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5.1.4 Permanence for Children


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Objectives for Permanence Planning
  3. Early Permanence Planning
  4. Multi-track Planning
  5. Options for Permanence
  6. Sibling Assessments
  7. Permanence and the Review Process
  8. Decision Making - Oversight
  9. Equality and Diversity
  10. Working with Birth Parents
  11. Monitoring of Performance

    Appendix 1: Gateway and Permanence Panel Terms of Reference

    Appendix 2: Permanence Planning Meeting Guidance

    Appendix 3: Permanence Planning Meeting Flowchart


1. Introduction

In Bolton Permanence Planning is based on the philosophy that every child has the right to a permanent and stable home, preferably with their own family. The primary focus of permanency planning is to prevent children drifting in care.

Bolton Council as corporate parent for Children Looked After, will work diligently to find permanent, safe homes for children in care, in a timely manner. The best possible care involves giving children security, stability and love through their childhood and beyond.

Bolton Council developed a Permanence Strategy - Forever Planning for Bolton’s children and young people which outlines our commitment to all children and young people of Bolton towards achieving Permanence for them. This Policy should be read in conjunction with the strategy.

This Policy is consistent with the Children Act 1989, LAC circular 1998/2000, Adoption standards and a basic premise of the Human Rights Act 1998 that all individuals have the right to a full and private family life.

See also: Bolton’s Permanence Strategy.


2. Objectives for Permanence Planning

In Bolton the key objectives in Permanence Planning is to first,

  • Support children and young people to remain with their parents or carers when it is safe to do so by providing effective services and support and reducing the need for children to become or remain looked after;

    and secondly,
  • When children become looked after they will have a clear pathway that identifies and secures a positive permanence solution for them.

Where it is necessary for a child or young person to leave their family:

  1. This should be for as short a time as needed to secure a safe, supported return home;
  2. If they cannot return home, plans should be made for alternative family or connected person care;
  3. Residential care is provided only when a need for this is identified within the Care Plan because the child or young person is voicing or demonstrating that they will be unable to live within a family setting. The birth family and the child or young person, depending upon their age, should be provided with the opportunity to discuss the options of family or friends, known as connected persons at the earliest point.

Family group meetings should be arranged through child protection planning. This provides birth families with an opportunity to work in partnership with Local Authorities at the earliest point.

Social Workers must ensure they use genograms to identify the extended family network.

Wherever possible, children are placed within the Local Authority Boundary unless a clear reason for placing them elsewhere is apparent.

Contact with the child’s birth family and extended family where appropriate will be facilitated and supported unless this is clearly identified as inappropriate and not in the child’s best interest.

Children, young people their families and all agencies involved will be fully involved in all planning and the voice of the child will be central to the planning, whatever the outcome.

Bolton’s Permanence Strategy sets out the key considerations for practitioners under these two objectives.


3. Early Permanence Planning

In Bolton there is a commitment to Permanence Planning at the earliest opportunity for children and young people, this includes helping earlier and targeted support.

Children in need of permanency planning will receive a Children and Family Assessment by Children’s Services with input from other agencies as necessary. This will be in accordance with the Assessment Framework.

The assessment will address the language, ethnic, cultured, religious and health needs of the child.

The wishes and feelings of the child (appropriate to their age) will be obtained and fully considered.

When these are not being followed, the reasons for so doing will be fully explained to the child and the availability of the Action for Children advocate should be offered.

Full parental involvement in the assessment process is essential including obtaining the view and wishes of parents.


4. Multi-track Planning

It is very important to avoid delay in reaching permanency when there are serious doubts about the viability of the child being able to remain or return to his/her birth family.

Multi-track planning, also known as Parallel or twin tracking planning is the process whereby two or more plans are running in parallel, one will be the possibility of reunification home to birth parents and the other permanence plans being assessed may be to live permanently with connected persons or become adopted.

In cases where multi-track planning is being utilised, parents must be informed at the outset that two or more options are being considered within a timescale.

Multi-track planning does not pre-empt a court decision but does prevent delay should reunification home to a child’s birth parents not be feasible.

Multi-track planning should occur at the earliest opportunity for children to prevent delay; plans to multi-track assessments for children’s permanence can be agreed before a child becomes looked after through the PLO process if appropriate.


5. Options of Permanence

5.1 Staying at Home

The first stage within permanence planning is to work with children in need and their families to support them staying together.

PRACTICE GUIDANCE

Staying at home offers the best chance of stability. Research shows that family preservation has a higher success rate than reunification. This of course has to be balanced against the risk of harm to the child.

For most children the preferred outcome would be that they stay within their own family. It is expected that services and support to maintain a child at home safely and with acceptable levels of care will be considered and provided before any consideration is given to a child coming into care.

Under the Early Help service in Bolton a range of support can be put in place to ensure that children on the edge of care are provided with every opportunity to improve their circumstances. This may be through the implementation of a Child Protection Plan and/or by using the Public Law Outline process where it is made clear to families what resources must be put in place to improve the child’s situation (see Knowsley Children's Social Care Operational Procedures Manual, Pre Proceedings and Public Law Outline (PLO) Procedures and Practice Guidance).

Families with children considered to be at the edge of care are able to access support through a referral to the Gateway and Permanence Panel made by the Social Worker or Team Manager (please see Appendix 1: Gateway and Permanence Panel Terms of Reference).

5.2 Living with Family or Friends - Connected Persons

See Family and Friends Care Policy Procedure.

If a child needs to live away from home, close family members can be suggested by the child’s birth family. Ideally this would be with the parents’ consent; however, in situations when consent is withheld, Social Workers should discuss with Team Managers, as family members may still be approached in the best interests of the child. This would apply in pre proceedings and in care proceedings.

Short term support to such arrangements can be provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 when they are deemed to be a private arrangement that has been initiated by the family.

If an arrangement is made for someone other than a close relative to care for a child away from home with the parents' consent for a period of over 28 days, the Private Fostering Regulations will apply. Short term support to such arrangements can also be provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and will be subject to a full private fostering assessment.

See Recognising and Assessing Private Fostering Arrangements Procedure.

PRACTICE GUIDANCE

Definition of Close Relative in relation to a child, “means grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by affinity) or step parent” Children Act 1989 Section 105).

5.3 Legal Security with Family or Friends

For children who cannot return home, more secure and long term care may also be provided by family or friends through a Child Arrangements Order, Special Guardianship Order or Fostering arrangement.

PRACTICE GUIDANCE

  • A Child Arrangements Order is made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 and is an order settling the arrangements to be made as to the person with whom a child is to live. This Order gives the person with the order parental responsibilities for a child under 16 years (or 18 years if the child has disabilities) and parental responsibility / decision making is then shared between the person holding the order and the birth parents;
  • A Special Guardianship Order is made under Section 115 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and means parental responsibility is shared with the birth parents but the Special Guardian has exclusive responsibility for all aspects of caring for the child and for taking the decisions in relation to their upbringing (this is in place until the child turns 18).

5.4 Becoming Looked After

Please see Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure.

No child may come into care without authorisation from a Head of Service. The decision must be based on evidence that this action is necessary to safeguard the child and promote their health and well-being.

Evidence will be derived from a Single Assessment, unless delay is likely to result in the child suffering Significant Harm.

For children who need to be safeguarded in this way, placement with family or friends would be the first option, (subject to their satisfactory approval as a Regulation 24 foster carer approved by the Assistant Executive Director).

If no such placement is available, the child should be placed with the Foster Carers or within a children’s home setting if this is the outcome of the assessment.

At the point a child becomes looked after the Social worker or Team Manager must refer the child’s case to be presented at the Gateway and Permanence Panel, this is for scrutiny on the decision for the child to become looked after and to ensure that everything is being done to secure permanence for the child at the earliest opportunity in line with Bolton’s Permanence Strategy.

PRACTICE GUIDANCE

It is very important to establish at an early stage what relatives or friends might be available to care for the child. Not only does this avoid the kind of delays that can happen during care proceedings where this work has not been done, but it avoids moves for children e.g. a family member identified to care for a child during planning for permanence will also be the first consideration, subject to satisfactory assessment, for legal permanence. Family members or friends should be identified through the family group meetings process.

The placement should be local in order for the child to facilitate continuation of contact with family and attendance at the child’s school unless their assessment indicates this would not be in their best interests.

PRACTICE GUIDANCE

Contra-indications to a local foster care placement:

  • The child may have complex needs which require a specialist placement which cannot be provided locally;
  • The child may need to live away from their community for their own protection;
  • The child may need to live elsewhere to promote family contacts in a different community.

The placement decision should also consider whether placement with a sibling already in care or a known familiar child is a possibility and in the case of disabled children, whether the placement accommodation is suitable for the needs of the child.

5.5 Returning to Birth Family

The first duty of the Local Authority is to assess the possibility of a return home within a defined timescale as long as a return home is consistent with the child’s protection and best interests.

It is important that there is clear communication with the family about what needs to happen or change in order for the child to return home with specific tasks and timescales set. That is within the child’s timeframe for achieving permanence.

Once at home, a range of resources will need to be available to sustain the child and family during re-integration, this will be in the form of a Child in Need Plan.

PRACTICE GUIDANCE

Research indicators for successful re-unification:

  • Child aged under 2 years when returned home;
  • Parents have had regular contact;
  • Parents participated in reviews;
  • Parents recognise problems they may have when the child returns home;
  • No new serious child care problems have emerged while the child has been away;
  • No younger step or half siblings at home;
  • Space has been kept for child in family home;
  • Only one care placement before return home;
  • No changes amongst children in household;
  • Short period in care;
  • Early active social work planning;
  • Reliable social work visiting.

If a child has experienced reunification with their family and is again accommodated, consideration needs be given as to whether:

  • There are factors which indicate the child will be returning to a changed home environment from which they were re-accommodated;
  • The resilience of the child is sufficiently robust to indicate that a further return home is in the child’s best interests.

If not, the expectation is that no further attempt at rehabilitation should be made and that planning for permanence will focus on planning for either adoption or permanent care outside of the immediate family.

If a child has been accommodated in Local Authority care for more than 2 years and reunification is being assessed, the NSPCC reunification assessment model must be used.

Please also see Placements with Parents Procedure.

5.7 Adoption

In many cases where a child can not safely be cared for by their birth parents and legal permanence cannot be achieved by the child living with a family member or connected person; the permanence option is that of adoption. Adoption is a legal and emotional permanence option that should be considered for all children. Research strongly supports adoption as a primary consideration as a main factor contributing to the stability of children and has good outcomes.

The Regional Adoption Agency has now been introduced. Please see Statement of Purpose.

Children should be well prepared before joining a new family. This should include clear information with regard to their birth family and life before the placement and information about the adopter or carers and their family. Information provided by birth family should be kept safely for the child to use later in life. This information should be help in a life story book, which should be updated regularly.

When the permanence plan is adoption, legal services will endeavour to ensure timely court proceedings and the availability of a placement order to prevent delay.

Please see Placement for Adoption Procedure.

5.8 Fostering for Adoption / Concurrency

The children and Families Act impose a duty on all local authorities to consider fostering for adoption placements in all cases where adoption may be the plan. The advantage is that the child can be placed right from the beginning of their time in care, and even from birth, with a family who have the potential to become their adopters.

Please see Fostering for Adoption/Concurrency Procedure.

5.9 Long Term Fostering

Long term fostering is not an option for legal permanence however, for children who remain looked after it is an important route to Permanence. It can provide a sense of permanence for older children and young people, who have significant emotional ties to their parents which inhibits their ability to form other permanent emotional ties. It provides children with the opportunity to experience physical permanence and a sense of psychological permanence for as long as it is available to them from their foster carers.

PRACTICE GUIDANCE

Indicators for long term foster care:

  • The child has spent a significant period with the birth parent and has a strong emotional tie to them;
  • The parent(s) are committed to playing a significant role in the child’s life.

Implications of Long Term Foster Care:

  • No legal protection of relationship between carer and child;
  • Child may have no life-time family of resource;
  • Child may have no expectation of return during adulthood;
  • People outside the family make decisions about the child.

Please see Placements in Foster Care Procedure.

Short term foster carers provide short term care during permanence planning for those children who cannot be placed with family or friends foster carers. These foster carers are significant in supporting the child during assessments of their needs, facilitating contact arrangements and contributing to good outcomes for the children during their period in care.

They will also be significant in supporting the child in transition to a legally permanent placement or to a long term foster placement.

If legal permanence is not achievable, or not assessed to be in the child’s best interests, the willingness and ability of the short term foster carer to change their approval status to become long term foster carers for the child should be explored before seeking a change of placement.

Please see Placements in Foster Care Procedure, Long-Term Foster Placement.

5.10 Permanence in residential care

Residential care offers stability for a minority of older young people who struggle (or do not wish) to live in a family setting, these setting provide the right environment to meet their needs and develop the necessary skills for semi-independent / independent living. Some children with significant health needs and children with disabilities require residential care to meet their needs.

Please see Placements in Residential Care Procedure.


6. Siblings Assessments

The council is committed to meeting the placement needs of sibling groups of children, every attempt will be made to keep siblings together wherever possible. When this is not possible efforts will be made to encourage contact arrangements and close geographical proximity between siblings.

Permanency planning will fully consider the wishes of a sibling group to be found a placement together.

When a decision is taken to place siblings separately, the reasons for this must be fully explained and recorded.

See Assessment of Sibling Relationships: Children X and Y Procedure.


7. Permanence and the Review Process

For most children, the possibility, or not, of rehabilitation will be clear by the first review where the pre proceedings protocol has been used and in all cases by the second statutory review. Prior to the child’s second statutory review a Permanence Planning Meeting chaired by the allocated Team Manager is to take place.

Please see Appendix 2: Permanence Planning Meeting Guidance and Appendix 3: Permanence Planning Meeting Flowchart.

The Social Worker must ensure that the birth parents are informed that our policy is to rehabilitate most children to their families, but that other arrangements are being put in place to meet the child's needs and to prevent unnecessary delay.

The National Adoption Standards state that a plan for permanence must be produced at the second statutory review. This means that the central focus of the second Review, which takes place no more than 13 weeks after the beginning of the care episode, will be to ensure that there is a clear plan for permanence. Referring to the Care Plan, the IRO must ensure that the agenda includes the following:

  • Review of Permanence work to date;
  • Review of whether the chosen route to permanence is still viable i.e. whether the Care Plan is still valid; and
  • If not, to make sure that Care Planning has considered the most appropriate permanence alternative.
At the third Review, if the permanence plan has not progressed as stated in the Care Plan, then the review meeting must establish whether the lack of progress is as a result of drift or whether there are definable circumstances. No further rehabilitation plans should be made (unless further assessment is specifically directed by the Court, or, in very exceptional circumstances, it is agreed that an existing plan should continue) and the alternative parallel plan should be pursued.


8. Decision Making - Oversight

It is crucial that during care proceedings the permanence Care Plan is written, this will be used in the forming of child permanence reports for long term foster care, residential care, special guardianship, child arrangements order or adoption.

Child permanence reports are presented to the agency decision maker for the ‘should be placed for adoption decision’.

The matching of children to carers for long term fostering is presented to the Fostering Panel for approval. Where the matching of children with independent fostering agencies requires approval, the allocated Head Of Service agrees the placement and approval for long term is considered by the Fostering Panel.

Special guardianship and child arrangements order decisions are made through the care planning process and through the allocated Head of Service. Financial agreements are subject to means test and are recommended by Head of Service but agreed by the Agency decision maker.


9. Equality and Diversity

Every effort should be made in achieving permanence for black and ethnic minority children to place in a family of the same race and culture. This is necessary to help a child have a positive sense of identity, self esteem and to see positive roles models as they develop.

For children of duel, diverse or minority heritage it is important to identify the elements of the child heritage that will assist in prioritising their individual needs.

It is important not to delay placement by attempting to find an exact match for the child. In order to identify a good enough match’ the elements of the child’s heritage that have been identified as most significant will be the guiding factor.

Where appropriate alternative families will be sought who are able to demonstrate a commitment to the child’s needs to know about their history culture and language.


10. Working with Birth Parents

Every effort will be made to enable and support the child’s own birth parents to provide a permanent home for the child when it is safe to do so and reunification with birth families be prioritised where risk has reduced.

When a child cannot remain with their birth family, the authority will continue to work in partnership with birth parents and other relatives to achieve the plan for the child.

It is important to ascertain and consider birth parents views about any potential placement. Support services to help parents with communication difficulties to communicate and record their views will be made available.

An independent worker will offer support to the birth family when adoption is the plan. A local independent agency (Family Action PAC UK) provides this service they also provide counselling and support to birth parents who are considering relinquishing babies for adoption.

Birth families will be encouraged to provide relevant information about themselves and family history. The significance of this information for the child as that she/he develops will be fully explained to the parents.

Birth parents can be given the opportunity to meet adoptive parents, unless this would jeopardise the child’s welfare and potential to achieve permanence. In certain situations some contact after adoption may be appropriate.

The availability of a letter box scheme should be explained to parents.

Please see Life Story Work Guidance.


11. Monitoring of Performance

Effective case management is the responsibility of all staff within the Children’s Services Staying Safe Group.

All staff have a responsibility to ensure the decisions effecting the children’s lives are expedited appropriately and efficiently.

Management oversight will ensure that:

  • Drift does not occur;
  • Activity is measured against quality targets and performance indicators;
  • Compliance with the National Adoption Standards is regularly monitored;
  • Senior managers and elected members are provided with regular information regarding adoption activity and performance.

The department’s Quality Assurance Team will assist with this process.

The Adoption and the Fostering Panels will play an active role in monitoring achievement of permanence plans for children.

There is a clear sufficiency strategy that is linked to a financial plan including any additional investment. Please see Bolton Sufficiency Statement.


Appendices

Appendix 1: Gateway and Permanence Panel Terms of Reference

Appendix 2: Permanence Planning Meeting Guidance

Appendix 3: Permanence Planning Meeting Flowchart

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