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3.2.2 Permanence Fostering Procedure

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This new chapter identifies that it is not always possible to provide a ‘legal permanence’ but seeking to give a sense of ‘belonging’, whilst this might prove challenging, remains important if children are to achieve good outcomes for themselves. This chapter emphasises the importance of ‘permanence’ and identifies key planning processes to achieve this. An updated process flow chart is added.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

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

This chapter was introduced into the manual in September 2016 and replaced the previous chapter on Long Term fostering.


Contents

  1. Defining Permanence
  2. Permanent Fostering
  3. The Process
  4. Family Finding
  5. Formalising a Match

    Appendix 1: Process Flow for Looked After Children whose Care Plan is Permanent Fostering


1. Defining Permanence

All children need permanence, which is defined as a lasting experience of a family that gives the opportunity to attach to an adult(s), which is underpinned by:

  • A positive experience of family life;
  • A sense of security and well-being;
  • A positive sense of identity in the child/young person;
  • Where the family environment within which the child/young person lives and the system within which it operates is effective and well managed; and
  • Good outcomes for the child/young person, particularly in education.

Where achieving legal permanence is not possible for children and young people in care, the emphasis must be upon achieving placement stability. Stability for some older children can be achieved through long-term fostering.

For some children, especially some groups of children and young people in care, it will not always be easy to give them a sense of stability and permanence in a ‘family home’. Challenging behaviour, problems at school, their age and a wish to be at home with their birth families, (when this is not safe and/or appropriate), can all make it hard for them to settle in a new family home. It is therefore important that the care system for children and young people is realistic and creative about how permanence can be achieved for them when a reasonable chance of normal family life is limited. This might need to include a consideration of alternative approaches to permanence when achieving this in a family setting is not realistic, while at the same time enabling the outcomes for these children to be improved as much as possible to increase their chance of obtaining a sense of permanence within a family setting.

In practical terms a sense of permanence can be achieved in children and young people through:

  • Developing a feeling of belonging to someone who is parenting them on a day to day basis;
  • Positive messages to the child that there is an expectation of continuing stability in the placement, as evidenced by the Panel decision/review recommendation;
  • A feeling of security in being loved and valued for themselves and as a permanent member of their family;
  • A growing sense of mutual obligation between the child and their parents/primary carer as the child moves towards adulthood;
  • Continuity with their ethnicity, religion, language and culture of their birth family;
  • Acknowledgement and a positive acceptance of their birth family and history, with ongoing contact where appropriate;
  • Becoming a full member of an extended family and part of a wider long-term network of friends and family;
  • Growing confidence in being able to cope with the wider world, including moving into independence only when chosen by the young person (or into supported living if this is more appropriate for them);
  • Stability in school/education;
  • Promoting children’s resilience through encouraging and enabling the pursuit of sport, hobbies and interests;
  • Promoting friendships and relationships so that by the time they reach adulthood they have established more positive long-term relationships with adults and peers rather than less, compared with when they were a child.


2. Permanent Fostering

For children where legal permanence cannot be achieved, permanent fostering may meet the child’s needs for security, continuity, commitment and identity, although the absence of a legal order can lead to uncertainty, and it is important therefore that the local authority formally agrees to the placement becoming long term.

Sinclair et al (2007) found that moves could be reduced by: broadening the scope of some initial placements; and increasing local availability of placements able to take challenging or BME children etc. It was concluded that long term placements should be treated on the same assumptions as adoption and placements at home i.e. carefully planned and reviewed; recognised as permanent; supported at times of threat; and should offer young people approaching independence, the opportunity to leave in the same way as others leave their parents (in their own timescales, with the opportunity to return etc).

Decision Making

Decision Making is a key factor is planning for children’s current and future care needs. All children need to know where they will be and to be able to talk with and about future plans such as holidays, birthdays, school etc. with a sense of confidence.

Care Planning

The Care Plan must be prepared before the child is first placed by the local authority, or if this is not practicable, within ten working days of the start of the first placement (Reg. 4 Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010). The local authority must maintain the Care Plan and keep it under review and if a decision is made to change the plan, it must be done at the Review meeting. Amongst other requirements the Care Plan must set out the long term plan for the child’s upbringing.

The fostering service should be consulted whenever a Care Plan for permanent foster care is under consideration. Permanence consultations are currently being extended to safeguarding colleagues where fostering is the preferred plan. Fostering will have key input to any review discussions regarding any plan for permanence with the current carer, and, even if the plan is for the child to move, will need to share information and support the carer.

The updated Care Plan should be presented to the relevant Panel when a match is being proposed with specific foster carers.


3. The Process 

By the second Looked After Child Review the Care Plan should clearly set out the permanence option that will serve the child’s best interests. Once rehabilitation home has been ruled out, in addition to consideration for adoption and other permanence options via Kinship and Special Guardianship, the decision for permanent foster care needs to be well documented and evidenced.

Please see Appendix 1: Process Flow for Looked After Children whose Care Plan is Permanent Fostering that applies to all children regardless of age whose care plan is permanent foster care.

Finding a match

Permanency Planning Meeting

When a Care Plan of Permanent Foster care is agreed, a Permanency Planning Meeting is convened and chaired within 12 weeks of the Looked After Child Review. The meeting should be instigated and co-ordinated by the Care Service Practice Group Lead (PGL) or Advanced Practitioner (AP) and chaired by Fostering PGL or AP where appropriate. This will include representatives from Health, Education and Care Link to address ongoing health, educational, emotional and social development needs. The purpose of the meeting is to draw together information held on the child, so that future support and services can be planned. If siblings are being looked after, their needs, including future placement, must be considered at the same time.

These meetings are important in planning long term support needs, regardless of whether the child is staying with the same carer, or a move is planned.

Prospective permanent foster carers should be fully involved in any assessment of the support which will be needed, including any concerns they may have about the child.


4. Family Finding

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. This process and plans for family finding should be discussed and agreed at the Permanency Planning Meeting. A separate family finding meeting may be necessary with an identified lead to family find particularly in placements of more than 1 child.

Agreement of where to advertise, use of media in search of a family and relevant consents, writing of the profile, timescales to family find etc are key areas to address in maximising the timely search for a family.


5. Formalising a Match

If a match is to be taken forward with an existing Southwark foster carer, regardless of how long the child has been in their care, this will need formalising. 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 long term carer may appear as a fait accompli, it is crucial to assess first before making a final decision:

  • The fostering social worker should update the Form F and contribute to the matching report;
  • The child’s social worker should produce a 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 PGL or AP should be held to discuss the capacity of the carer to continue to look after the child or young person in to adulthood;
  • The match should then be presented to Southwark fostering panel for consideration;
  • Once the match is agreed by the fostering panel, the agency decision maker endorses the decision with a standard letter to the carers explaining the permanency decision; child’s social worker, child and birth parents. This is the point at which a long term placement is re-designated as permanent.

Where a match is found with a non Southwark Foster Carer, the same steps above will be followed.


Appendix 1: Process Flow for Looked After Children whose Care Plan is Permanent Fostering

Appendix 1: Process Flow for Looked After Children whose Care Plan is Permanent Fostering

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