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3.2.2 Permanence Fostering Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was substantially updated in March 2019 and should be re-read.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Long-Term Fostering
  3. Procedure for Long-Term Fostering
  4. Matching Meeting
  5. Adoption and Fostering Panel Procedures for Matching
  6. After the Adoption and Fostering Panel Meeting
  7. Visiting Arrangements
  8. Promoting Placement Stability
  9. Review and Learning
  10. Flowchart


1. Introduction

Southwark Council believes that all children have a right to grow up safe and free from harm, with opportunities to maximise their potential to develop and grow and to feel secure. An ‘Achieving Permanence Consultation’ document should be placed on each child’s file, setting out the steps which need to be taken to achieve permanence in line with Southwark Council’s Permanence Policy and criteria for long-term fostering.

The child's welfare, safety and needs will be at the centre of this procedure.

The child's wishes and feelings will be actively sought and taken into account at every stage in the implementation of this procedure.

Any individual need of a disabled child or a child with special needs will be taken into account when decisions are made in connection with this procedure.


2. Long-Term Fostering

Decisions about long-term fostering will be made in order to meet a child's physical and emotional needs and to provide a sense of permanence and identity, which are crucial to the development of the child's sense of self-worth and ability to form satisfying relationships in the future.

It is intended that a long-term fostering placement will last throughout childhood and into adulthood, including Staying Put, as appropriate for that young person.

'Long-term fostering' as a term will be restricted to care planning for permanence.

Definition of Long-term foster care

The definition of a long-term foster placement came into effect from 1 April 2015 in The Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2015. A “long-term foster placement” means an arrangement made by the responsible authority for the child to be placed with a foster carer where all of the following conditions apply:

  1. The child’s plan for permanence is foster care and this is recorded in the child’s care plan;
  2. The foster carer has agreed to act as the child’s foster parent until the child ceases to be looked after; and,
  3. The responsible authority has confirmed the nature of the arrangement to the foster carer, birth parents and the child.

A long-term foster care placement should provide for a child’s current needs and likely future needs, with assessment that the long-term foster carer has capacity and is willing to continue to meet these.

Long-term foster care arrangements including situations where a child is already placed with the foster carer and this placement is determined as long-term from the initial placement.

Example scenarios in which responsible authorities may determine a placement as long-term:

  • A child has been identified as requiring a long-term foster care placement and is matched with a foster family approved for long-term placements, who are able to meet the child’s needs immediately and for the remainder of their time in care. This has been agreed by all parties and is determined in the child’s Care Plan;
  • Whilst in placement and as part of the care planning review process, the child’s responsible authority and foster carer have consulted with the child and birth family and agreed that the child will not be moved for the duration of the child’s stay in care. This has been recorded as a care planning decision and the placement is defined as “long-term”;
  • A short-term placement which changes in nature due to a change either in circumstances or a particular connection between the child and foster family or evolves into a placement over time from which the child will not move for the duration of care, should be considered as “long-term”.

The following circumstances would not be considered a long-term foster placement:

  • A foster home where a child has been placed with the carer on a short-term basis either as an emergency placement, because they are waiting to return home, or to move to a more permanent placement (for example, a planned and agreed long-term placement, via a Special Guardianship Order, or adoption);
  • Foster placements which offer respite on an ongoing basis, even over an extended period, but for short intervals of time, (one or two nights, or a weekend), would not be considered a long-term placement.

Best practice determines that a long-term placement should be determined as such as soon as possible from the commencement of the placement and the care plan should be updated to record this. Clarification should be provided and agreement sought by all parties. When the Placement Plan has not formally been updated to reflect the intended long-term status, but practitioners, the foster family, birth family and the child consider it to be a long-term placement; it should be recorded as such for data collection purposes. 

The plan for long-term fostering can be decided at the initial stages of permanency planning, or it can be the result of a change in plans at a later date. For example, if the plan to return home has changed and a young person does not wish to be adopted.

Regardless of whether the placement identified as long-term is within their current placement or a new placement, the placement will be formally identified as a long-term placement in accordance with The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (June 2015) when the following steps have been taken:

  • Long-term foster care is the ‘plan for permanence’ and is recorded in the child’s care plan;
  • The foster carer has agreed to act as the child’s foster carer until the child ceases to be looked-after; and
  • The responsible authority has confirmed the arrangement with the foster carer(s), the birth parents and the child.

In instances where children / young people are residing in placements indefinitely, the placement will not be considered a long-term placement until the above measures have been completed.

A child under 14 years old will be considered for long-term fostering unless circumstances dictate otherwise. Where this is not appropriate, the care plan needs to clearly record the reasons why and be documented on the child’s case file.

For children age 14 and over, the decision for Long-Term Fostering may be recommended outside of the Fostering Panel by the IRO at a Child Looked After Review and then referred to the Panel administrator for a decision by the Agency Decision Maker. The Agency Decision Maker would require the care plan and LAC Review Report and a letter or piece of direct work from the child with their wishes and feelings about remaining long-term in their foster family together with a letter from foster carers confirming their commitment to the child throughout their minority.

For this age group there will be discretion to keep the matching low-key, as it is recognised this may be more appropriate where the young person has close links with their birth family and may feel compromised by being matched with foster carers. However, the decision on Long-Term matching would still be made by the Agency Decision Maker, and the young person and foster carer would still receive acknowledgement of the change of status of the placement to include a Matching Certificate and a letter confirming the decision of the Agency Decision Maker.

It is recognised that for some children aged under 14 but over 10, there may be exceptional circumstances why a match at Panel is not in the child’s best interests and the mechanism above for children over 14 could apply. This would only apply if the child had been living with their foster carer for 2 years or more and matching via an IRO recommendation being sent to the ADM is agreed by the foster carer, the child’s social worker, Team Manager and Service Manager.

Decisions regarding agreement for Long-Term Fostering must be clearly recorded on Mosaic by:

  • The child’s social worker informing ART (Access to Resources Team) to ensure ART chooses long-term fostering as the option under ‘Placement Type’ on the child’s record on Mosaic;
  • Complete a case record to include the date the recommendation and decision for long-term fostering was made and by whom, and any actions as required;
  • Change the ‘Care Type’ in the foster carer’s record to show they are now the Long-Term Foster Carer for the child or young person. The start date would be the date of the ADM decision.


3. Procedure for Long-Term Fostering

This section does not apply to children placed with Friends and Family Foster Carers.

The recommendation for long-term fostering as the placement option of choice for any child will be made as part of the Permanence Plan or a revised Permanence Plan contained in the Care Plan. An Achieving Permanence Meeting should be attended by the fostering team, the child’s social worker, the current foster carers and ART Placements Officer and will be completed by the second Looked After Child Review.

Following this recommendation, an Achieving Permanence meeting should be held and will include the allocated social work team in safeguarding, a Team Manager / Service Manager from the Care Service and will be chaired by a Team Manager / Service Manager from Fostering.

Long-term fostering placements are planned, individually considered, and matched placements.

The recommendation of the Permanence Plan for long-term fostering must be confirmed at the child's Looked After review as it may represent a change in the Care Plan. The review should be brought forward if necessary to avoid delay in implementing the plan.

In some circumstances the Agency Decision Maker may need to be asked to re-consider their recommendation.

However, in order to avoid delay, work can commence associated with identification of a long-term placement.

'Parallel planning' for a child may involve convening a Family Group Meeting (See Family Group Conferences Procedure) and assessing family members as potential friends and family carers, and simultaneously working to identify potential long-term foster carers.

Where this is the case, the potential family carers should have a speedy but robust viability assessment to establish whether a fuller assessment of their capacity to meet the child's needs in the long-term is appropriate - either as special guardians or as friends and family foster carers.

In order to try and avoid the need for multiple family assessments, (adding to delay), other family members should be encouraged to support the identified potential carers through offering respite, holidays, etc. and by maintaining an interest in the wellbeing and development of the child.

The Achieving Permanence Meeting will consider whether the child could remain in their current placement. If the current carers are seeking to offer a long-term placement they will consider the suitability of the match and the capacity of the carers to meet the child’s long-term needs. In the event the current carer is not offering a long-term placement or is deemed to not be suitable, then a referral should be made to the Access to Resources Team (ART) to undertake a search for a long-term fostering placement.

In order to begin Family Finding the Access to Resources Team will need:

  • The Mosaic referral form entitled the ‘Change in LAC Placement Request’;
  • A profile of the child to be completed by the social worker with a photo and input from the child and their current carers.

The Access to Resources Team will identify a worker to take on the Family Finder role for the child, and will begin to look for potential long-term carers for the child, initially from within the Council’s known foster carers expressing an interest to offer long-term care, extending out to IFA Fostering Agencies and may potentially extend searches nationally using tools such as Linkmaker. This piece of work may include a family finding meeting to further identify the child’s needs: ethnicity, geographical location etc.

When a possible family (or families) is/are identified a profile of the child will be provided to the potential carers by the child’s social worker and/or the family finder social worker.

This information will include factual details about age, gender, any health considerations or disability, any special education needs for example.

The supervising social worker of the potential carer, and/or the Family Finding social worker and the child’s social worker will meet any/all potential carers together to answer any questions and to provide further information about the child's needs.

The potential carers should also have an opportunity to meet and hear about the child from the current carers, supported by their supervising social worker, unless deemed inappropriate in any particular situation. It will also be good practice for the potential carers to meet the Agency Medical Advisor and Carelink to consider the child’s current and future health and emotional needs.


4. Matching Meeting

This section does not apply to children placed with Friends and Family Foster Carers.

A matching meeting will be held to discuss the child's assessed needs, and the alternative long-term fostering placements available, to identify the carers most likely to be able to offer secure and sustainable care into adulthood.

When potential carers are identified a matching meeting needs to be arranged.

People attending the meeting should include:

  • The child's social worker;
  • The Team Manager for the case-holding team;
  • The Fostering Team Manager of the child's current placement;
  • The current carers and the supervising social worker for the proposed long-term foster carers if they are not the current carers;
  • Where appropriate, others who can help with the decision making and planning for the child;
  • The social worker with the Family Finding role for the child.

The matching meeting will be chaired by the Team Manager in the Fostering Team and in the case of placements with IFA Fostering Placements, the meeting may be chaired by the Team Manager in the Safeguarding or the Care Service. This meeting should include a representative from Carelink (CAMHS) where they are working with the child and in cases where Carelink are not involved, a member of the Clinical Service should be invited to think about the therapeutic support required for the child and to support the proposed placement. The Child’s Health Plan should be carefully considered as part of the matching process, and in some cases it may be appropriate to invite a health professional to be part of the matching meeting.

The meeting will consider the options available and will make a recommendation about the preferred long-term foster carers.

The matching meeting will be chaired by the Team Manager in the Fostering Team and in the case of placements with IFA Fostering Placements the meeting may be chaired by the Team Manager in the Safeguarding or the Care Service.

The meeting will consider the options available and will make a recommendation about the preferred long-term foster carers.

The Fostering Team Manager chairing the matching meeting will complete a record of the Matching meeting on Mosaic as a record of the evidence used in decision-making for the child.

The social worker for the child will provide up to date reports and evidence that set out:

  • The current and predicted needs of the child;
  • The child's experiences to date;
  • The nature of the child's attachments;
  • The child's behaviours, responses to particular situations, likes, fears, favourite things and activities;
  • Anything else that will assist the carers to understand the day to day needs of the child.

Contributions from other professionals or any other assessments can be included.

Where there are developmental or health issues that may impact on the child's future needs, it will be good practice for the prospective long-term foster carers to be given an opportunity to meet with the Medical Adviser for the Panel and also to meet with any CAMHS or mental health professionals working with the child.

If the proposed permanent carer is registered as a short-term foster carer, the Fostering supervising social worker will complete an assessment in order to evidence their capacity to become a long-term foster carer.

If the preferred carers are not yet approved by Southwark Council Adoption and Fostering Panel as long-term carers, the recommendation will be 'in principle' pending their approval.

The proposed match will need to be presented to the next available Adoption and Fostering Panel for recommendation, and be approved by the Agency Decision Maker.


5. Adoption and Fostering Panel Procedures for Matching

By the time of the second Child Looked After Review, the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) would direct that an Achieving Permanence Meeting is held within the next six months. At the following review the case would be on course for permanence / Matching Panel.

If the Foster Carers are approved Southwark Foster Carers (i.e. in-house foster parents) the panel will need:

  • Carer’s review Short-Term – Long-Term;
  • Updated medical in relation to Long-Term;
  • Why carers want long-term for these children;
  • Evidence of relationship with children in placement, managing behaviour;
  • Ability to manage children into adulthood;
  • Matching Report on each child;
  • Achieving Permanence Meeting - summary sheet.

Input from the child about their wishes and feelings and what they feel about the plan to be matched with their long-term foster carers. (This could be a letter, video clip, pictures or coming and speaking to the Panel and/or Panel Chair).

If the foster carers are approved by an Independent Fostering Agency

The Access to Resources Team (ART) should obtain confirmation that the carer(s) are approved as long-term foster carers. If they are not, the foster carers must first have their status, as long-term foster carers approved by the Fostering Panel of the Independent Fostering Agency.

ART should also negotiate and obtain the long-term fostering fee element and this should be approved by the head of Service for Permanency, or Service Manager, which will begin from the date the ADM approves the match.

Then Southwark’s Adoption and Fostering Panel will need:

  • Up to date carer’s review (within the last 3 months);
  • Review to address understanding of difference between short-term and long-term;
  • Why carers want long-term for these children;
  • Evidence of relationship with children in placement, managing behaviour;
  • Ability to manage children into adulthood;
  • Confirmation that all checks are up to date, including a new medical update in relation to long-term;
  • Matching report on each child;
  • Achieving Permanence Meeting - summary sheet.

Children not receiving permanence

If the child has not been matched, the reasons should be recorded and/or the case should be escalated by the IRO to the responsible Team Manager and Service Manager for the child.

After a year and four months, if no long-term fostering placement is achieved, the IRO should escalate the case to the Head of Service for the child.


6. After the Adoption and Fostering Panel Meeting

It is considered good practice to celebrate this significant event in the life of the child.

The Agency Decision Maker will be invited to send a letter to the child/young person, foster carer(s) and parent(s) confirming the long-term placement decision. The child would also receive a matching certificate with the names and signature of the Panel Chair and the Agency Decision Maker, photographs of them with the Panel (if they attended), if they did not want to attend they would receive a photograph and information about the Adoption and Fostering Panel. These documents could go into the child’s Life Story Book or memory box/folder.


7. Visiting Arrangement

In accordance with the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2015 (section 3.234) once a child or young person has been in long-term placement for at least one year and the placement is stable, the frequency of visits may be extended to no more than 6 monthly intervals. (See Social Worker Visits Procedure).

The decision to change frequency of visits should be determined by circumstances and a recommendation made by their IRO based on assessed need relating to the long-term foster care nature of the placement and promoting family life, listening to the wishes and feelings of the child, their long-term carers and birth family.

This recommendation would need to be agreed by the Service Manager responsible for the child’s case. The frequency of reviews may also be reduced and this must be agreed by all parties and documented within the child’s Care Plan, and also within the Placement Support Plan at the time of going to the matching panel where possible.


8. Promoting Placement Stability

The child/children should feel settled and happy in their long-term placement. Social workers will use tools to ensure that any difficulties are identified early, listening to the voice of the child, and any additional support for the child and the foster carer will be given by the child's network, which could include the Clinical Service, Carelink and the Virtual School, or by external agencies where appropriate. One tool utilised to continually reflect on placement stability is the Placement Stability Traffic Light tool which can be used by foster carers with their Supervising and Child’s Social Worker to think about placement stability from the outset. Where difficulties emerge then the Team Manager for the child should convene a Stability Meeting to look at additional help and support for the placement, this could include regular network meetings to help to stabilise the placement.

In cases of children subject to long-term fostering, where a placement is experiencing difficulties, a Family Group Conference (FGC) should be offered to the family.

In the event of a foster carer expressing a desire to give notice on a placement the social worker should escalate to Service Manager level. This should trigger a stability meeting chaired by the Service Manager. The purpose of the meeting is to determine whether placement breakdown can be avoided, but where it is inevitable, to begin a planned transition for the child.


9. Review and Learning

An Ending Review Meeting must be held within 3 months of a placement breakdown, the purpose of which is to understand what happened leading up to the breakdown of the placement and to apply learning to future practice. The meeting will be for carers and practitioners, and the voice of the child and young person must be included in the discussion – the mechanism for obtaining the voice of the child should be determined by the chair of the meeting; Young Inspectors are a resource that chairs should consider using.

Information and views expressed at review meetings will be evaluated by Quality Assurance Leads and heads of service to inform service improvement. (See Quality Assurance Framework Children & Family Services Procedure).


10. Flowchart

Note: Permanence consultations to have taken place with Permanence Service at the request of Care Service prior to second LAC review to guide care planning.

Click here to view the Process Flow for Looked After Children whose Care Plan is Permanent Fostering.

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