Note: Residence Orders and Contact Orders (in Private Law) are now called Child Arrangements Orders.
This chapter was updated in December 2019 in line with the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and revised statutory guidance.
These changes relate to the status of ‘previously looked after children’. A previously Looked After Child is one who is no longer looked after in England and Wales because they are the subject of an Adoption, Special Guardianship or Child Arrangements Order which includes arrangements relating to with whom the child is to live, or when the child is to live with any person, or has been adopted from ‘state care’ outside England and Wales.Children subject to an Adoption, Special Guardianship or Child Arrangements Order are entitled to support from their school, through the designated teacher. See Promoting the Education of Looked-After and Previously Looked-After Children.
The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015) defines permanence as the long terms plan for the child's upbringing and provides an underpinning framework for all social work with children and families from family support through to adoption. The objective of planning for permanence is therefore to ensure that children have a secure stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond and to give them a sense of security, continuity, commitment, identity and belonging.
Permanence for children has three particular aspects:
The objective of planning for permanence is to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond. Every reasonable effort should be made to prevent drift and delay for children or young people. Decisions need to be taken quickly as possibilities for reunification decrease markedly after four months, and the younger the child at the making of a permanent placement, the greater likelihood of him or her developing good attachments throughout childhood and into adulthood.
The question "How are the child's permanence needs being met?" must be at the core of everything we do.
Where it is necessary for a child to leave his or her family:
Where it is clear that families and children are unable to live together, planning must be swift and clear to identify permanent alternative settings.
Wherever possible, care should be provided locally unless clearly identified as inappropriate.
Contact with the family, Connected Person and extended family should be facilitated and built on (unless clearly identified as inappropriate).
The professionals involved will work in partnership with parents/families to meet the above objectives. The wishes and feelings of the child will be taken into account. The older and more mature the child, the greater the weight should be given to his or her wishes.
When undertaking permanence planning, all workers have a duty to promote the child's links with his or her racial, cultural and religious heritage by:
Practice promoting race equality according to the child's assessed needs must therefore be evidenced within the child's Permanence Plan.
When consideration is being given to a child becoming looked after, permanence planning and long term outcomes should be given due attention. To facilitate this a Family Group Conferences Procedure should be convened to enable mapping of the family and social network options.
The purpose of the LPM is to:
Tracking Meetings and Permanence and Care Planning Meetings have been in place since 2013. These meetings were introduced with an objective to ensure that the local authority care and permanence plans are clear and with specific actions identified to achieve them.
Six weekly tracking meetings are held in respect of all Looked After Children to support management oversight of the care and permanence planning and identify cases where factors may be impacting on permanence outcomes.
Permanence and Care Planning Meetings are convened on all Looked after Children aged between 0-14 years (in certain circumstances meetings will be held on older children in order to support permanence planning).
The purpose of the PCPM is to:
The options for permanence are:
|7.1||Staying at Home|
|7.2||Placement with Family or Friends/Connected Persons?|
|7.7||Child Arrangements Orders|
This option must always be considered. It is important that this is pursued in a robust and diligent manner from the earliest point in order to ensure the quickest possible passage through the legal process; and in particular to demonstrate that all appropriate help and support has been provided to the parents and their support network. Staying at home offers the best chance of stability and research shows that family preservation has a higher success rate than reunification (this must be balanced against the risk of harm to the child).
Where there have been long-standing concerns, it is likely that there will have been a Pre-Proceedings Meeting under the Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure.
The Pre-Proceedings Meeting should address which assessments or processes could be achieved prior to the application for Care Proceedings. These may include:
If the assessment concludes that the child cannot safely remain at home, every effort must be made to secure a placement with a family member or friend/Connected Person as their carer. This will be either as part of the plan to work towards a return home or - if a return home is clearly not in the child's best interests - as the preferred permanence option. It is very important to establish at an early stage which relatives or friends might be available to care for the child, to avoid the kind of delays that can happen during court proceedings where this work has not been done.
See Placement for Adoption for detailed procedures.
Adoption remains unique in that it transfers Parental Responsibility from the birth family and others who had Parental Responsibility including the local authority permanently and solely to the adopters and provides a child with a permanent and legally endorsed place within a new family. The Welfare Checklist in Section 1 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 gives a useful guide to the considerations that should be taken into account when considering adoption for a child. While some level of direct or indirect contact with birth parents is increasing as part of adoptive arrangements, this cannot be the principal consideration for this type of placement. Siblings should normally be placed together but where this is not in the children's best interest contact arrangements will be an important consideration in placement planning.
The child is deemed to be the child of the adopter(s) as if he or she had been born to them. The child's birth certificate is changed to an adoption certificate showing the adopter(s) to be the child's parent(s). A child who is not already a citizen of the UK acquires British citizenship if adopted in the UK by a citizen of the UK.
Research strongly supports adoption as a primary consideration and as a main factor contributing to the stability of children, especially for those under four years of age who cannot be reunified with their birth or extended family.
Adopters may be supported, including financially, by the local authority and will have the right to request an assessment for support services at any time after the Order is made. See Adoption Support Services for detailed procedures.
A child subject to an Adoption Order will be entitled to additional education and Early Years support. This will be accessed through the designated teacher in the child’s school/Early Years setting.
Adoption has the following advantages as a Permanence Plan:
Adoption has the following disadvantages as a Permanence Plan:
The plan for adoption has to have been presented to the Agency Decision Maker and agreed, to enable the plan for adoption to be progressed. In order to make an informed recommendation the Agency Decision Maker needs to have access to all of the available information regarding the case. This will include any reports submitted during the proceedings.
If the case is in court then an Application for a Placement Order has to be made and the Adoption Plan cannot be implemented until the Placement Order is granted.
Further advice on all of the processes required for the Panel can be obtained from the Quality Assurance Manager.
A plan for permanence needs to be considered for relinquished babies as soon as the local authority is notified. Children and Families Court Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS) should be notified to witness the consent form during the initial 6 week period. (Consent given by a mother before 6 weeks is ineffective).
Where birth mother approaches the service to relinquish their child – pre-birth counselling should be offered, counselling should be offered to the father if appropriate. Counselling should explain the options, stay with mother, short term foster care, long term placement with wider family, placement for adoption. Information should also be provided on the legal implications of adoption.
The social worker will commence the Child Permanence Report, in light of the introduction of Regionalisation of Adoption, the Social Worker should consult with their line manager in respect of carrying out procedures in line with Adopt London South.Early Permanence placements can be considered, the prospective adopters will be part of Adopt London South, however the fostering element of their role will remain Merton’s responsibility.
A child for whom adoption is thought to be a likely outcome may be placed with prospective adopters who have been given temporary approval as foster carers. This can be where the child's plan is likely to become adoption, but other options have not yet been ruled out for that child.Approved prospective adopters can be given temporary approval as foster carers under 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. Temporary foster carer approval was previously carried out at the same time as the adopter approval process, however in light of the development of Adopt London South as part of Regionalisation of Adoption the prospective adopters would need to be approved by Merton ADM.
A permanent fostering arrangement can be with either a family member, Connected Person or friend who has been approved as a foster carer specifically for the child, or with an in-house or Independent Fostering Agency carer. In the latter cases this may originate as a permanent arrangement, in that a carer has been sought to meet the needs of a particular child and the match agreed by the appropriate panel; or it may have developed from a short term arrangement in which case the carer will need to be reassessed in view of the long-term nature of the relationship.
Permanent fostering arrangements will be confirmed through a selection/matching meeting chaired by a Head of Service or a Team Manager.Long-term or permanent fostering is distinct from other permanency options in that the child remains 'Looked After' and thus subject to all relevant procedures including reviews and medicals.
Long-term fostering has the following advantages as a Permanence Plan:
Permanent Fostering has the following disadvantages as a Permanence Plan:
See Applications for Special Guardianship Orders for the detailed procedures.
Special Guardianship confers the lead Parental Responsibility to the holder(s). It does not remove Parental Responsibility from the parent(s). It lasts until the child reaches 18. After that time, there is no formal legal connection between the Special Guardian and the child.
It was designed as an option for foster carers who wished to make a permanent commitment to a looked after child where adoption was not appropriate, for example where the child retained attachments to their birth family and did not wish to break these, or where there were cultural or religious objections to adoption.It has become increasingly used by family members as an alternative to the child being looked after in the long-term. For many family members, Special Guardianship is preferable to adoption as it does not complicate family relationships, e.g. being both the biological grandmother and the legal mother.
The following persons may apply:
The parents of a child may not become the child's special guardians.
Special Guardianship has the following advantages as a Permanence Plan:
Special Guardianship has the following disadvantages as a Permanence Plan:
A Child Arrangements Order may be used to increase the degree of legal permanence in a placement with family or friends/Connected Persons, or a permanent fostering placement, where this would be in the child's best interests.
Where a child would otherwise have to be placed with strangers, a placement with family or friends/Connected Persons may be identified as a preferred option and the carers may be encouraged and supported to apply for a Child Arrangements Order where this will be in the best interests of the child.
A Child Arrangements Order confers Parental Responsibility, to be shared more equally with the parents than with Special Guardianship, which in some cases may be a more appropriate arrangement.
The holder of a Child Arrangements Order does not have the right to consent to the child's adoption nor to appoint a guardian; in addition, he/she may not change the child's name nor arrange for the child's emigration without the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility or the leave of the court.
Whilst support may continue for as long as the Child Arrangements Order remains in force, the aim will be to make arrangements which are self-sustaining in the long run.
The making of a Child Arrangements Order can now be made until the child is 18 and will have the effect of discharging a Care Order.
The following people may apply for a Child Arrangements Order:
Anyone else who wishes to apply, including the child, must apply to the court for leave to make the application for a Child Arrangements Order.
A Child Arrangements Order has the following advantages:
A Child Arrangements Order has the following disadvantages:
Where a child is placed with long term carers, it is important that the child has access to the friends, family or community within which they were brought up and which form part of their identity and their long term support network. For these reasons children should be placed in local provision wherever possible.
Any decision to place a child away from his or her community should be based on the particular needs of the child, and considered within the context of a Permanence Plan. Where an alternative family placement is sought in the area of another local authority, the likely availability and cost of suitable local resources to support the placement must be explored. In the case of an adoptive placement, this will be required as part of the assessment of need for adoption support services (see Adoption Support Services Procedure), but should be carried out in relation to any permanent placement.
Assessments of a child's needs in relation to his or her Permanence Plan must:
Social workers must ensure the child's Permanence Plan is clearly linked to previous assessments of the child's needs.
Appendix 1: Identifying Permanence Options presents a brief, research-based checklist of considerations about Adoption, Child Arrangements Orders, Special Guardianship Orders and Long-term Fostering.
In considering the child's needs, full consultation with family and community networks should be undertaken to establish the child's attachments and supports.
In all cases, the child's own wishes and feelings must be ascertained and taken into account.
To ensure senior management oversight of permanence planning all looked after children will be reviewed at monthly tracking meetings. These meetings will be divided into two age cohorts (0-5 years and 6-18 years). The tracking meeting will be chaired by a Head of Service. Team Managers will be expected to present up to date progress reports on the individual care plans of the children and young people in their teams.When a child or young person becomes looked after a Permanence and Care Planning Meeting will be convened to ensure that parallel planning is in place for every child. The actions agreed at these meetings will be reviewed regularly to ensure that children and young people do not experience drift in terms of achieving permanent outcomes.
By the time of the second Looked After Review, the child must have a Permanence Plan (incorporated into the Care Plan), to be presented for consideration at the review.
Where the Permanence Plan includes a Parallel Plan, the social worker must ensure that the parents are informed of the reasons why two plans are being made to meet the child's needs and prevent unnecessary delay.
The following practice guidance is not exhaustive. It is drawn from research and consultation with young people, parents, carers and practitioners.
Research points to:
Issues to consider:
Social workers are encouraged to consider working to this model; working towards a child's return home whilst at the same time developing an alternative Permanence Plan, within strictly limited timescales.
Where children's cases are before the court in Care Proceedings, the Court require twin track planning to be reflected in the Care Plan - see also Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure.
It is important to assess the extent and quality of relationships in a sibling group.
Usually, and especially where there is a pre-existing and meaningful relationship, it will be important to actively seek to maintain sibling relationships within any Permanence Plan, including those where an alternative family placement is sought.
Issues from research:
Contact must always be for the benefit of the child, not the parents or other relatives.
It may serve one or all of the following functions:
Direct contact will generally work best if all parties accept/agree to:
Direct contact is not likely to be successful in situations where a parent:
The wishes of the child to join a new family without direct contact, must be considered and given considerable weight at any age.
If direct contact is a part of the Permanence Plan, a formal agreement setting out how contact will take place, who with, where and how frequently must be negotiated before placement, and reviewed regularly throughout the child's life.
We do not all share the same sense of family - it means different things to different people. It helps when children are helped to understand to whom they are related, especially if they have complicated family trees including half-brothers or sisters living in different places. Identity is built on solid information.
Wherever possible, indirect contact between the child and his or her new family with people from the past should be facilitated:
Indirect contact must be negotiated prior to placement, and all parties should be asked to enter into an agreement with one another about the form and frequency that the contact will take. Renegotiations of the contact should only take place if the child's needs warrant it.
All parties to the agreement will need to accept that as the child becomes older and is informed more fully about the arrangements for indirect contact, the child will have a view regarding its continuation. No contact arrangements can be promised to remain unaltered during the child's childhood. Those involved need to accept that contact may cease if it is no longer in the child's interests. Alternatively, an older child may need to change to direct contact.
For younger children unable to be returned home where adoption is the plan, a Care Order and Placement Order are likely to be necessary unless parents are clearly relinquishing the child and are in agreement with the plan and the placement choice.
For children for whom adoption is not appropriate, each case will need to be considered on its merits. The decision between Special Guardianship Order, Child Arrangements Order and Permanent Fostering under a Care Order will depend on the individual needs of the child set alongside the advantages and disadvantages of each legal route.
|Child Arrangements/Special Guardianship Orders||Adoption||Long Term Fostering|
|Child needs the security of a legally defined placement with alternative carers, but does not require a lifelong commitment involving a change of identity.||Child's primary need is to belong to a family who will make a lifelong commitment.||Primary need is for a stable, loving family environment whilst there is still a significant level of continued involvement with the birth family.|
|Child's relation, foster or other carer needs to exercise day to day parental responsibility and is prepared to do so as a lifelong commitment.||Child's birth parents are not able or not willing to share parental responsibility in order to meet their child's needs, even though there may be contact.||Child has a clear sense of identity with the birth family, whilst needing to be looked after away from home.|
|There is no need for continuing monitoring and review by the Local Authority, although support services may still need to be arranged.||Child needs an opportunity to develop a new sense of identity whilst being supported to maintain or develop a healthy understanding of their past.||There is need for continuing oversight and monitoring of the child's developmental progress.|
|Child has a strong attachment to the alternative carers and legally defined permanence is assessed as a positive contribution to their sense of belonging and security.||Child expresses a wish to be adopted.||Birth parents are able and willing to exercise a degree of parental responsibility.|
Only valid for 48hrs