Placement with Connected Persons Foster Carers
Section 3, Approval of Immediate Placements of Looked After Children with Connected Persons was in November 2017 updated to include matters that should be considered when placing a child with a Connected Person should include an initial risk assessment of any pets, together with the environment in which the pet is kept.
This procedure covers immediate placements of Looked After Children with a Connected Person within Merton, i.e. where the carers are not already approved as foster carers. Placements made under this procedure should only be made in exceptional or unforeseen circumstances. This could include following a court remanding a child to local authority accommodation - see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.
A Connected Person is defined as "A relative, friend or other person connected with a child. The latter is someone who would not fit the term 'relative or friend', but who has a pre-existing relationship with the child. It could be someone who knows the child in a more professional capacity such as (for example) a child-minder, a teacher or a youth worker".
Relative is defined as "a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent".
The checks that need to be made before such a placement can be made and agreed are set out in this document.
The assessment and approval of a Connected Person, as a foster carer will take no longer than 16 weeks. In exceptional circumstances this can be extended to 24 weeks. Connected Persons are approved as Foster Carers under the legislation and it is important that they are aware of this before agreeing to any assessment.
2. Situations Where these Procedures do not Apply
These procedures do not apply where a child (under 18 yrs) goes to live with a relative or friend and this is a private arrangement between the parent or other with Parental Responsibility and the relative/friend.
If this placement continues for 28 days or more, the child may be defined as a Privately Fostered child, in which case the local authority's duties in relation to the placement are set out in the Private Fostering Procedure.
Prior to the commencement of the assessment process of a connected Person as a foster carer, a visit should be arranged to the family so that an informed decision can be made as to how the case should be progressed. This will be undertaken by a representative from the Access to Resource team and the allocated social worker. So they can consider all the options that are available to them as alternatives, any potential connected persons should be advised of how a child can be placed under alternative legal frameworks of:
- Interim Care Order;
- Section 20 voluntary agreement;
- Special Guardianship Order;
- Child Arrangement Order.
They must also be advised of the implication of being assessed as a Connected Person Foster carer and the expectations on them as approved foster carers for Merton.
3. Approval of Immediate Placements of Looked After Children with Connected Persons
Before a placement with a Connected Person who is not already approved as a foster carer is made, the temporary approval as a connected persons foster carer must be obtained from the Agency Decision Maker. This involves completing the initial part of the Merton Connected Person's assessment documentation. The temporary approval granted is only for the specified child or children.
Any such approval can only be given for a maximum period of 16 weeks from the actual date of the placement commencing. After that time, it is anticipated a full foster carer's assessment will have been completed and approval as a foster carer has been granted following a recommendation from the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel - see Section 5, Assessment and Approval of a Connected Person as Foster Carer.
The following areas to be considered when assessing the suitability of a Connected Person to care for the child are:
- The nature and quality of any existing relationship with the child;
- Their capacity to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child (or children) concerned, to provide for his/her physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care; to protect the child adequately from harm or danger including from any person who presents a risk of harm to the child; to ensure that the accommodation and home environment is suitable including where relevant an initial risk assessment of any pets, together with the environment in which the pet is kept; in relation to the child's age and developmental stage, to promote his/her learning and development; to provide a stable family environment which will promote secure attachments for the child, including promoting positive contact with parents and other connected persons, unless this is not consistent with the child's welfare;
- State of health (physical, emotional and mental), and medical history including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
- Family relationships and the composition of the household, including particulars of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of any relationship with the connected person; any relationship with the parents; any relationship between the child and other members of the household; other adults (not members of the household) likely to have regular contact with the child; any current or previous domestic violence between members of the household, including the connected person;
- Their family history, including their childhood and upbringing, and any strengths and difficulties of their parents or others who cared for them; their relationship with the child's parents, child's siblings; educational attainment, learning difficulties or physical disability; chronology of significant life events; particulars of other relatives and their current relationship with the child and the connected person;
- Any criminal offences;
- Previous and Current employment and other sources of income;
- Clarification of the resources available in the local community to support the child and the Connected Person during the placement.
The home will be visited by the allocated social worker as part of the assessment of the suitability of arrangements and regular contact maintained.
The child's wishes and feelings (subject to their age and understanding) must be ascertained and recorded, an opportunity must be provided for the child to visit the home. This will enable a direct observation to be made of the child and inform the decision making process.
The views of parents/ those with Parental Responsibility must also be obtained and recorded within the assessment.
The proposed carer should be given clear information about the assessment process, including the need for Disclosure and Barring Service and any other agency enquiries which should be undertaken on members of the household aged 16 and over. Interviews with any referees, adult children and ex-partners, which will be part of any such fostering assessment.
Where the social worker is in any doubt as to the suitability of the placement, s/he should liaise jointly with the Team Manager and the assessing team for advice before the placement is agreed.
Where the placement appears suitable and is approved by the Agency Decision Maker a written Placement Agreement should be completed by the allocated social worker and the proposed carer. The prospective carers need to be made aware from the onset that any approval is only temporary and does not imply continued approval beyond the 16 (sixteen) week period.
The placement may only continue after sixteen weeks if the carer is granted final approval, as a foster carer - see Section 5, Assessment and Approval of a Connected Person as Foster Carer - or in exceptional circumstances where the temporary approval and assessment period is extended to 24 Weeks after presentation to the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel.
This includes circumstances where the outcome of the assessment is that the Connected Person is not approved as a foster carer and seeks a review of the decision via the Independence Review Mechanism RM - see Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure).
Before deciding whether to extend the approval, the Local Authority must consider if the placement is still the most appropriate placement available and it must be considered by the Adoption Fostering and Permanence Panel.
4. The Placement
A Placement Planning Meeting should be held before the placement or, where this is not possible because of the urgency of the placement, within no later than 5 working days.
On the placement of the child, the allocated social worker will ensure the child's Care Plan and the written Placement Plan is given to the carer.
If the child was not previously Looked After, the allocated social worker will send out a notification of the placement and a request for the child's first Looked After Review to the Independent Reviewing Team in the Safeguarding, Standards and Training Team.
If the child was already Looked After, the social worker will send notification of the placement on Care First to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.
The allocated social worker must visit and see the child alone in the placement (unless she/he refuses) weekly until the first Looked After Review. Thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks during the period of temporary approval. The visits are to be fully recorded as statutory visits on the social care information system.
The allocated social worker will be expected to update the records on the social care information system with the full details of the placement and notify the Access to Resource finance team to trigger payments to the carer Notification of the placement will also be sent by the Safeguarding, Standards and Training team to the relevant local Children and Families Department, if the placement is in a different local authority area.
The allocated social worker will notify all those consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.
These notifications must be made in writing, outlying the placement decision and the full name and address of the person with whom the child is to be placed. They must be sent before the placement wherever possible or within 5 working days of the placement.
The allocated social worker should also notify - orally and in writing to all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including nursery/school, GP and any health providers and allocated YOS worker, if they are actively involved with the child.
It will be necessary for the allocated 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.
At the first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the allocated social worker to arrange a Health Assessment - see LAC Health Care Assessment Plans Procedure.
The allocated social worker must also arrange for the completion of a Personal Education Plan - see the Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure. Best endeavours will be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are other reasons which would be detrimental to his or her well being and this needs. Any change of school should be carefully considered and be in consultation with the Virtual School.
5. Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons as Foster Carer
If the plan is for the placement to last longer than 16 weeks, the fostering assessment process should commence immediately after the placement is made. The allocated social worker should make a referral to the Access to Resources Team so that an assessing social worker can be allocated. The temporary approval should be sent to the Access to Resources Team, as part of the referral.
Records will be maintained on the social care information system of the Connected Person foster carer's assessment.
The assessing social worker will check proof of identity from the proposed carers and arrange for the carers and other members of the household aged 16 and over to complete applications for Disclosure Barring Service and consent to any other agency enquires.
The signed consent form and Disclosure Barring Service form will be given to the administrative staff in the Access to Resources Service who will send off for the necessary checks as set out in Section 3, Checks and References, of Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
The assessing social worker will explain the full assessment process and provide them with written information.
The procedure for assessment and approval is as for all applicants - see Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.
If and when the carers are approved as foster carers, the procedures in relation to support, training, supervision and review of the foster carers are the same as for all approved foster carers.
6. Ending the Placement
If the placement comes to an end, the allocated social worker must update the Care First case records of the child and send a notification to the finance manager in Access to Resources so that payments to the carer will cease.
The allocated social worker will also inform the Safeguarding, Standards and Training team to send copies to those notified when the placement was made.