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3.2.5 Placements with Parents


In February 2021, the chapter was refreshed throughout in line with local guidance. In addition, Section 4, Planned Returns Home to Parents /Planned Placements With Parents, was updated to add information on placements in 'other arrangements.'

Caption: Public Law Working Group Best Practice


Public Law Working Group Best Practice Guidance: the Application and Case Management states that, whilst there may be good reason at the inception of care proceedings for a child to remain in the care of their parents and subject to an Interim Care Order pending the completion of assessments, there should be exceptional reasons for a court to make a final Care Order on the basis of a plan for the child to remain in the care of their parents.

For further information, see Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure.


  1. Legal and Regulatory Framework
  2. Principles
  3. Immediate Placements with Parents (unplanned)
  4. Planned Returns Home to Parents /Planned Placements With Parents
  5. Regular Short Stays
  6. Reviewing the Arrangement and Progress Updates
  7. Terminating Placements with Parents
  8. Discharging the Care Order

    Appendix 1: Proforma for Working Agreement with Parents – Unplanned Placement with Parents

1. Legal and Regulatory Framework

Where a Local Authority has a care order or interim care order on a child/ young person and proposes to place the child with their parents, this is subject to the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. These regulations replaced the Placement with Parents Regulations 1991, setting out clear time scales by which assessments and approvals of such placements must be completed

See The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

“Placement with Parents” means allowing a child/ young person who is in the care of a local authority to live with:

  • A parent of the child;
  • A person who is not a parent of the child/ young person but who has parental responsibility for them;
  • A person who has a Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order, if that was in force immediately before the care order was made.

“Placement decision” means a decision to place a child, which is made in accordance with Regulation 18(1) (placement decisions by Director of Children’s Services or nominated person).

The Regulations do not apply to children or young people who are accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, or who are placed with parents under interim care orders during care proceedings, or who are remanded to the care of the local authority.

For children in care proceedings, the Public Law Working Group 2021 has recommended, in relation to placing children with parents: “Any placement with parents under an interim or final order should be evidenced to comply with the statutory regulations for placement at home.”

“There may be good reason at the inception of care proceedings for a child to remain in the care of her parents/carers/family members and subject to an ICO pending the completion of assessments”

However, in terms of final disposal:

“It should be considered to be rare in the extreme that the risks of significant harm to the child are judged to be sufficient to merit the making of a care order but, nevertheless, the risks can be managed with a care order being made in favour of the local authority with the child remaining in the care of the parents/carers. A care order represents a serious intervention by the state in the life of the child and in the lives of the parents in terms of their respective ECHR, article 8 rights. This can only be justified if it is necessary and proportionate to the risks of harm of the child”.

As such, any final care plan that recommends a Full Care Order, when intending to place the child(ren) with parents, should be discussed with and approved by the Head of Service responsible for the case, following consultation with the LA solicitor. This must occur before the care plan is presented to permanence panel.

2. Principles

The principles that should inform the decision to place a child or young person on a care order with their parents are:

  1. Children and young people are best placed with their families when it is safe to do so;
  2. Family-led decision making, and restorative practice will be central to our approach;
  3. Placement with parents as the final disposal in care proceedings will be rarely used;
  4. Placement with parents should be viewed as a short term, temporary arrangement;
  5. The decision to place with parents, whether planned or unplanned will follow a satisfactory risk assessment; (see below);
  6. There is high support to the placement, along with stringent planning and oversight once the child is placed; and
  7. There is continued assessment of risk and need, and evaluation of whether the child / young person is achieving good outcomes.

The purpose should be to work with the parents and support them, to achieve agreed improvements, with the overall aim of discharge of the Care Order.

The management of the placement should be focussed on strengthening and enhancing the parent’s role, supporting family relationships and parent-led decision making.

The placement should be regularly reviewed to ensure that it continues to be in the child’s best interests; and that it is still appropriate and safe for the child to be placed with parents.

3. Immediate Placements with Parents (unplanned)

In circumstances where young people on a full care order return to the care of a parent in unplanned or unexpected circumstances the following procedure applies:

The decision to place a child shall be made by the Director of Children’s Services, or by an officer of the local authority nominated in writing for that purpose by the director. In Leeds this nominated officer is a Head of Service.

An Emergency Placement with Parents (PWP) approval report should be completed by the social worker and approval sought from the relevant Head of Service.

The social worker should clarify the expectations of the parent(s) and ensure the child is safeguarded and their needs are met during this temporary phase before the full approval is considered. A pro forma is available to structure this – see Emergency Approval of Placement with Parents (Local Resources).

See also Appendix 1: Proforma for Working Agreement with Parents – Unplanned Placement with Parents.

The nominated Manager in Leeds is a Head of Service. The Head of Service can approve an immediate placement without the necessary consultation and checks having been made provided that:

  1. There are exceptional circumstances which justify an immediate placement, and it is consistent with the child’s welfare;
  2. The child/ young person’s view has been obtained and they wish to remain with the parent;
  3. There has been a full discussion with the parent, who agrees to the placement;
  4. The accommodation has been inspected, including sleeping arrangements; and
  5. Information has been obtained as to other people in the household aged 16 or over; this includes carrying out checks with the police and checking social care records.

The reasons for a decision to place a child/ young person on this basis must be fully recorded, approved by the Nominated Manager (Head of Service), and a Case Decision added to the electronic record (Mosaic) by the Head of Service who took the decision.

The Case Decision and the Emergency PWP approval report should be added to the child’s case record (MOSAIC), where practicable within 24 hours of the child returning.

The social worker should inform the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), within 24 hours, of the circumstances leading to the immediate placement with the parents. The IRO will then decide whether to hold an early review to discuss and agree a change of care plan.

Full approval

Full approval of the PWP must occur within 20 working days of the date of the placement, in accordance with Care Planning Regulations 2010.

This requires the social worker to complete the Child and Family Assessment and an Approval of Placement with Parents – Front Sheet (Local Resources) within 10 working days and submit this for consideration and approval.

As part of this assessment, formal consultation must take place with other agencies to obtain their views about the PWP, setting out the results of checks, enquiries, and consultation evidenced on the Approval of Placement with Parents – Front Sheet. Consultations, whether by e-mail or by phone, should be recorded on the child’s record as a case note.

In Leeds, placements should be approved at Permanence Panel (Change and Review) or by Head of Service outside of panel, but in any event within 20 working days of the placement starting. The full approval should be recorded on the child’s record (MOSAIC) either within the Permanence Panel minutes or, if approved outside panel, by the Head of Service, as a Case Decision.

Until full PWP approval is given, the child/ young person should be seen at least weekly by the social worker, including unannounced visits. The child/ young person should be seen alone during the visit.

Thereafter, once full approval is given, the child should be seen at home in line with statutory visiting guidance for CLA.

4. Planned Returns Home to Parents / Planned Placements With Parents

Planned returns

Social workers for children and young people looked after should remain open to the possibility that parents’ circumstances may change, risks may reduce, and some parents may be able to safely resume care of their child(ren).

Social workers should establish parents’ home and family circumstances by visiting the parents in their own home, in between Looked After Reviews. This enables the social worker to develop a relationship with the parent and to become aware of improvements in circumstances that might indicate reunification is possible. For example – if a parent has successfully parented younger children, if a parent is having positive, unsupervised family time, if a parent has left a violent or controlling relationship, if a parent has successfully completed detox or other rehabilitation programme or has greatly improved mental health.

Where social workers consider that there is a potential for reunification with a parent, the Reunification process (see Reunification Guidance) should be followed.

Note that where the parent with whom it is proposed to place the child is also a looked after child aged 16 or 17 years old who has been placed in an 'other arrangements' placement, Regulation 27A Care Planning, Placement and Case Reviews (England) Regulations 2010 (as amended) (prohibition on placing a child under 16 in 'other arrangements') does not apply to the child being placed, as the placement being considered for the child is a placement with parents under s.22C(2) Children Act 1989 rather than an 'other arrangements' placement for the child.

See also Placements in Other Arrangements Procedure.

5. Regular Short Stays

In some circumstance’s children / young people may return to parents for short stays e.g. for regular overnights, weekends, holidays, etc but remain in foster care the rest of the time. Where the plan provides for a series of short term stays of a child with a parent, the full placement with parents’ assessment and approval is required. Requirements to assess, consult, make checks etc can be carried out once, rather than be repeated each time a stay at home takes place, provided that:

  • All the placements take place within a 12-month period;
  • No single placement is for a period of more than 4 weeks; and
  • The total duration of all stays does not exceed 90 days;
  • A Child and Family Assessment should be undertaken to assess the suitability of short-term placements and overnight stays, in addition to the completion of the Approval of Placement with Parents – Front Sheet (Local Resources);
  • Consultation with other agencies should be undertaken;
  • For children who are subject to an Interim or a Full Care Order, where the regular short stays are part of the agreed care plan the Social Worker will need to request approval for Placement with Parents approval from the Head of Service.

The required documents to support this request are the Return Home Assessment (Local Resources) and the Approval of Placement with Parents – Front Sheet.

If a series of short-term placements or overnight stays are part of a longer-term plan of reunification, the Reunification Procedures and Workflow Reunification Guidance (see Reunification Guidance) should be followed.

6. Reviewing the Arrangement and Progress Updates

Formal Review of the placement will follow statutory guidance and timescales. The  placement of children in care with their parents is subject to the Review of the Child's Plan. (See Looked After Reviews Procedure.)

Any change of placement should be discussed with the Independent Reviewing Officer to decide whether the date of the next Looked after Review should be brought forward.

In addition, 2 months before each looked after review, the Social Worker will provide a progress update, in writing, to the Nominated Manager (Head of Service). This update will provide details of:

  • What is working well?
  • What is not working well?
  • Is there scope for discharging the care order?

If not:

  • Why the child should remain on a Placement with Parents arrangement.
  • Are there are any necessary changes to be made?
  • Do the original risks for the child or young person still warrant a Care Order?
  • If new problems have emerged, would these warrant a Care Order?

The Nominated Manager will decide on whether placement with parents should continue or if a different arrangement is in the best interests of the child. This decision will be recorded on the child’s record and the social worker should reference this in the social work report and care plan for the next review.

Where a Placement with Parents arrangement has been in place for 12 months or more and there are no plans for discharge of the care order, the matter should be taken to Permanence Panel (Change and Review) to determine whether the plan remains the right one for the child, to identify any barriers or impediments that prevent discharge of the Order, and to determine if any additional support is needed.

7. Terminating Placements with Parents

Wherever possible the decision to end a placement with the parents should be made at a Looked after Child Review and the ending should take place in a planned way.

In Re DE (A Child) [2014], the High Court ruled that not less than 14 days’ notice of a removal of the child should be given to the parents, save in an emergency.

The Court further stated that any removal of a child in circumstances where the child's welfare does not require immediate removal, or without proper consideration and consultation, is likely to be an unlawful interference with the rights of the parent and child under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In emergencies, the Social Worker must discuss the case with their manager, who will make the decision. Legal advice should always be obtained. The Care Order gives the Local Authority power to enable the child to be removed by the Social Worker but this power should only be used after obtaining legal advice; the use of other orders (e.g. a Recovery Order Section 50 Children Act 1989) might be appropriate in some circumstances.

All Heads of Service should be notified of the placement with parents starting, in writing, and when it ends; preferably notifications should be made prior to the ending, or as soon as practicable thereafter.

A letter should also be sent to the parents and child explaining why the decision was made.

8. Discharging the Care Order

Placements with Parents arrangements can also be ended because the arrangement has worked well, the child is safeguarded and supported in the care of their parents, there is no evidence of significant harm and a care order is no longer needed.

At the point where it is felt that a care order is no longer required, this should be discussed and confirmed within the Looked After Child Review.

When it is agreed at the Review, the next step is to consider making an application to the court to discharge the Care Order. Initially, this should be discussed with Children’s Services legal section.

When seeking to discharge the Care Order, practitioners should follow the Ceasing to Look After a Child Procedure.

Following discharge of the Care Order, the child and their family should be supported by a Child in Need plan for a minimum period of 6 months (with the agreement of the parents) in line with best practice.

Appendix 1: Proforma for Working Agreement with Parents – Unplanned Placement with Parents

Before seeking emergency approval from Head of Service for placement with parents, the social worker should agree the following with the parents and set out in the form of a Working Agreement:

  1. Parent understands the child remains on a care order and PR is shared with the Local Authority. Yes / No;
  2. Details of the support and services to be provided to the parents and the child during the placement, including visiting arrangements;
  3. The obligation on the parents to ensure the child’s health and education and other needs are met. Provide details of who is going to do what;
  4. The obligation on the parents to notify the social worker of any change in circumstances including any intention to change address, or any changes in the household in which the child lives;
  5. The obligation on the parents to notify the social worker of any serious incident involving the child such as being missing or other safeguarding issues;
  6. The obligation on the parents to ensure that any information relating to the child or the child's family, foster carers, or any other person given in confidence is kept confidential and that such information is not disclosed to any person or shared on social media;
  7. The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain the prior approval of the Local Authority for the child to live in a household other than that of the parents;
  8. The circumstances in which the placement of the child with the parents will be terminated e.g. if the decision following completion of the assessment is not to approve the placement, or if serious safeguarding concerns arise.