View Safeguarding Procedures View Safeguarding Procedures

3.2.1 Placements in Foster Care

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all placements of children in foster care including placements with independent fostering agencies.

For placements of Children Looked After with family and friends who are not approved foster carers at the start of the placement, see Placement with Family and Friends (Regulation 24 Placements) Procedure.

See Decision to Look After and Care Planning for procedures relating to the initial decision to look after a child, and the drafting and approval of the Care Plan and other essential documentation.

Children may also be placed in foster care having acquired Looked After status following a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation - see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Foster Carer's Delegated Authority Decision Support Tool

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in December 2015 to reflect the revised Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review. Additional information has been added into Section 10, Obtaining a Long Term Foster Placement.


Contents

  1. Consultation
  2. Placement Request
  3. Identification and Approval of Placement
  4. Placement Planning
  5. Young People in Foster Care 18+
  6. Notification of Placement
  7. Support and Monitoring of Placements
  8. Ending of Placements
  9. Out of Hours (EDT ) Foster Care
  10. Obtaining a Long Term Foster Placement
  11. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters


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:

  1. The child;
  2. The child's parents;
  3. Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
  4. Other members of the child's family who are significant to the child or who have a Contact Order/Child Arrangements Order in their favour in relation to the child;
  5. The child's school or the education service;
  6. The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them;
  7. Any other relevant person, e.g. nursery, health care professional, Children's Guardian.

The views of these people should be given by them, in writing, or should be recorded by the social worker.

There are a number of issues that should be considered which will influence the choice of placements including:

  • Nearness to the child's own home;
  • Contact with parents and family;
  • Accommodation with siblings (if required);
  • Matching in terms of ethnicity and of cultural and linguistic background;
  • Matching in terms of religious persuasion and observance;
  • Suitability for meeting the needs of children with disabilities;
  • Continuity in terms of education and health care.


2. Placement Request

Where a decision has been made that a child requires a foster placement, the child's social worker should request a placement by contacting the Placements Service.

In making this request, the social worker will be asked to provide information about the child, the type of placement sought, the Care Plan, 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 social worker should also complete a risk assessment in relation to the placement.

The social worker should also complete a CC6 form for a short term placement and a CC9 form if a long term placement is being sought. These should be emailed to the placement service using CHS Placement Service.

The Placement Service will check whether an in-house placement is available that appears to be appropriate to meet the child's needs. If such a placement is available, or if there is a possibility of a placement by the required date, the social worker will be advised accordingly.

If no appropriate in-house placements are available, the Placement Service may discuss the case at the Placements Panel. If the child requires a placement without delay, the Placement Service will obtain the agreement of the relevant senior manager to seek and make enquiries with independent fostering agencies to identify a suitable placement. The case may be referred to JADAR (Joint Decision and Review Panel) if the child has additional and complex needs and further information may be required from the social worker.

Where there is a already another child in the proposed foster home, contact should be made with the social worker for that child. Where the child already in the placement is from a different local authority, the consent of that local authority should be sought by the Placement Service prior to placing a new child.


3. Identification and Approval of Placement

Once a potential placement has been identified, the child's social worker will liaise with the foster carer's supervising social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency) to agree arrangements for the placement. At this stage, the social worker will also discuss the child with the prospective foster carer and, in particular, share any risks associated with the placement with both the foster carers and the supervising social worker. The social worker should also ensure that the foster carers are aware of any risk the child may present to other children and adults in the placement.

Where the proposed placement is an in-house placement, it will then be presented to the social worker's manager for approval.

If the placement is outside the foster carer's terms of approval or an exemption is required, see Exemptions and Extensions/Variations to Foster Carer Approval Procedure.

If the proposed placement is with an independent fostering agency, the relevant designated senior manager must approve the placement. The Placement Service will ensure that the relevant contracts will be written, setting out the precise terms and conditions between the local authority and the agency in relation to the placement. The financial arrangements are negotiated and agreed by the Placement Service and not the social work team.

If the relevant manager approves the foster placement, the placement planning process can start - see Section 4, Placement Planning.

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


4. Placement Planning

Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will arrange a Placement Planning Meeting after liaising with the foster carer and the foster carer's supervising social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency). The meeting will usually be held in the new placement. See also Placement Planning Meetings and Disruption Meeting Procedure.

Participants will include:

  • The parent;
  • The child (if appropriate);
  • The foster carer;
  • The supervising social worker;
  • Any other relevant professionals, e.g. a representative from the child's school;
  • Anyone else considered appropriate or who will have a role in the placement.

The purpose of the first Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan. This will involve a discussion of the child's needs, including health and education needs and how these are to be met.

For children placed in foster care, the Placement Plan 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.
    • 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;
    • Where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact.
  5. 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;
  6. The Local Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
  7. The obligation on the carers to comply with the terms of the foster care agreement. 

The meeting also provides an opportunity to ensure that the foster carers have a copy of any relevant court orders and that full information is shared with them about the child's needs and any behaviour management issues.

Except in emergency placements, the Placement Planning Meeting should be held before the placement. Where this is not possible, it should be held at the latest within 72 hours of the placement.

The child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan and Placement Information Record to the child, parents and foster carers before or at the latest, within 72 hours of the placement.

At the time of the placement, the foster carers should also be given any additional information about details of the child's day to day needs which are not covered by the Placement Information Record but are important to ensure that the carers are in the best possible position to help the child settle in the new placement, for example any particular fears at night-time or the child's favourite toys.

The child's social worker must provide the child and the parent with written information about coming into care, including information on using the Complaints Procedure.

In addition, the social worker should ensure that any other information about the placement that is available for the child is obtained and given to him/her.

In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in. Suitable luggage should be used and a child's belongings should never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers.


5. Young People in Foster Care 18+

See Staying Put Policy.


6. Notification of Placement

The child's social worker will update the child's electronic records with the details of the placement and should complete the notice of movement form. It is the social worker's responsibility to ensure that this is signed by the team manager and given to admin who will notify boarding out.

Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the Designated Nurse for CLA, the education service, the relevant local Children and Families' Services (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority) and the child's GP.

The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.

The child's social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer or, if it is the first placement, the Integrated Safeguarding Unit (ISU) of the placement. This notification will trigger the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer (if it is the first placement), and the setting up of arrangements for a Looked After Review.

These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the person with whom the child is to be placed.

The child's social worker should also notify - preferably in writing but it may be verbally - all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including nursery/school and any health professional or YOT worker actively involved with the child.

It will be necessary for the foster carer or the child's social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to him or her (which is preferable) or in the area where they are placed.

In relation to a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to liaise with the Designated Nurse for CLA to arrange a Health Needs Assessment. The social worker must also contact the relevant school of, where the child does not have a school place, the relevant education officer with a view to the completion of a Personal Education Plan.

For any new placement, every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are reasons which would be detrimental to his or her well being.


7. 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 a minimum, every six weeks during the first year, thereafter every six weeks (three months if the placement is intended to last until the child is 18). For children in long-term foster placements visits after the first year should not be less frequent than six monthly - see Social Worker Visits Procedure.

The foster carer will also receive support and supervision from their supervising social worker (for in-house placements) - see Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure and from the independent fostering agency (for external placements).

Where there are concerns in relation to the progress of the placement, consideration should be given to seeking additional resources to assist the carers.

Where there are any changes to the type of placement or to the child's legal status during the placement, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records.

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.


8. Ending of Placements

When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records and notify the finance section so that payments to the carer/provider will cease. The social worker will also send copies to those notified when the placement was made.

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

The Placement Service must be informed if a placement is due to end to ensure that the financial arrangements can cease and appropriate notice periods are given to external providers.

In appropriate cases, the foster carer should be asked to complete an end of placement report.

Where the placement ends in an unplanned way, consideration should be given to holding a Disruption Meeting - see Placement Planning Meetings and Disruption Meeting Procedure


9. Out of Hours (EDT) Foster Care

The definition of an EDT placement is one made by the Emergency Duty Team, following a referral received outside normal working hours.

The Placement Service will not be involved in EDT placements, other than by sending to EDT via email at the end of each day, an updated list of carers with EDT placements available for use.

The EDT team must notify the Placement Service by email, of any placements that are used.

The task of EDT foster carer will be undertaken by level 4 (of the Payment for Skills Scheme) carers, with the exception of babies aged 0-2yrs who may be placed with level 2 carers.

Any level 4 carer (or level 2 in respect of babies 0-2yrs) with a vacancy can offer themselves as available for EDT placements, but only after consultation and agreement with their SFO/ Team Manager where a risk assessment of the circumstances, accommodation and existing placements within the household will be undertaken and 'terms of use' by EDT agreed and recorded on file (ages/gender/profiles etc). They should have a spare room available for EDT placements.

Carers can only be available to take EDT placements where a "vacancy" exists. Only carers with less than 3 foster children in placement can therefore take an EDT placement. They should have a spare room available for EDT placements.

Where there is a dispute between foster carers and SFO's about EDT availability, fostering panel should be consulted as part of the foster carer review process.

EDT carers must be prepared and equipped to receive children in crisis at short notice. They should not expect that children will go to nursery/school/college 'as usual' and they should expect a high level of social work involvement, meetings and appointments (e.g. medical etc), during the course of the placement.

The fee and maintenance allowance payments for EDT placements are as detailed in foster carer Terms and Conditions, and the Fostering Service Financial Policy (FN16).

EDT payments can be paid for up to 28 days to enable time to review interventions and plan alternatives.


10. Obtaining a Long Term Foster Placement

The decision to seek a long term foster placement must be made at a review at which a Fostering Officer will normally be present. The decision must be endorsed by the Children and Families' Services Manager.

A long term foster placement (where it is intended that the child will remain with the Foster Carers for an indefinite / permanent period) should be sought only in exceptional circumstances where all alternatives - including placement with the child's parent(s), other relatives or adoption - have been considered and discounted.

Where the child is in an existing foster care placement, it may be that the carer and (where appropriate) the child want the existing foster placement to be the long-term foster placement. Such a proposal should be considered in a reasonable timescale taking into account the existing relationship between the child and the foster carer, the length of time in placement, the child’s relationships with the foster carer’s wider family and community. Consideration should also be given to the progress the child has made in the placement, recorded through the case review process.

There may be circumstances where it is not considered appropriate to assess the ability of the current foster carer as the long-term carer for the child. In these instances, the reasons for this decision should be clearly set out in writing to the foster carer. This decision should also be communicated to the child where it is appropriate to their age and understanding.

The assessment and planning process for long-term foster care should address the child’s current needs and likely future needs, and the capacity of the foster carer to meet these needs now and in the future. The length of placement will vary according to the child’s age and the long-term plan for the child, including the transition to adulthood. These factors must all be taken into account in planning for support and services where long –term foster care has been identified as the plan for permanence for a child.

Before deciding to place a child in a long-term foster placement, (whether or not this means moving to a new carer) the ability of the identified long-term foster carer to care for the child both now and in the future should be assessed. The support and services which will be needed to ensure that the placement is stable, secure and meets the child’s needs should be identified taking into account the carer’s previous fostering or other childcare experience, family configuration (including placement of other children under fostering arrangements), existing relationship (if any) with the child, knowledge and skills and capacity to care for the child long term under a fostering arrangement.

It is imperative that the foster carer fully understands and explicitly agrees to the long term commitment they are making to the child [regulation 22B (2)(f)]. A record of the discussion of these matters including the outcome should be made as part of the assessment process.

A long term placement panel meets regularly to consider all requests for long term placements.

The social worker will provide the Placement Service with the child's details using the CC9, risk assessment, the most up to date Child and Family Assessment and the Care Plan. When a suitable "match" is proposed, the child's social worker and Supervising Fostering Officer (SFO) for the proposed foster carers will jointly visit the foster carers to discuss the child's needs and the care plan, which will include arrangements for the proper preparation of the child for the move.

Where it is agreed that the child will be placed in a long-term foster placement, this should be communicated clearly to the foster carer, the child’s parents or any other person who is not a parent but has parental responsibility and the child. (Reg 2(1)).

Approval for a proposed "match" and subsequent placement will take place at the appropriate Fostering Panel.

When an in-house placement is not available consideration will be given at the long term panel regarding recommending seeking an external placement. This is considered on a case by case basis and needs authorising from the designated senior manager to agree to search externally. No external placement can be made without the authorisation of the designated senior manager for a long term placement.


11. 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 care; 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.

See also Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure.

End