, or who has been, 'party to a marriage in relation to which the child is a child in the family'.
2.4 This policy assumes (but does not depend on) the fact that the majority of family and friends carers have a previous, or on-going, significant relationship with a child for whom they are offering to care and whose needs they can meet, in circumstances where it has been assessed the child cannot live, either temporarily or permanently with his/her birth parent/s, or return to live with his/her birth parent/s. Where there is no pre-existing significant relationship, the assessments will address this.


3. Placements and Assessments

The Temporary Approval of a Family, Friend, or Connected Person (Emergency Placements).

3.1

Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement, and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 (Previously Regulation 38) states that:

’Where the responsible authority is satisfied that the most appropriate placement for (the) child is with a connected person.....and it is necessary for (the) child to be placed with the connected person before the connected person’s suitability to be a local authority foster parent has been assessed in accordance with the 2002 Regulations, they may approve that person as a local authority foster parent for a temporary period...not exceeding 16 weeks....provided that they comply with the requirements of paragraph 2 (of Regulation24).

Before making a placement under Paragraph 1 (as above) the responsible authority must (a) assess the suitability of the connected person to care for (the) child, including the suitability of(i) the proposed accommodation, and (ii) all other persons aged 18 and over who are members of the household in which it is proposed (the) child will live, taking into account all matters set out in Schedule 4’.

Temporary Approval Process

3.2 The manager of the Family and Friends Team (Family Placement) should be made aware of a prospective placement as soon as possible and will allocate a social worker from the team. Joint working at an early stage to jointly assess any prospective emergency placement complies with the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011. See Appendix 3: Assessment Report Regulation 24 Relative or Friend of a Child or Connected Person as temporary approved foster carer, pending full approval of a Named Child
3.3

Following discussions between the child's social worker and the Team Manager regarding the appropriateness of placement, the child’s social worker /assessing social worker should proceed as outlined in Appendix 1: Assessment Process Flow Chart. Matters to be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a connected person line with schedule 4:

  1. The nature and quality of any existing relationship with the child;
  2. Their capacity to care for children and in particular in relation to the child to:
    1. Provide for the child's physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care;
    2. Protect the child adequately from harm or danger including from any person who presents a risk of harm to the child;
    3. Ensure that the accommodation and home environment is suitable with regard to the age and developmental stage of the child;
    4. Promote the child's learning and development; and
    5. Provide a stable family environment which will promote secure attachments for the child, including promoting positive contact with parents and other connected persons, unless to do this is not consistent with the duty to safeguard and promote the child's welfare.
  3. Their state of health including their physical, emotional and mental health and medical history including any current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
  4. Their family relationships and the composition of their household, including particulars of:
    1. The identity of all other members of the household, including their age and the nature of their relationship with the Connected Person and with each other, including any sexual relationship;
    2. Any relationship with any person who is a parent of the child;
    3. Any relationship between the child and other members of the household;
    4. Other adults not being members of the household who are likely to have regular contact with the child; and
    5. Any current or previous domestic violence between members of the household, including the connected person.
  5. Their family history, including:
    1. Particulars of their childhood and upbringing including the strengths and difficulties of their parents or other persons who cared for them;
    2. Their relationships with their parents and siblings, and their relationships with each other;
    3. Their educational achievement and any specific learning difficulty or disability, a chronology of significant life events; and
    4. A chronology of significant life events; and
    5. Particulars of other relatives and their relationships with the child and the Connected Person.
  6. Particulars of any criminal offences of which they have been convicted or in respect of which they have been cautioned;
  7. Their past and present employment and other sources of income; and
  8. The nature of the neighbourhood in which their home is situated and resources available in the community to support the child and the Connected Person.

To complete the Assessment, the social worker must undertake a home visit(s) to the family or friend to interview them and:

  • Be satisfied that the placement is the most suitable means to safeguard and protect the child's welfare;
  • Inspect the home including sleeping arrangements and decide whether it is safe and appropriate for the child/ren;
  • Obtain information about the members of the household and carry out statutory checks including Disclosure and Barring Service checks on all members of the household who are aged 18 years of age and over;
  • Obtain the carers written consent for the statutory checks;
  • Identify what support available will safeguard, and promote the welfare of the child and meet the child's needs as detailed in the Care Plan;
  • Gain written agreement from the carers that they will allow social workers to visit the home and the children, that they will inform social workers of changes of their circumstances and that they will not use any form of physical punishment. See Appendix 4: Family and Friends Care Agreement;

    When the Assessment has been completed, and if it identifies a temporary arrangement is appropriate, the Assessment and Care Plan should be forwarded to the relevant head of service who will agree temporary approval of the placement.

At the point of placement the social worker will:

  • Pass on any necessary Looked After children documentation to the carers: medical consent, risk assessment, as well as Care Plan, in accordance with Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011;
  • The child's social worker will need to complete a change of circumstance form;
  • Regulations 28 and 29 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 require that the child is seen alone (unless the child, being of sufficient age and understanding to do so, refuses/ the social worker is unable or considers it inappropriate to do so, having regard to the child's age and understanding), and that visits take place weekly until the child's first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks;
  • The family and friends applicants will then need to be added to Liquid Logic as temporary carers;
  • Immediate arrangements are made for a full assessment to be undertaken within the 16 week period and presented to foster panel for approval (an additional 8 weeks are available in exceptional circumstances - Regulation 25.

Regulation 25: The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010

3.4

Expiry of temporary approval:

  1. Subject to paragraph (4), the responsible authority may extend the temporary approval of a Connected Person if:
    1. It is likely to expire before the full assessment process is completed; or
    2. The Connected Person, having undergone the full assessment process, is not approved and seeks a review of the decision in accordance with Regulations made under paragraph 12F (1) (b) of Schedule 2 to the 1989 Act (1).
  2. In a case falling within paragraph (1)(a), the responsible authority may extend the temporary approval once for a further period of up to eight weeks;
  3. In a case falling within paragraph (1)(b), the responsible authority may extend the temporary approval until the outcome of the review is known;
  4. Before deciding whether to extend the temporary approval in the circumstances set out in paragraph (1), the responsible authority must first:
    1. Consider whether placement with the Connected Person is still the most appropriate placement available;
    2. Seek the views of the fostering panel established by the fostering service provider in accordance with the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011; and
    3. Inform the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO).
  5. A decision to extend temporary approval must be approved by the Nominated Officer;
  6. If the period of temporary approval and of any extension to that period expires and the Connected Person has not been approved as a local authority foster parent in accordance with the 2011 Regulations, the responsible authority must terminate the placement after first making other arrangements for the child's accommodation.


4. Suitability of Applicants

4.1 There should be a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each worker, at this stage. The role of the family and friends social worker is to assess the carer in respect of their ability to provide a fostering service, which meets the minimum standards; and to take the assessment to Bolton's Fostering Panel.
4.2 It remains the responsibility of the child's social worker to complete the child’s permanency report/child’s profile report.
4.3 If the social worker undertaking the assessment has concerns about the suitability of the applicants, these should be fully discussed with their Team Manager. If they cannot be satisfactorily resolved, the carers should be informed and counselled with regard to withdrawing their application.


5. Termination of Approval

5.1 If, whilst temporarily approved and during the course of the full assessment, it is identified that the carer cannot meet the needs of the child(ren), the temporary approval as foster carers can be terminated.
5.2 The reasons for termination will be provided in writing to the Divisional Manager and Agency Decision Maker for a decision to be made.
5.3 Where temporary approval is terminated, the child will be removed from the Connected Person.


6. Support

6.1 At the point of temporary approval, the local authority will hold the same obligations towards the carer as for an approved foster carer. They will be allocated a fostering social worker and receive monitoring, support; training and financial support. They will be subject to statutory visiting requirements and annual reviews as outlined in standard 21.8 of Fostering Service; National Minimum Standards 2011. See also Financial Support Procedure and Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure.
6.2 The foster carer will be expected to be an active member of the team in care planning for the child(ren) and to carry out their duties as a responsible parent.
6.3 Carers will be given delegated decision making responsibility will be outlined within the child(rens) Placement Plan.
6.4 The frequency of the visit from the child's social worker to the child in placement are in accordance with Regulation 28(4) of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. See also Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children Procedure.
6.5 During these visits the child must be seen alone.


7. Contact

7.1 All family and friends foster carers are expected to work with others to meet the child's needs as identified in the Care Plan, including supporting the contact plan for the child and his/her parents (Schedule 2 Children Act 1989). Where this may present some difficulties due to family relationships, this should be considered within the Placement Plan and support should be offered to the carers in meeting the necessary arrangements.


8. Plans to Place Children Long Term with Family/Friend Connected Person

8.1

If it is felt appropriate for the child/ren to remain with the carer(s) for longer than sixteen weeks, the carer(s) must then be approved under the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011.

When it is clear from the outset that a long-term placement is sought, a full Appendix 6: Family and Friends Assessment (Form C) should be completed by the assessing social work from the family and friends team.
8.2 Good practice suggests that the childs social worker consults with the assessing social worker to discuss the assessment with regards to any specific issues or concerns.


9. Suitability (Viability) Assessments for Planned Placements

In those circumstances where:

  1. Care Proceedings are being/have been initiated; and
  2. It is recognised that a child cannot remain with their birth parent/s or current carer, or the child is already placed in foster care/residential care and the child's social worker has identified a prospective family or friend's carer:
    • As part of the Public Law Outline, the child's parents should have received a final letter and a family group meeting convened to identify a preferred family/friends carer;
    • The same process as outlined in Paragraph 3.2 should be followed; however as the child is not in placement the requirement to target Fostering Panel within sixteen weeks does not apply.


10. Assessment Process

With effect from 1st July 2013, new Fostering Regulations were introduced. The Government has tried to speed up the assessment process by introducing a 2 stage procedure so that applicants who are not thought to be suitable can be informed at an earlier stage of their assessment.

The two stages can be done at the same time, but the information required for Stage 1 must be sought as soon as possible and a decision about whether someone has successfully completed stage 1 must be made within 10 working days of all the information required in that stage being received by the fostering service. See Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

Stage 1

New Guidance on the Assessment & Approval of foster carers, issued under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 states that if, at any point during Stage 1 of the assessment process the agency decision maker decides that the applicant is not suitable to foster, they must write to the applicant informing them of their decision and give full reasons for it. At the latest, the decision must be made within 10 working days of the information required by stage 1 being received.

If during stage 1 it is decided that an applicant is not suitable to foster, the applicant has no right of review of this decision by the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) or to make representations to the fostering service provider. However, if they are unhappy about the way their case has been handled, they are able to complain using the fostering service’s complaints procedure. This would address only the way their application was handled, not their suitability to foster.

Stage 2

If it is decided to proceed to stage 2 of the assessment, further information will be sought by the fostering service. Once a Stage 2 assessment has been started, it must be completed, unless:

  • The applicant withdraws from the process;
  • The applicant is deemed unsuitable as a result of stage 1 of the assessment & only where stages 1 and 2 have been carried out concurrently);
  • It becomes apparent that the applicant or a member of their household has been convicted of or cautioned for specified offence (see Regulation 26(6)).

If during stage 2 of the assessment, information comes to light indicating that the applicants is unsuitable to foster, a “brief report” can be written setting out details of the assessment so far and the reasons for considering the applicant unsuitable.

The applicant must be notified that a Brief Report is being sent to the panel, provided with a copy of this report, (this will need to be discussed with the legal team) and given 10 working days from the date of the notification to send their observations to the fostering provider.

The brief report will be presented to panel along with any observations submitted by the applicant for the panel to consider. The agency decision maker will then make any decision as to whether to terminate the assessment taking into account the recommendations of the panel.

If it is determined that an applicant is not suitable to foster, they must be informed in writing of this decision, the reasons for it, and that they may, (within 28 calendar days) seek a review of this decision (known as a Qualifying Determination) by the IRM or make representations to the fostering service’s own panel.

Upon completion of Stage 2 a written report, covering both stages 1 and 2 of the assessment should be completed, with recommendations as to the applicant’s suitability and terms of approval. As with the brief report, the applicant must be notified that the full assessment report is to be sent to panel, provided with a copy of the report (following discussion with LA legal department), and given 10 working days from the date of the notification to send their observations to the fostering service.

The full assessment report must then be presented to panel together with any observations submitted by the applicant and any other relevant information.

The details included in the assessment form need to be proportionate to the circumstances of the case. It should be noted that family and friends care often involves complex adjustments in relationships within the family. For example, divided loyalties, loss, blame guilt can all arise and carers may need support in managing some of these dynamics and in helping the child to manage and understand them too.

The assessment also covers the carers' understanding of the reasons for the child being unable to live with their birth parent/s at this moment in time and what support and services the carers might need in order to meet the child's needs.

The assessment should be conducted in light of the fact that there is a legal presumption in favour of relatives caring for a child/ren (Children Act 1989). The onus is therefore on the Local Authority to demonstrate or show evidence of prospective family and friends carers' unsuitability.

The assessment should be approached in partnership with the family and friend’s carer and take proper regard of all the positives they can offer.

It may also be important to assess the carer's abilities to overcome past difficulties and for the assessing social worker to form an understanding of the insight they have gained by doing so.

The assessment will conclude with an analysis carried out by the assessing social worker, of the risks and benefits to the child, including what steps might be taken to remedy any risks.

The analysis should include an assessment of the carer's parenting capacities and how effectively the carers will meet the child's needs, particularly the child's long term needs if he/she will need to remain with these carers into adulthood.

When approval of a long-term placement with family/friends carers for a child under 10 is sought, a child permanency report will need to be completed by the child's social worker. When approval is sought for a child over the age of 10 then the child’s social worker will need to complete a child’s profile Appendix 7: Child’s (ren) Needs (Information) (over 10s child profile).

The assessing social worker and the child's social worker will then need to present these reports to panel for approval/advice/direction. It is usual for applicants to be invited to attend the fostering panel, along with their assessing social worker, when their application is being discussed so that they can answer any questions panel may have for them.

Once Panel has made their recommendation, the Agency Decision Maker will make their decision taking into account panel’s recommendation.

Once a foster carer is approved, they must be notified in writing of this fact and of their terms of approval. These will specify, for example, that they may foster only a specific child. Terms may include, short term, long term, respite, or shared care placements, and family and friends foster carers will be required to sign a family and friends Foster Care Agreement with their fostering service.

In Family and Friends care arrangements, birth parent/s retain legal Parental Responsibility for the child. In situations, therefore, where a child needs a long-term or permanent placement away from home, workers should discuss with the carers the benefits to the child of carers applying for a Child Arrangement Order or Special Guardianship Order, which would give the carers and the child a legally protected parental arrangement.


11. Timescales Re Presentation to Fostering Panel

11.1 With regard to planned placements, the assessment should be presented to Panel at the earliest convenient time taking into account all circumstances e.g. Court Proceedings, family circumstances etc.
11.2 The assessing social worker should not book a place on the fostering panel until all statutory checks including DBS have returned at which point a place on panel can be booked via Family Placement admin.


12. Carers Agreement

12.1 Following approval as family and friends carer, the newly approved carer/s will be required to sign a Family and Friends Care Agreement (Appendix 4) The form should be completed with the Assessing social worker. The carer will also receive a copy of the family and friends handbook and any other relevant information.
12.2 Carer/s should retain 1 copy of the family and friends Carers Agreement. The original should be kept on the carer/s file.
12.3 When signing the family and friends agreement, carers will have undertaken to inform the Department of any change in their household circumstances, including if the child they are caring for moves on.
12.4 At the onset carers should be made aware that, if they are receiving a family and friends care allowance for a child, and that child leaves their care, then if they do not immediately inform the department, Children's Services will reclaim any overpayments made.


13. Support to Family/Friend (Connected) Carers

13.1 All Family/Friends Carers will be reviewed annually, and these reviews will be carried out by a social worker from the fostering team. The childs social worker will be asked to complete a social work feedback review form which will then be presented at the carers annual review. See Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
13.2 There needs to be good communication and clarity between the Fostering Service social worker and the child's social worker regarding roles and responsibilities. Appendix 3: Assessment Report Regulation 24 Relative or Friend of a Child or Connected Person as temporary approved foster carer, pending full approval of a Named Child shows arrangements for post approval case management.
13.3 Out of hours support from members of the Fostering Team is available to Family/Friends carers via the Careline numbers 335732 and 335733 and the emergency duty team (EDT) on 01204 337777.
13.4 Family/Friends carers can access core training for foster carers as well as other relevant training. The carers will be encouraged to attend relevant training. The carers are expected to complete National Standards for Foster Carers standard within the first 18 months of approval.
13.5 Family/Friends carers will receive a maintenance payment for each child and are able to access additional payments, as set out in the handbook for Family/Friends carers.
13.6 A Support Group specifically for family/friends carers meets on a regular basis.
13.7 Unannounced visits at least annually and more often if required.
13.8 Home visits at least every 6-8 weeks.


14. Maintenance Allowances, Equipment etc.

14.1 All family and friends carers are entitled to receive the basic fostering maintenance allowances, including holiday, birthday and Christmas/festival allowances.
14.2 Requests for equipment e.g. furniture, clothing items for LAC, specific hobbies etc. should be made via the child's social worker to the allocated family and friends social worker, or via the Fostering Team Manager.


15. Family/Friends Carers Records/Files

15.1 Family/Friends carers files will be stored with the Fostering Service.
 

Files must include:

  • Assessment/approval information;
  • Receipt of family/friends care agreement;
  • Copy of reviews, supervisory and supplementary reports;
  • Details of any concerns, complaints or allegations involving the Family/Friends carers and the outcome of any investigation;
  • DBS's and statutory checks;
  • The child's risk assessment, background information, Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record), and all other relevant information and documents.
15.2 Files should be kept for a period of fifteen years, from the date that either the application was rejected or the carer(s) ceased to foster.


16. Family/Friends Carers Who Want to Become Mainstream Carers

16.1

Family/friends carers can apply to be mainstream carers within the local authority in which they reside. To do this they would need to:

  • Complete all preparation training;
  • Undergo a competency based assessment and demonstrate that they are able to meet all the competencies;
  • Agree to undertake all core training course within 2 years of approval and any further training identified;
  • Take children/young people within their matching criteria as identified by the Fostering Service;
  • Complete the National Standards for Foster Carers.


Appendices

Appendix 1: Assessment Process Flow Chart

Appendix 2: Referral Form, requesting a Family and Friend’s Carers Assessment (Connected Person)

Appendix 3: Assessment Report Regulation 24 Relative or Friend of a Child or Connected Person as temporary approved foster carer, pending full approval of a Named Child

Appendix 4: Family and Friends Care Agreement

Appendix 5: Viability (Suitability) Assessment Report for a Relative or friend of a child or Connected Person as an approved foster carer, for a named child

Appendix 6: Family and Friends Assessment (Form C)

Appendix 7: Child’s(ren) Needs (Information) (over 10s child profile)

Appendix 8: Post Approval Case Management Flowchart

End