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5.1.10 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 in Care with Connected Persons who are not approved foster carers at the start of the placement, see Placement with Connected Persons 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.

RELATED CHAPTERS

Risk Assessments and Foster Carers Procedure

RELATED GUIDANCE

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015)

Checklist for Social Workers, Children in Care - Planned and Unplanned Admissions to Foster Care

See also Forms/Signs of Safety Practice Guidance.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in March 2016 to reflect The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015). A new Section 10, Long-Term Foster Placements was added.


Contents

  1. Consultation
  2. Placement Request
  3. Foster Carer Profiles
  4. Matching and Approval of Placement
  5. Placement Planning
  6. Notification of Placement
  7. Support and Monitoring of Placements
  8. Ending of Placements
  9. Temporary Approval of Approved Prospective Adopters as Foster Carers
  10. Long-term Foster Placement

    Appendix 1: Risk Assessments and Foster Carers


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 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. If the child's wishes are not acted upon, the reason should be given.


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 using the Placement Planning form on Liberi.

The social worker should ensure the correct parts of the form are comprehensively completed to support and enable the best possible placement match for the child and minimise disruption and potential unwanted placement moves. All referral forms are subject to quality assurance checks and searches for placements will not take place until the form is satisfactorily completed (see Forms/Signs of Safety Practice Guidance).

Included in the referral form is information regarding the type of placement sought, the date by which the placement is required, the likely length of time for which the placement is required, the child’s needs and desired outcomes and the expected level of contact between the child, parents and significant others. The social worker must complete the risk assessment sections including the risk management plan to promote the safety of the child and others.

If the request is for an in house placement the local area fostering team will progress the request and ensure the social worker is updated on progress, share profiles and make arrangements for a placement to commence. Where the referral is for an external placement e.g.; with an independent fostering provider, supported lodgings, semi-independent accommodation, residential or secure accommodation the county Children’s Access to Resources Team (ART) will progress the request and ensure the social worker is updated with progress.

If no appropriate in-house placements are available and the child requires a placement without delay, the social worker/team will seek approval from the Assistant Area Director to search for an external placement and amend the referral form to indicate the change of placement type. The form must also include the Assistant Area Director’s authority to undertake the search for an external placement. Where the initial request is for an external placement Assistant Area Director authorisation must be obtained and included on the referral in order that the placement search can commence. Once potential placement(s) have been identified ART will provide the referring social worker with the following documentation to assist in selecting an appropriate placement:

Residential Placements: Statement of Purpose and Function, Location Assessment, most recent Regulation 44 assessment, Ofsted judgement and in the case of Out of Local Authority placements the Local Authority Core offer letter.

Independent Fostering Providers: Profile and form F for carer and in the case of Out of Local Authority placements the Local Authority Core offer letter. ART check the Ofsted judgement for the provider and only put forward placements from suitable providers for consideration.

Semi Independent Provision: This provision is unregulated; however, ART will forward any available documentation to the referring social worker to assist them in making their selection of placement. The social worker is responsible for satisfying themselves that the accommodation and provision of support is appropriate for the young person.

Once an external placement is identified the relevant details will be shared with the social worker via the Firm Step online process which is generated by e mails. The social worker will be sent a maximum of 3 IFP placements, residential or semi-independent placements via Firm Step. The social worker selects a placement which generates an e mail within the system to the Assistant Area Director for endorsement to enable the placement to commence.

A contract will need to be put in place with the provider on behalf of the Local Authority. It is crucial that the child’s social worker has specified all requirements for the placement in order that provider is clear about what is required for the agreed cost. The contract is endorsed by the provider, and the Assistant Area Director.

If there is any plan to terminate an IFP or residential placement the social work team must notify ART of this intention as soon as possible. ART officer will then enter into negotiations with the provider regarding termination of the placement.

Roles:

It is the responsibility of the child’s social worker to complete the request for a placement for the child. Should an in house placement not be available the child’s social worker will need to ensure that authorisation to search for an independent foster placement from the assistant area director is obtained and the Placement Plan referral update to show this and that the search has been amended to a search for an external placement.

It is the responsibility of the in house fostering teams to identify suitable in house foster placements. It is the responsibility of ART to identify a suitable external placements for the child/young person.

It is the responsibility of the child’s social worker to notify ART immediately when the decision has been made to terminate the placement an external placement.

It is the responsibility of ART to negotiate the placement end. ART and the child’s social worker will work in conjunction to promote good practice and best value to achieve timely commencement and endings of placements.


3. Foster Carer Profiles

Profiles

The purpose of the foster carer profile is to provide up to date information and details of the carers household, skills, interests, family and locality to the child’s social worker. This information may be shared with the child verbally by the social worker or as a written document if appropriate. The profile may also be shared with birth families. The fully completed foster carer profile must be available to the panel as part of the initial approval of the carers. An absence of a fully completed profile could delay registration or placements with the carer. The profile should contain:

  • Up to date photographs of the carers, the carer’s family, the home and other significant items such as pets;
  • The finished profile should have all prompts removed;
  • Where possible colour should be used to make the profile attractive to children;
  • The profile must be updated as a minimum each year to coincide with the annual review and also every time there is a change in the occupancy of the household or where there is a significant change e.g. additions to the property, pets etc.;
  • The supervising fostering social worker will support and work with the carers to produce a high quality profile. The supervising fostering social worker will confirm if the profile is of an acceptable quality or offer additional advice/support to ensure the best possible profile that fully details the carer’s expertise;
  • The profile will be used to inform and support the successful matching of foster carers to children who require a placement.

The Foster Carer Profile form can be accessed by clicking here.


4. Matching and Approval of Placement

The matching process should be based on an assessment of the child's needs especially regarding the following key areas:

  • The child's education;
  • The expectations around contact with relatives and friends;
  • The child's identity/race/culture;
  • The child's history;
  • The child's behaviour;
  • The child's health;
  • The focus of the placement.

The matching process should also consider the carer's availability and:

  • Their experience;
  • Their strengths;
  • The family composition;
  • The distance from the foster home to the child's school;
  • Other children in the placement;
  • The foster carer's children.

Once a potential placement has been identified, the child's social worker will liaise with the foster carer's supervising social worker 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/clarify any risks associated with the placement with the foster carers and the supervising social worker (see Appendix 1: Risk Assessments and Foster Carers). Wherever possible, the child's social worker should visit potential carers and as required consult with other professionals, prior to a decision about the appropriateness of a placement being made.

In relation to the sharing of bedrooms, each child over 3 should have their own bedroom, or where this is not possible, the placing authority must agree to the sharing of the bedroom and this must therefore be addressed during the matching process.

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

If the proposed placement is with an independent fostering agency, the Assistant Director must approve the placement and a written agreement must be drawn up with the fostering agency setting out the precise terms and conditions between the local authority and the agency in relation to the placement. Where the placement is with independent foster carers who live outside the local authority area, see also Out of Area Placements Procedure.

NB In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education, the Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency/ where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury - see Education of Children in Care Procedure.

If the relevant manager approves the foster placement, the placement planning process can start - see Section 5, 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).


5. 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 (Fostering and Adoption) 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 (which will be recorded on the Placement Information Record). This will involve a discussion of the child's needs to ensure careful matching, including the child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin, as well as the child's health and education needs and how these are to be met. It will also include the arrangements for registering the child with local health professionals (GP, dentist and optician).

In addition the placement planning meeting will consider the type of introduction process required, for example whether arrangements should be made for the child, parents and the social worker to visit the foster home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. Children should be able to visit the foster home and talk in private with the carer. If this is not possible, arrangements may be made for the carers to visit the child and parents; or for information about the foster carers to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the foster home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child's behaviour within the home.

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 order 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 5 working days of the placement.

The child's social worker will arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan and Placement Plan to the child, parents and foster carers before placement or as soon as possible after it begins.

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 Plan/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, as indicated above, 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. Children must understand house expectations before the placement is made and the Foster Carer Profile and pop up house (which should be provided by the carer) used to assist the transition.

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.


6. Notification of Placement

The child's social worker will update the child's electronic records with the details of the placement and ensure that notification is sent to the finance section so as to trigger payments to the foster carer.

The notifications should be before the start of the placement, wherever possible.

Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the Designated Nurse for CIC, the education service, the relevant local Children's 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 Independent Reviewing Officer Service 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 Child in Care 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 YOS 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 Child in Care placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to liaise with the Designated Nurse for CIC to arrange a Health Care Assessment - see Guidance on Health Assessments and Health Plans for further details. 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 - see Education of Children in Care Procedure.

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 to Children in Care Procedure.

The foster carer will also receive support and supervision from their supervising social worker (for in-house placements) - see Supervision, Support and Training 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, including Stability Core Groups.

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.

The records should be monitored for quality, adequacy and retention.

A Child in Care 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 Child in Care Reviews.


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.

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

Children must, when they leave the home, be helped to understand the reasons and be supported with the transition - including return home and independence.

Foster carers must be supported to maintain links with children who leave their care, where appropriate.

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

Where a former carer's records are requested by a new agency, these must be made available within one month of the request.


9. Temporary Approval of Approved Prospective Adopters as Foster Carers

A person who is approved as a prospective adopter may be given temporary approval as a local authority foster carer for a named child in care, 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 carer; 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.


10. Long Term Foster Placement

Where it is the case that the most appropriate route to permanence is long-term foster care, the regulations set out the arrangements for making such a placement, including:

  • That foster care is the plan for permanence and is recorded in the child’s care plan; (Reg 5(a))
  • That the foster carer has agreed to act as the child’s foster carer until the child ceases to be looked after; 
  • That the responsible authority has confirmed the nature of the arrangement with the foster carer(s), the birth parent and the child; and
  • The child and foster carer have a clear understanding of the support services they will receive to promote the placement.

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.

The decision to place a child in a long-term foster placement with a particular foster carer should be discussed and recorded as part of the review process. This decision should then be recorded in the placement plan  and agreed and signed by the foster carer [regulation 9(3)].

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))

Where the decision has been taken that the plan for permanence is long-term foster care and 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.


Appendix 1: Risk Assessments and Foster Carers

Children and young people who need to be placed in foster care may have experienced a number of events in their lives which may impact on the level and type of care they require to keep them and others safe.

Foster carers play a central role in providing a safe and supportive family environment where children can be cared for within a caring environment and their development promoted.

When social workers complete a Placement Referral form this will include a risk assessment. The risk assessment will inform the matching process and ensure that any risks posed are known and can be managed by foster carers. The risk assessment should distinguish between fact and opinion. The context and frequency of risk should be recorded and how these are managed in different environments.

Foster carers should complete an individualised Safe Care Plan for each child/young person in their care and this should be regularly reviewed in supervision. The Safe Care Plan should include agreed measures that can be put in place to manage and reduce risk.

Foster carers should have the information available to them to consider the match and how they can provide safe and high quality care for the child/young person. This should include information from previous assessments, a current assessment and identify any risks to be managed.

The child/young person should also be involved depending on their age and level of understanding and their attitude to risks identified.

Risks may come from a variety of sources and may be external factors to the immediate placement (family/environment, peer relationships, sexual exploitation etc.). The risk assessment should be child focussed and identify how the child/young person can be supported in their development.

The level of risk may change over time and the regular review of risk should take place noting how risk has been successfully managed. Foster carers will make an active contribution to the risk assessment based on their experience of caring for the child/young person.

While it is important to consider risks that may have been previously identified, caution should be taken in labelling children/young people and the level of current risk should be continuously assessed.

Changes in risk should be considered as part of on-going work with the child/young person; in foster carer supervision; as part of risk management meetings; and as part of Child in Care Reviews.

The Placement Plan should consider the risks and how these will be managed for both planned and unplanned placements.

Support to the placement should be provided to prevent the breakdown of placements and Stability Core Groups utilised if there are concerns.

If a child/young person moves to another foster placement the risk assessment should follow them and be updated as appropriate.

End