View Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Procedures View Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Procedures

1.1.14 Family and Friends Care Policy

AMENDMENT

This chapter was revised throughout in April 2015 and should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Key Principles
  3. Legal Framework
  4. Different Types of Family and Friends Living Arrangements
  5. Other Legal Options for Family and Friends Care
  6. The Provision of Financial Support - General Principles
  7. Supporting Contact with Parents
  8. Family Group Conferences
  9. Complaints Procedure

    Appendix A: Caring for Someone Else’s Child - Options


1. Introduction

This policy sets out Kent County Council’s Specialist Children’s Service’s approach towards promoting and supporting children and young people living with a family and friend carer.


2. Key Principles

  1. Consideration of the child’s welfare and best interests is central to the work that we do;
  2. Children should be enabled to remain living within their family network unless this is not consistent with Safeguarding and Promoting their Welfare;
  3. The local authority should not become involved in establishing or supporting children’s living arrangements with family and friends unless it is deemed necessary to safeguard and promote their welfare;
  4. When the local authority does become involved in establishing and/or supporting an arrangement for a child to live with a family and friend carer, this should be based on a thorough assessment of the child and the family and friend carers;
  5. Children living with a family and friend carer should only be looked after in exceptional circumstances and only as long as necessary until they can either return home to a parent or secure permanence with a member of their family and friend network through a legal order giving that person parental responsibility;


3. Legal Framework

The local authority has a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children living within their area who are in need. So far as is consistent with that duty, local authorities must promote the upbringing of children in need by their families. Local authorities fulfil this duty by providing a range of family support services, which can be either financial, practical or both dependent on the assessed needs of the child.

A Child in Need is defined under Section 17 (10) of the Children Act 1989 as is a child who is Disabled or who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by the local authority.

‘Family’ in relation to a Child in Need includes not only a parent/someone else with Parental Responsibility or an immediate relative [1], but also other members of the wider family and friend network.

‘Children in Need’ may live with a family or friend carer under a variety of legal arrangements - either informally or more formally, which may include the use of guardianship (Section 5 of the Children Act 1989) or one of a number of court made orders, including:

Looked After Children will always come within the definition of a ‘Child in Need’, whether they are accommodated (Section 20 of the Children Act 1989) or subject to a court order (e.g. Care Order, Interim Care Order) whereby the local authority shares Parental Responsibility for the child with their parent(s).

The local authority should, wherever possible, make arrangements for a Looked After Child to be reunited with their parent or someone else holding parental responsibility for them (Section 22C (2 to 4) of the Children Act 1989).

If it is not possible for a Looked After Child to return to a parent or someone else with parental responsibility for them the local authority should, wherever possible, place the child with a relative or family friend carer unless this would not be appropriate to safeguard and promote their welfare (Section 22C (5 and 6) of the Children Act 1989).

[1] A relative is defined under the Children Act 1989 as being a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether full blood or half blood) or by marriage or civil partnership a step-parent.


4. Different Types of Family and Friends Living Arrangements

Informal Family and Friends Care Arrangements

Informal Family and Friends Care Arrangements is the term used to refer to care arrangements that are made by the child’s family without any direct involvement in establishing these living arrangements by the local authority.

Decision making for the child rests with the carers in partnership with the child’s parents and anyone else who holds parental responsibility for them.

The local authority does not have a duty to assess any such informal arrangements or to provide ongoing support unless it appears necessary in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child as a ‘Child in Need’ (Section 17 of the Children Act 1989).

Any local authority support that is provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 must be identified through a formal assessment of the child and their family’s needs and authorised by the Area Resource Panel under the Specialist Children’s Services Division.

Private Fostering Arrangements

A privately fostered child is a child who is aged under 16 years (under 18 years if they are disabled) who lives with a person who cares for them for 28 days or more and who is not an immediate relative (e.g. a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether full blood or half blood) or by marriage or civil partnership a step-parent). Children living with a private foster carer are not looked after.

Decision making for the child rests with the private foster carers in partnership with the child’s parents and anyone else who holds parental responsibility for them.

Kent County Council has a duty under The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations (2005) to assess the welfare of all privately fostered children living in Kent. This includes regular visits (a minimum of every six weeks in the first year and then every 12 weeks after that) to see the child while they are living with the private foster carer.

Private foster carers may at the same time be informal family and friends carers (e.g. a cousin or family friend) and are entitled to the same range of support services as any other informal family and friends carer in this respect. This means that the local authority does not have a duty to provide ongoing support unless it appears necessary in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child as a ‘Child in Need’ (Section 17 of the Children Act 1989).

Parents may make their own arrangements to financially support the placement of their child with private foster carers.

Any local authority support that is provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 must be identified through a formal assessment of the child and their family’s needs and authorised by the Area Resource Panel under the Specialist Children’s Services Division.

See also Private Fostering Procedure.

Family and Friends Foster Carers - Connected Persons

If a child is no longer able to live with their parents or others with parental responsibility for them, the local authority has a duty to look after them - either voluntarily with the agreement of their parents or subject to a court order.

In deciding where the child will live, the local authority will give preference to placing the child with a relative or family friend or other person with a prior relationship with the child, as long as this is appropriate to promote the safety and welfare of the child.

As the child is looked after, the local authority must approve the family / friend carer as a local authority foster carer. The standards for foster carers are set out in the Fostering Regulations (2011). (See also Fostering - National Minimum Standards)  

The assessment and approval process for family and friends who apply to be a foster carer to a member of their family will be the same as for any other foster carer; other than the timescales for the assessment when a child is already placed. See Information About the Assessment of Connected Persons.

Wherever possible, full approval as a family/friend foster carer should be made before the child is placed.  In exceptional circumstances the local authority has the power to give temporary approval for a family and friend carer to be the child’s foster carer (Regulation 24(1) of Volume 2 of the Children Act 1989). This temporary approval lasts for up to 16 weeks and can in highly exceptional cases be extended by a further 8 weeks.  During this time all the work necessary to determine suitability to be the child’s foster carer and establish full approval must take place.

Fostering approvals are considered by a Fostering Panel. See also the Kent Fostering Service Statement of Purpose and Policy.

Approved foster carers receive a fostering allowance for the child they are caring for on behalf of the local authority and are also allocated a social worker from the fostering service to provide them with support and supervision. The way in which the level of allowance is determined is the same as for non-related foster carers.

The local authority responsible for caring for the child/young person is required to provide the child/young with their own social worker (who is a different person from the family/friend foster carer’s social worker). The child/young person’s social worker’s job is to promote the child/young person’s safety and welfare, in partnership with their parents and carers as well as other staff and professionals in the child’s life. This includes visiting the child/young person and their carers on a regular basis.

The local authority also appoints an Independent Reviewing Officer; whose job is to oversee the child/young person’s case and ensure that the child has a good care plan that sets out what work needs to be done to promote the best possible outcomes for the child.

Connected persons foster carers are expected to co-operate with the local authority in its duty to promote the safety and welfare of the child placed with them. This involves attending and contributing to Looked After Child Reviews of the child’s care plan and working with the child’s social worker in their work with the child and their family, including statutory visits to the child and promoting the child’s health and education.

Kent County Council has made The Kent Pledge (see Kent’s Pledge to Children in Care) to all of its children and young people in care, which sets out a list of things that it promises to children and young people during their time in care in order to make this a positive experience for them.


5. Other Legal Options for Family and Friends Care

A Child Arrangements Order

Child Arrangements Orders were introduced in April 2014 by the Children and Families Act 2014 (which amended Section 8 Children Act 1989). They replaced Contact Orders and Residence Orders.

A Child Arrangements Order means a court order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:

  • With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact; and
  • When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.

The 'residence' aspects of a Child Arrangements Order (i.e. with whom a child is to live/when a child is to live with any person) can last until the child reaches 18 years unless discharged earlier by the Court or by the making of a Care Order.

The ‘contact’ aspects of a Child Arrangements Order (with whom and when a child is to spend time with or otherwise have contact with) cease to have effect when the child reaches 16 years, unless the court is satisfied that the circumstances of the case are exceptional.

A person named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, will have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force. Where a person is named in the order as a person with whom the child is to spend time or otherwise have contact, but is not named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, the court may provide in the order for that person to have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force.

Guardianship

The Children Act 1989 (Sections 5 and 6) allow the birth parents of a child to formally name someone in their family/friend network as the child’s ‘guardian’ in the event of both of their deaths. Guardianship arrangements do not have to be made in a court but are usually overseen by a solicitor and becomes active in the event of both parent’s death or when one parent has died and the other is serving a prison sentence.

The local authority would not be involved in the making of living arrangements under ‘guardianship’ and would consider it to fall under an informal family and friends care arrangement. A tax free benefit called ‘guardianship allowance’ is available from HMRC for those caring for a child whose parents have died or where one parent has died and the other is serving a prison sentence.

Any local authority support that is provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 must be identified through a formal assessment of the child and their family’s needs and authorised by the Area Resource Panel under the Specialist Children’s Services Division.

A Special Guardianship Order

A Special Guardianship Order is completely different from ‘guardianship’ described above and provides another way in which a child’s living arrangement with someone in their family/friend network outside of their birth family can be secured legally.

Special guardianship does not completely break the legal link with the child’s parent(s) in the way that an Adoption Order would do. Unlike a Child Arrangements Order though, it does allow the special guardian to make significant decisions about the child and their upbringing without having to consult with the child’s parents.

Relatives and local authority foster carers who have cared for the child for at least a year can apply for a Special Guardianship Order, without requiring the consent of the local authority. Other members of the child’s family / friend network may also be eligible if they already have a Child Arrangements Residence in force with respect to the child, or they have the consent of the child’s parents and others with parental responsibility for the child (including the local authority if the child is in care).

Special Guardianship Orders may be made in by a court in private family proceedings in which the local authority is not involved in making arrangements for the child. A Special Guardianship Order made in favour of a relative or family/friend foster carer with respect to a Looked After Child /young person would mean that the child/young person would cease to be looked after by the local authority and may be an appropriate outcome as part of a Permanence Plan for the child/young person.

Children/young people subject to a Special Guardianship Order are not entitled to any post 16 years leaving care services from the local authority unless they were either previously looked after following their 16th birthday or looked after immediately before the Special Guardianship Order was made.

When a Special Guardianship Order is made with respect to a child who immediately prior to the Special Guardianship Order was looked after, the local authority has a responsibility to assess the support needs of the child, parents and special guardians, including their need for financial support.

For details of the application criteria and financial assistance that may be available to holders of  Child Arrangements Orders, please refer to Adoption Order, Special Guardianship Order and Child Arrangements Order Allowances Policy.

An Adoption Order

When a child is adopted all the parental rights and responsibilities for that child are permanently transferred from the child’s birth parents and anyone else who shares parental responsibility with them to the adoptive parent(s). As a result the child legally becomes part of the adoptive family.

Relatives, friends and private foster carers can apply to adopt a child they have been caring for, after the child has lived with them for a total of 3 years out of the previous 5 years, without requiring the consent of the local authority. A court can also give permission to someone to apply for an Adoption Order if they do not satisfy this condition.  

An Adoption Order made in favour of a relative or family/friend foster carer with respect to a child/young person in care would mean that the child/young person would cease to be looked after by the local authority and may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for the child/young person.

Unless the child has been placed with a family and friend carer by a local authority or an adoption agency as a Looked After Child, applicants must notify the local authority in the area that they are living of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order. An adoption application cannot be made until at least 3 months after the notification is received.

Local authorities must make arrangements, as part of an adoption service, for the provision of a range of adoption support services. The local authority has a duty to undertake assessments of the need for adoption support services when a request is made for such support by the adoptive parents and their families, the adopted child and the child’s birth parents and families, including birth relatives. An Adoption Support Plan is produced based on the assessments findings and this may include financial support.

For details of the application criteria and financial assistance that may be available to holders of Child Arrangements Orders, please refer to Adoption Order, Special Guardianship Order and Child Arrangements Order Allowances Procedure.


6. The Provision of Financial Support - General Principles

There are 3 ways in which Kent County Council Specialist Children’s Services provides financial support for children in family and friends living arrangements. The provision of financial support must be agreed by the appropriate Access to Resources panel for the area that is accountable for the child’s case.

1) One-off Payments

This type of financial support would be used to overcome a specific crisis facing the child and carer’s that might otherwise prevent the child from being able to live with their family and friends carers.

2) Setting-up Grants

This type of financial support would be used to help family/friend carers obtain items to care for their child, such as a bed, furniture and children’s clothes. In order to ensure the payment is justified, the local authority will require a social worker to make an assessment of the carer’s financial position.

Any assistance that is provided may be subject to certain conditions, including repayment in certain circumstances - although only in exceptional circumstances.

3) Regular Allowance

Connected persons foster carers are entitled to a fostering allowance from the local authority to care for a child/young person while the child is looked after by the local authority and placed with them. The way in which the level of allowance is determined is the same as for non-related foster carers.

Local authorities are not required to provide a regular allowance to children and young people living with a family/friend carer under an informal family and friends care arrangement. Family and Friends carers are encouraged to maximise their state income and tax benefits as well as other contributions for the child’s care from the child’s birth parents.

In highly exceptional cases Kent County Council Specialist Children’s Services, through the Area Access to Resources Panel, may decide to provide financial assistance under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989; this will be based on a thorough assessment of the child’s needs.

In any cases where an arrangement is made for short term regular financial support, a written agreement will be drawn up detailing the level and duration of the financial support that is to be provided, and the mechanism for review.


7. Supporting Contact with Parents

In circumstances where children/young people are living with a family/friend carer, the responsibility of the local authority for promoting contact between the child and their parents will vary; depending on whether the child is in care or whether their living arrangement is an informal one.

Where a child/young person is a Looked After Child, the local authority has a legal duty to promote contact between the child/young person and their family - taking into account the need to maintain the safety and welfare of the child. Any contact arrangements for the child should be included within the child’s Placement Plan, which forms part of their care plan. The arrangements for establishing contact between Children in Care and their family is set out in Kent County Council’s Contact with Parents / Adults and Siblings Procedure.

For children and young people living with family and friends who are not looked after by the local authority, the local authority still has a duty to promote contact between the child and their family in order to help safeguard and promote their welfare. As part of an assessment of the child’s needs it may be identified that specific assistance is required to ensure that any contact between the child/young person and their parents is managed safely. Information can be made available to family and friends carers about local contact centres and family mediation services, and how to make use of their services.


8. Family Group Conferences

Family Group Conferences are meetings that are held between professionals and family members that are used to help the family plan and make decisions to achieve the best possible outcomes for their children, including where the child should live and how they will be supported. The meetings are voluntary in nature and led by family members with the assistance of an independent family group conference co-ordinator, who helps prepare family members for the meeting. The meeting is held at a neutral venue or where the family feel at ease.

A Family Group Conference or other form of family meeting will be offered to all children and young people at risk of becoming looked after by the local authority at an early stage in the local authority’s involvement with them.  If the child becomes looked after as a result of an emergency, without a family group conference taking place, then one will be arranged as soon as possible.

The process for Family Group Conferences is set out in Kent County Council’s Policy and Guidance for Using Family Group Conferences in Children's Social Services.


9. Complaints Procedure

Should a family and friend carer be unsatisfied with the level of support provided to them to support their child they can access the local authority’s complaints process. The aim would be to resolve any dissatisfaction with respect to the level and quality of support being offered without resorting to a formal investigation. Where an informal resolution to the problem is not possible, then a formal investigation will be arranged.

The timescales and process are set out in Kent County Council’s Complaints Procedure in Children's Social Services.


Appendix A: Family and Friends - Summary of Options

A summary of the different options available for family and friends carers to care for someone else’s child is available in the following checklist:

End