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7.11 Permanent Fostering

AMENDMENT

In February 2015, this chapter was extensively updated.


Contents 

  1. Introduction
  2. Matching
  3. Reviews
  4. Leaving Care
  5. Disruptions

    Appendix 1: Practice Guidance - Considering the Ability of the Carers to Offer Permanence

    Appendix 2: Permanency Planning Meeting Agenda

    Appendix 3: Agenda for Matching Meeting for Permanent Fostering

    Appendix 4: Panel Checklist Permanent Fostering

    Appendix 5: Permanency Certificate

    Appendix 6: Information for child/young person after Permanent Fostering Panel Decision

    Appendix 7: Information for Foster Carers after Permanent Fostering Panel Decision

    Appendix 8: Permanent Fostering Flowchart


1. Introduction

Definitions

Kent County Council’s permanent fostering processes provide a formal structure for decision making regarding fostering placements that are intended to provide the child/young person with stability to adulthood. While not offering the level of legal security that an adoption, Special Guardianship or Child Arrangements Order can provide, use of the formal process is intended to quality assure, safeguard and support the child’s placement.

Permanent fostering is distinguished in Kent from long term fostering. Long term fostering refers to a placement in which a child may have remained for some time (perhaps due to attempts at rehabilitation or court processes), but where the child’s future placement has not been assessed and formally agreed as permanent. This is also sometimes likely to be the case with young people over the age of 14, who may have entered the care system in adolescence, and who may not feel or want a commitment into adulthood from the current carer.

Improved planning, reduced court timescales and careful monitoring of cases will reduce the number of cases of children and young people who were placed with short term carers which have become long term by default. These procedures set out requirements to ensure that standards applied to cases where children have become established with their current carers, or when a permanent fostering placement is to be sought, result in the best outcomes for children and young people.

Situations where a child or young person has become attached to a carer in a long term placement, (where the best outcome for them will be achieved through the placement continuing), must be distinguished from applications from short term carers who decide they want to keep the child permanently during the course of care proceedings, in contradiction to the local authority’s plans. In the latter situation robust analysis and evidence must be presented by the local authority to the court regarding the plan for the child or young person to achieve permanence through a carefully planned alternative placement.

See Appendix 1: Practice Guidance - Considering the Ability of the Carers to Offer Permanence


2. Matching

Working With the Child

The child may know the carer well, but will need to be helped to understand the change of role. The implications of the transition should be supported and explained to the child. 

When a child is already part of the foster family different approaches can be used to trigger discussion, depending on the age and understanding of the child. Appendix B in “Achieving Permanence in Foster Care” (2008) suggests a number of options, for drawing, discussing photos, writing ‘school reports’ on foster carers, using chess pieces, and sculpts.

Direct work of this nature can then be used to inform the permanence plan, and accompanying reports.

Permanency Planning Meetings

When a plan of Permanent Foster care is under consideration, a Permanency Planning meeting should be instigated and co-ordinated by the child’s social worker and chaired by the Team Manager for the child. See Permanency Planning Meetings Procedure for detailed procedures. The purpose of the meeting is to draw together information held on the child, so that the plan can be agreed, and future support and services can be planned. 

Considerations

In practical terms the future accommodation needs of the carers’ family will need to be fully assessed, with a view to whether it will be adequate for a young person as they mature; or for a child who may have additional needs as they grow older etc.

It is particularly important to consider the future ability of the carer to meet the child’s needs. Care should be taken where it has not been possible to find a suitable adoptive match for a child e.g. due to lack of available adopters who can address issues of religion, ethnicity or culture; or where the child has a complex background or needs. While the carer may be providing an acceptable placement for the child at their current stage of development, the long term issues will need careful assessment.

In complex cases, where for example, there have been a number of placements, or changes of worker, a life appreciation meeting should be convened, so that the past social workers, professionals and carers who know the child can pool the information they have, and this can then be used to piece together full information to inform future placements. Advice on life appreciation meetings is available from Adoption Duty or the Adoption Team.

(i) Kent County Council approved foster carers already caring for the child

If a match is to be taken forward with an existing KCC carer, regardless of how long the child has been in their care, this will need formalising through the Fostering Panel. Some carers may find this intrusive but it is important to explain that this is aimed at ensuring the placement is supported and agreed as permanent.

Although permanency with an existing carer may appear as a foregone conclusion to all concerned, particularly for those children who have been in placement for some time, it is crucial to assess first before making a final decision. See Appendix 2: Permanency Planning Meeting Agenda.

The fostering social worker should complete the Permanent Fostering update to the Form F.

The child’s social worker should complete and produce a paper copy of the revised Care Plan which should include the child’s wishes and feelings, and an update on the child’s health, educational, and emotional and social development needs.

A matching meeting, chaired by the Fostering Team Manager of the Fostering Support Team should be held to discuss the capacity of the carer to continue to look after the child or young person in to adulthood (see Appendix 3: Agenda for Matching Meeting for Permanent Fostering). This may be combined with the Permanency Planning Meeting if the social workers, managers and IRO involved are confident that the carer is to be supported.

Permanency with existing and new foster carers will be heard by the Fostering Panel in the local area within two months of the Matching Meeting. Requirements for Panel include:

  • Short Covering Report - explaining why the carer(s) are considered a suitable match for the particular child/young person and if changes to approval are required by the FSW;
  • Updated Form F - the FSW should update the existing Form F (part 1 and 2) highlighting any changes on the existing Form F in bold. This will ensure the Form F contains the relevant information in one place and reduce the need for additional reports. Updating of references should not normally be required. The carer(s) health needs should be updated and recommendations of the last medical included. The Permanency section of the new BAAF Form F should be considered;
  • Care Plan – should include the child/young person's needs and how these will be met;
  • Permanency Planning Meeting – using the existing template on tri.x and chaired by the Team Leader for the child. (Appendix 2: Permanency Planning Meeting Agenda);
  • Matching Meeting Minutes – using the new template and chaired by the Fostering Team Leader. (Appendix 3: Agenda for Matching Meeting for Permanent Fostering);
  • Panel Checklist – updated Permanent Fostering panel checklist (Appendix 4: Panel Checklist Permanent Fostering).

When a match is agreed by the decision maker, following the panel, (s)he will write to the carers explaining the permanency decision; to the child’s social worker with a letter for the file, to the birth parents and to the child. This is the point at which the placement is re-designated as permanent. The Liberi record should be updated.

A Certificate of Permanence and Information to children/young people and Carers after the decision on the match can be found in the Appendices 5, 6 and 7.

If the match is not agreed the case will be referred to the fostering service who will assist in finding another match.

(ii) Family finding for new permanent foster carers

If the child cannot remain with the current carer, the child’s social worker should seek the advice of the fostering team in finding a permanent family for the child. BAAF have information regarding available long term carers, but the financial implications will need to be agreed first, through the commissioning team and the Assistant Director. Similarly if a child is ‘profiled’ in the press responses may range from people who have never fostered before, to those who are currently working for Independent Fostering Agencies, and the financial aspects will need to be assessed and agreed by the commissioning team, a business case submitted, fees negotiated and signed off by the Director before any commitment to a particular placement is made.

In cases where the decision to seek permanent foster carers has been arrived at due to an adoptive family not being available, then the advice of the Social Worker for Adoption Resources should be sought regarding leaving the child in the ‘pool’ of children while other efforts to find permanence are made. 

In such cases, when a permanent fostering placement is agreed then application should be made to revoke the Placement Order if this has not already been done.

The following steps should be taken:

  1. Permanency Planning Meeting;
  2. Consideration of plan at a Child in Care Review;
  3. Discuss with central fostering recruitment regarding availability of any carers known to be offering permanency;
  4. Discussion with commissioning team re contacting existing providers (see below);
  5. If further home finding needed contact British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) and consider advertising if necessary;
  6. Request to fostering to assess carers who may come forward for child but are not approved;
  7. Matching Meeting chaired by Fostering Team Manager of fostering support team;
  8. Kent County Council's Adoption and Permanence Panel considers cases for new Permanent Carers with paperwork as required above.

(iii) Independent Fostering Agency Carers

Where the needs of the child require, in exceptional circumstances, a permanent match to be confirmed with a new, or existing Independent Fostering Agency’s carer, the steps below will be followed:

  1. Permanency Planning Meeting;
  2. Consideration of plan at Child in Care review;
  3. Commissioning team to negotiate terms regarding costs with the provider, a business case submitted to the Director;
  4. Matching Meeting chaired by Fostering Team Manager of fostering support team;
  5. Papers prepared by Independent Fostering Agency and child’s social worker  as above;
  6. Independent Fostering Agency’s own panel to consider change of approval of carers;
  7. Placement panel (chaired by the Assistant Director) to consider (paperwork to be presented as above);
  8. Child and carers informed;
  9. Liberi record updated;
  10. Director writes to child and carer to confirm/congratulate.


3. Reviews

Reviews for children in permanent placements need sensitive handling to ensure the permanency of the situation is recognised but that the child’s needs are paramount.

It is important during the matching process to consider and discuss with the carer their attitude to Reviews, do they understand that they will need to continue, and do they welcome that or see as a hindrance? 

If the child is an unaccompanied minor the corporate parenting role is particularly significant, given the absence of parents or birth family to contribute to plans. The IRO will need to help the young person to understand the constraints on permanency planning in the context of asylum and immigration considerations (IRO Handbook 2010).

Minimum requirements for matters to be considered at reviews are set out in Schedule 7, The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. While these are requirements for all reviews, some issues will need to be tactfully addressed e.g. “whether the responsible authority should seek any change in the child’s legal status, for example an application to discharge the current order or for a new order by the responsible authority or the application by a carer for a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order”. The IRO must address this, but should think creatively about how this can be dealt with without raising anxiety for the child, or seemingly undermining the agreed plan.


4. Leaving Care

Leaving care practice must be flexible and sensitive to each young person and their foster and birth families. Leaving care workers must understand and respect each young person’s history and Permanence Plan

Before approaching the young person or attending the Child in Care review, the leaving care worker first needs to approach the current social worker to discuss the young person’s history, role and membership in the foster and birth family.

Work with the young person in a settled placement should start with a presumption of continuity in a long-term family. This may be continuity of residence or continuity of support.


5. Disruptions

It is important that permanent placements that are under stress are given the same attention and support that would be given to a birth family or adoptive family. A core stability group should be called to identify what support can be put in where there is a high level of instability in the placement.

Unless there are concerns for the safety of the child carer’s carers own children or other children in the family any move should be carefully planned.

If the situation cannot be retrieved, a disruption meeting will be held in line with Kent County Council’s disruption policy.

Permanent carers are expected to give 3 months notice that a placement cannot continue, and their future registration will be considered by the panel which agreed the match

The change of plan must be formally agreed by a Child in Care review.


Appendix 1: Practice Guidance - Considering the Ability of the Carers to Offer Permanence

There is a summary of assessment issues for permanent foster carers identified by Schofield (2009) in ‘The Child Placement Handbook’ which includes physical and emotional availability in the early and late stages of placement; ability to see the world from the child’s point of view; acceptance of the child as who they are; a co-operative approach to care giving; and attitudes to family membership.

Schofield and Beek point out the potential strengths and difficulties for groups of carers offering permanence as follows:

  • Those offering permanence from the outset:
    • Strengths:
      • Strong desire to parent;
      • May have relevant professional/life/parenting experience;
      • May have good physical and emotional availability;
      • Choice to foster rather than adopt suggests sympathy with fostering ethos (especially face to face contact) from the outset.
    • Difficulties:
      • Clash or lack of fit with other children in family;
      • Foster child failing to fill pre-existing ‘gap’ or need in family;
      • Lack of experience with children.
  • Permanence after gaining short-term experience:
    • Strengths:
      • Good fostering experience;
      • Clear motivation, shared by all family members;
      • Congruence with practical and emotional needs of the family;
      • Good understanding of the implications of a long-term commitment.
    • Difficulties:
      • Some family members not fully signed up to the plan;
      • Full implications of long-term commitment not taken on board;
      • Carers have particular skills with younger children but these do not develop to meet the needs of teenagers and young adults.
  • Permanence for a child already living in the family:
    • Strengths:
      • Child already has sense of foster home as a secure base and carers have confidence in their capacity to meet the child’s needs;
      • Real sense of ‘fit’ (appearance interests, personalities etc) provides good foundation for future relationships;
      • Child gains sense of being truly wanted - for who they are.
    • Difficulties:
      • All family members not fully signed up to plan;
      • Inadequate assessment means that original motivation for short-term fostering resurfaces and threatens placement;
      • Offer made too early, child not fully “known” to family.
  • Permanence for a specific child already known to them:
    • Strengths:
      • Foster carers motivated by strong feelings of compassion for particular circumstances of child;
      • Familiarity of foster family with child and vice versa;
      • Continuity of relationships, school, networks etc. for child;
      • Less stigmatising for child than “stranger” carers;
      • Child has sense of being truly wanted.
    • Difficulties:
      • Some family members not fully signed up to the plan;
      • Full implications of long-term commitment not taken on board;
      • Contact issues may become increasingly problematic if the carers’ loyalties are torn between the child’s needs and the wishes of birth family members.

A discussion of the following areas will not only help to clarify future support, but cover the current motivation of the carers, for example:

  • Supervision - do they have a good relationship with the supervising social worker/and or other professionals. Are they able to use supervision to support meeting the outcomes for the child;
  • What are the views of carer, parents and child about contact, and what support may be needed initially? Long term foster carers may have an existing relationship with the birth parents that will be affected by their new permanent caring role. This can change the view of contact between the child and birth parents making it particularly difficult for the carer to manage. If there are siblings living with the birth family how this will be managed?
  • If the child is of a different culture, religion or ethnicity to the carer how can they be supported? What resources are available now, and what might be available when the child reaches a different developmental stage?
  • What consent can be delegated to the carer - this will vary from child to child but the aim should be to delegate as much decision making to the carer as possible, as the child should feel that someone they know if making important decisions for them; 
  • If the permanent carer is continuing to foster other children, how will future placements be managed, and how will the child relate to other children being introduced to the household. The age range of other children to be placed may need to be reconsidered as the child develops;
  • Do the carers expect respite? This will not be routine in a permanency placement, as the expectation is that the child is treated as a member of the family. Only in exceptional cases where it is beneficial to the child, and will assist with placement stability, should respite be planned and provided. This provision should be regularly reviewed;
  • Do the carers understand that the legal situation will not change, and that reviews will continue? Clarification as to whether the visiting timeframes should be reduced to not more than 3 monthly (if child has been placed for over a year), and how much consent will be delegated to the carers.


Appendix 2: Permanency Planning Meeting Agenda

Appendix 2: Permanency Planning Meeting Agenda (see the Forms/Signs of Safety Practice Guidance)


Appendix 3: Agenda for Matching Meeting for Permanent Fostering

Appendix 3: Agenda for Matching Meeting for Permanent Fostering


Appendix 4: Panel Checklist Permanent Fostering

Appendix 4: Panel Checklist Permanent Fostering


Appendix 5: Permanency Certificate

Appendix 5: Permanency Certificate


Appendix 6: Information for child/young person after Permanent Fostering Panel Decision

Appendix 6: Information for child/young person after Permanent Fostering Panel Decision


Appendix 7: Information for Foster Carers after Permanent Fostering Panel Decision

Appendix 7: Information for Foster Carers after Permanent Fostering Panel Decision


Appendix 8: Permanent Fostering Flowchart

Appendix 8: Permanent Fostering Flowchart

End