Placements with Parents
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to any placement of a Merton child, on a Care Order or an Interim Care Order, with a parent or person with Parental Responsibility or person who held a Residence Order / Child Arrangements Order immediately before the Care Order was made, for more than 24 hours, including a placement for residential assessment. The guidance is to ensure parents are fully informed in the decision making processes from the outset can are not marginalised.
NOTE: Public Law Working Group Best Practice Guidance: the Application and Case Management states that, whilst there may be good reason at the inception of care proceedings for a child to remain in the care of their parents and subject to an Interim Care Order pending the completion of assessments, there should be exceptional reasons for a court to make a final Care Order on the basis of a plan for the child to remain in the care of their parents.For further information, see the Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure, Care Order on a Care Plan of the Child Remaining at Home.
AMENDMENTIn June 2022 a Note has been added to reflect the Public Law Working Group Best Practice Guidance: the Application and Case Management.
1. Planned Placements
In exceptional circumstances a child or children may be placed without the immediate need for the following procedures; please see Section 2, Immediate Placements. A child must not be placed with parents if that would be incompatible with an order as to contact under Section 34 Children Act 1989.
Note that where the parent with whom it is proposed to place the child is also a looked after child aged 16 or 17 years old who has been placed in an 'other arrangements' placement, Regulation 27A Care Planning, Placement and Case Reviews (England) Regulations 2010 (as amended) (prohibition on placing a child under 16 in 'other arrangements') does not apply to the child being placed, as the placement being considered for the child is a placement with parents under s.22C(2) Children Act 1989 rather than an 'other arrangements' placement for the child.
1.1 Consultation before Placement
Before a child is placed, the following people must be consulted and their views accounted for:
- The child (if they have an Education, Health and Care Plan) need, best endeavours are required to ensure their view is sought and acted upon;
- Both parents (including a parent who is not the proposed carer of the child);
- Any person with Parental Responsibility;
- Any other member of the family who is significant to the child;
- Relevant health practitioners including any health visitor known to the child, the child's GP, as well as the GP and any health visitor known to the person with whom it is proposed the child will be placed (with the person's consent);
- The child's school and/or the local education service where the child will live;
- The child's current foster carer, supervising social worker or the keyworker or the residential manager of the child's placement whom are caring for the child;
- The National Probation Service if it has contact with the family;
- The Police;
- The Youth Offending Service;
- The relevant Children's Services Department if the child is placed outside of the London Borough of Merton;
- The child's Independent Reviewing Officer.
The consultation should be formal. The persons being consulted should be written to, requesting their views on the proposed placement. It is important that those who are consulted should reply in writing; their written replies should be placed on the child's case record and be signed by the author.
The child should be consulted using methods most suited to their age, development, needs and preferences; the aim is to ensure that they are given maximum opportunity to contribute their views and wishes. The social worker should record the child's views and wishes unless the child prefers to communicate them in writing themselves.Minutes of a Child Protection Review Conference, which recommended the child's placement, can be included as a written record of the consultation with those in attendance. It is however, important to ensure that these views have been validated by those attending to ensue that there is no misrepresentation of their contributions.
1.2 Assessment and Checks before Placement
The suitability of the proposed placement should be assessed through:
- Obtaining relevant information about the proposed main carer or carers and all members of the household; an example of this is that they will provide proof and evidence of their identity, age and immigration status;
- Inspecting the accommodation in all areas;
- Checking the proposed carer and all members of the household aged 18 and over with:
- The Police (Public Protection Unit); or
- The parents and adult members of the household by them applying for a basic DBS check.
- The carer's GP, NSPCC and the internal social care information system records in case there is any additional information on the family, especially with respect to Adults Services.
The assessment should take account of:
- The parents' capacity, and the capacity of other adult members of the household, to care for children. Where a child has suffered, or was likely to suffer, significant harm the assessment should address 'what has changed in parental capacity and circumstances that indicate this placement will be in the child's best interest and will promote safe care?' in particular in relation to the child:
- To provide for the child's overall well being, especially their emotional, physical, and behavioural needs;
- To protect the child, including taking appropriate measures to prevent them being exposed to others that could compromise their safety;
- To ensure that the home environment is suitable and safe for the child including, where relevant, the need for a risk assessment of any pets and the environment in which they are kept;
- To ensure that the child's emotional needs are met and he/she is provided with a positive sense of self, including any particular needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin, and cultural and linguistic background, and any disability the child has;
- To promote the child's opportunities to learn and encourage intellectual development through encouragement, cognitive stimulation and the promotion of educational success and social opportunities;
- To enable the child to regulate his/her emotions and behaviour, including by modelling appropriate behaviour and interactions with others;
- To provide a stable family environment to enable the child to develop and maintain secure attachments to the parents and other persons who provide care for the child;
- Parents' previous and current state of health (physical, emotional and mental health), the parents' current or past issues with regard to domestic abuse, substance misuse;
- The state of health (physical, emotional and mental health) of other adult members within the household and their medical history, including any current or past issues of domestic abuse, substance misuse;
- The relationships and functioning in the family and the composition of the parents' household, including:
- The identity of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of their relationship with parents and one another, including any sexual relationship;
- Their relationship with any parent of the child;
- Other adults who are not members of the household but are likely to have regular and on going contact with the child;
- If there are any current/previous domestic abuse and abuse between household members including the parents.
The parents' family history, including:
- The parents' childhood experiences and upbringing, including their strengths and any difficulties of their parents/carers;
- Particular attention on addressing any cultural narratives and issues that form part of the family history; an example of this is Female Genital Mutilation;
- The parents' relationship with their own parents and siblings, and their relationships with each other;
- The parents' educational achievement, including any specific learning difficulty/physical disability;
- A Chronology of significant life events;
- Clarification of any other key relatives and their relationships with the child and parents;
- Disclosure of any criminal offences of which the parents or other members of the household have been convicted or cautioned;
- Parents' past and present employment/sources of income;
- The geographical neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and parents;
- Any available information about the parents' previous experiences of looking after children. Where a parent has other children subject to care/adoption orders, earlier case records should be explored to ascertain the circumstances, which led to social work involvement and any indication that the capacity of the parent to bring up children has changed.
1.3 Recommending the Plan
In normal circumstances, the child's placement with his or her parent must form part of the Care Plan, upon the recommendation of a Looked After Review. If the child has previously suffered Significant Harm when living with the parent and continues to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the Looked After Review should actively consider the recommendations of a Child Protection Review Conference before itself recommending the child returns home.
The recommendations of the Looked After Review or Child Protection Review Conference will then be sent to the Head of Service, together with the Care Plan and proposed Placement Plan and a written report covering the following:
- A summary of child's and family's history;
- A summary of how and why the child came to be in care;
- A summary of plan for the child when he/she originally came into care;
- Details of proposed placement with the parent/s including:
- Any therapeutic input that may be required to assist the child and/or parents to acknowledge the reasons for the child being placed in care, to ensure there is no minimisation of previous actions and to assist in the process of coming to terms with any trauma that may previously have occurred.
- The outcome of the assessments, consultations and enquiries made, including an assessment of the parents' ability to meet the identified needs of the child;
- The aims and objectives of the proposed placement (there needs to be great clarity about why this placement is being proposed) and long term plan for the child;
- Any identified areas of risk involved in the placement;
- The support and services to be provided to the family and child;
- Details of supervision of placement;
- Arrangements for the child's education;
- Contingency plans in case of breakdown.
As well as the usual contents, the proposed Placement Plan must include the following:
- Details of the support and services to be provided to the parents during the placement;
- The obligation on the parents to notify the Local Authority of any relevant change in circumstances including any intention to change address, any changes in the household in which the child lives and any serious incident involving the child;
- The obligation on the parents to ensure that any information relating to the child or the child's family or any other person given in confidence to the parents in connection with the placement is kept confidential and that such information is not disclosed to any person without the consent of the Local Authority;
- The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain the prior approval of the Local Authority for the child to live in a household other than that of the parents;
- The circumstances in which the placement of the child with the parents pending completion of the assessment of suitability will be terminated if the decision following completion of the assessment is not to confirm the placement.
N.B. The Local Authority must provide such services and support to the parents as appear to be necessary to safeguard and promote the child's welfare, and record details in the Care Plan and Placement Plan.
1.4 Approval of the Placement
The placement can only be made after the approval of the Assistant Director in consultation with the Head of Service/Team Manager as they will have given their views and the Placement Plan will be prepared, except as set out in Section 2, Immediate Placements.
The Head of Service must be satisfied that:
- The child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
- The assessment of parents' suitability to care for the child (see Section 1.2, Assessment and Checks before Placement) has been completed;
- The placement will safeguard and promote the child's welfare;
- The Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted.
1.5 Short Term Placements
Where the relevant plan provides for a series of short term placements of a child with a parent, the requirements as to consultation, enquiries and checks can be carried out once only rather than every time a placement is made, provided that:
- All the placements take place within a twelve months period;
- No single placement is for a period of more than four weeks; and
- The total duration of the placements does not exceed 90 days.
If a series of short-term placements is part of a longer-term rehabilitation plan, further consultation and approval must be obtained before the rehabilitation plan is extended and/or the child is returned to the parent's full-time care.
1.6 Social Work Visits During the Placement
The allocated social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and thereafter every four weeks - see Social Work Visits to Looked After Children Procedure.If the child is placed with parents pending assessment (see Section 2, Immediate Placements), social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than four weeks.
1.7 Ending of Placement
Wherever possible the decision to end a placement should be made at a Looked After Review and the ending should take place in a planned way. In Re DE (A Child) , the High Court stated that not less than fourteen days' notice of a removal of the child should be given to the parents, save in an emergency.The Court further stated that any removal of a child in circumstances where the child's welfare does not require immediate removal, or without proper consideration and consultation, is likely to be an unlawful interference with the rights of the parent and child under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In emergencies, the social worker must discuss the case with his/her manager, who will make the decision. Legal advice should always be sought. The Care Order gives the local authority power to enable the child to be removed by the social worker but this power should only be used after obtaining legal advice; the use of other orders (e.g. a Recovery Order) might be appropriate in some circumstances.
All those notified of the placement starting should be notified (see Section 3, Notifications), in writing, when it ends; preferably notifications should be made prior to the ending, or as soon as practicable thereafter.
A letter should also be sent to the parents and child explaining why the decision was made.
2. Immediate Placements
The Assistant Director can approve an immediate placement without the necessary consultation and checks having been made provided that:
- There are exceptional circumstances which justify an immediate placement;
- There has been an interview with the proposed carer who agrees to the placement and provides as much of the assessment information as can be readily ascertained at the interview;
- The accommodation has been inspected; and
- Information has been obtained about and the social worker seeks to meet the other people in the household. (This is particularly relevant to identifying issues such as domestic abuse and substance misuse which may impact on the child's safety);
- The assessment and the review of the child's case are completed within 10 working days of the child being placed;
- The decision on placement is made and approved within 10 working days of the assessment being completed and:
- If the decision is to confirm the placement, the Placement Plan is reviewed (and if appropriate amended);
- If the decision is not confirm the placement, the placement is terminated.
The reasons for a decision to place a child on this basis must be fully recorded, signed by the Assistant Director and placed on the child's case record on the social care information system.
If the child is placed in these circumstances, social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, and thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks. The Looked After Review must be held within the first month of the placement being made.
The required consultation, assessment and enquiries for planned placements, as set out in Section 1, Planned Placements must then be completed and presented to the Nominated Officer as set out above.
3. Notifications of Placement
The allocated social worker will update the child's record on the social care information system with the details of the placement in their absence this should be completed by a Duty Social Worker.
Notification of the placement will be sent by the child's social worker to the Designated Nurse for LAC, the relevant person in the education service and Virtual School, the local Children's Services (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority) and the child's GP.
The allocated social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement, as well as all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including school and any health professional or YOS/YJS Officer, if they are actively involved with the child or young person.
The allocated social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer.
These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the children's home where the child is to be placed.The notifications should be before the start of the placement or within 5 working days.