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5.2.1 Placements with Parents

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to any placement of a child, on a Care Order or an Interim Care Order, with a parent for more than 24 hours, including a placement for residential assessment.

It also relates to circumstances where a Child in Care is returning to the care of a person who has parental responsibility in relation to the child.

Children may also be placed with parents having acquired Looked After status following a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation - see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and refreshed in December 2016 to reflect the current organisational roles and responsibilities and includes an assessment form and link to the NSPCC toolkit.


Contents

1. Decision Making
2. Assessment if Parents Suitability to Care for the Child
3. Placement of Child with Parents before Assessment Completed
4. Process
5. Supervision of Placement
6. Planning
7. Termination of Placement
  Appendix 1: Placement with Parent Report for a Child Looked After Subject S31 / S38 Children's Act 1989
  Appendix 2: NSPCC Toolkit


1. Decision Making

The decision to make a placement can only be made by the Assistant Executive Director.

A decision to place the child with parents must not be put into effect until it has been approved by the Assistant Executive Director and the Placement Plan prepared.

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.

During the course of a Looked After Review, it may be considered that rehabilitation may be appropriate. However the Independent Reviewing Officer can only recommend that the responsible team give consideration to such a placement. In cases where the Independent Reviewing Officer does not support the plan they will consider use of the IRO Dispute Resolution Process.

The Assistant Executive Director must be satisfied that:

  • The child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
  • A high quality assessment has been completed by the child’s allocated Social Worker with a clear rationale for why the placement is appropriate, how it will be monitored and the contingency plan if the placement breaks down;
  • The placement will safeguard and promote the child's welfare;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted.


2. Assessment of Parents Suitability to Care for the Child

Before deciding to place a child with parents, the Local Authority must:

  • Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the Local Authority, the placement will safeguard and promote the child's welfare and meet his/her needs set out in the Care Plan;
  • Review the child's case;
  • Assess the suitability of the parents to care for the child, including the suitability of the proposed accommodation and all other members of the household over 18;
  • Take into account:
    1. The parents' capacity to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child:
      • To provide for the child 's physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care;
      • To protect the child adequately from harm or danger, including any person who presents a risk of harm to the child;
      • To ensure that the home environment is safe for the child;
      • 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 learning and 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.
    2. The parents' state of health (physical, emotional and mental). This is now extended to include the parents' medical history, including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
    3. The parent's family relationships 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, inclduing 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 contact with the child;
      • Current / previous domestic violence between household members including the parents.
    4. The parents' family history, including:
      • The particulars of the parents' childhood and upbringing, including the strengths and difficulties of their parents/carers;
      • The parents' relationship with their parents and siblings, and their relationships with each other;
      • The parents' educational achievement, including any specific learning difficulty/disability;
      • A chronology of significant life events;
      • Other relatives and their relationships with the child and parents.
    5. Criminal offences of which the parents have been convicted or cautioned;
    6. Parents' past and present employment/sources of income;
    7. The nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and parents.

In relation to other members of the parents' household, the assessment must take account of the above considerations except (d), (f) and (g).

The assessment should include 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.


3. Placement of Child with Parents before Assessment Completed

In exceptional circumstances, where it consistent with the child's welfare, the child may be placed with parents before the assessment has been completed, provided:

  • Approval is granted by the Assistant Executive Director;
  • Arrangements are made for the parents to be interviewed to obtain as much of the assessment information as can be readily ascertained at that interview;
  • 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 to confirm the placement, the placement is terminated.

The child's Social Worker will ensure that the appropriate background checks are carried out in a timely manner, which will help to gather information from other agencies about the suitability of the proposed placement.

Practitioners should also seek to meet with all other members of the household before placing the child. This is particularly relevant to identifying issues such as domestic violence and substance misuse which may impact on the child's safety.


4. Process

When a team responsible for the welfare of a child subject to a Care Order decides that a placement with parents may be appropriate, the Team Manager will convene a Planning Meeting to discuss the situation. It is essential that all relevant people are invited to this meeting and that if relevant people are unable to attend, that their views are sought.

The views of the IRO must be obtained by the Social Worker prior to the Planning Meeting being held.

If the Planning Meeting agrees that a placement with parents is appropriate, a recommendation can be made to apply for approval of such a placement.

The Local Authority should always consider whether the Care Order is still required. The Authority and parents may agree to apply to discharge the Care Order; such an agreement must include the level of future support and supervision by the Local Authority, and co-operation by parents. The Authority must provide such services and support to the parents as appear to be necessary to safeguard and promote the child's welfare, In order to ensure an efficient response, the Team Manager should at this stage liaise with the Head of Service and notify them that a request for placement with parents is planned. At this stage, the Head of Service can advise the Team Manager of any additional issues that need to be clarified before a decision can be made.

The child's Social Worker will then prepare a report for the Assistant Executive Director that includes:

  • Basic details of young person;
  • Details of proposed placement;
  • Reasons for proposed placement;
  • The why shared parental responsibility is or continues to be necessary;
  • Plan for monitoring of the placement (including involvement of other agencies);
  • Progress and outcomes of checks with other agencies;
  • The views of other relevant agencies, evidence should be provided that the views of agencies have been sought in writing;
  • Information gathered when undertaking the assessment (see Section 2, Assessment of Parents suitability to Care for the Child);
  • Any specific risks associated with the placement and treasures in place to mitigate those risks;
  • Services and support that will be made available to support the placement. This should be detailed and include the frequency of visits and support.

For all children and young people who have been in a foster or residential placement and subject to a full care order this report should be accompanied by a Single Assessment.

For all children and young people subject to care proceedings and when a proposed care plan is Placement with Parents, the Social Workers final evidence should be available to the Assistant Executive Director as requested.

The template is available on ICS.

The child's Social Worker will also, in partnership with the parent, complete an agreement between the local authority and the parent, detailing the proposed placement, monitoring plans and any additional conditions.

This information, together with electronic case files, will be reviewed by the Team Manager and then sent to the Head of Service for approval. If the Head of Service is in support of the proposed placement, and if the Head of Service believes that the report is of sufficient quality, the Head of Service will send the documentation to the Assistant Executive Director for approval.

It is crucial that the Assistant Executive Director has sufficient time to give the request their full consideration. The Assistant Executive Director may have additional questions or may want the Social Worker to make changes to the report. For this reason the documents should be sent to the Assistant Executive Director in a timely way and the Assistant Executive Director should always have a minimum of five full working days in which to consider the request. Social Workers, Team Managers, Legal Services and Head of Service should always take account of this when developing timetables.

The Assistant Executive Director will make a decision within 5 working days of receipt of the information. However this may be a provisional decision, contingent on the outcome of any background checks that have not yet been received yet. Dates of decisions should be clearly recorded in the case-file.

The Social Worker should ensure that all relevant parties are notified in writing of the placement once it is made. This includes:

  • The Independent Reviewing Officer;
  • Relevant partner agencies (including school, health etc.);
  • Any non-resident parent;
  • Any other person who has parental responsibility for the child;
  • Any person who has contact with the child by virtue of an order under S34 Children Act 1989.

The letter should make the child's legal status clear as well as the fact that the Local Authority share parental responsibility. Where this placement is in another local authority area the child's social worker should ensure that the procedure for notifying this Local Authority of the placement is followed.

The child's Social Worker will ensure that the relevant Looked After Children (LAC) documentation e.g. LAC Care Plan, Risk Assessment etc. are updated to show that the plans for the child have changed and the reasons for this.


5. Supervision of Placement

When a placement is made, the Local Authority continues to share Parental Responsibility for the child, and hence, the child remains Looked After, therefore all the statutory monitoring mechanisms for looked after children continue to apply. Looked After Reviews and Statutory Visits are still required.

Looked After Reviews are required to take place at the following intervals:

  • Within 20 working days of the start of the placement;
  • Within 3 months of the first review;
  • Thereafter at 6 monthly intervals.
  • There should be a minimum of one care planning meeting between reviews. Care planning meetings should be more frequent if required and must always be chaired by a Team Manager.

In order to ensure that the first review can take place within 20 working days of placement, the Social Worker should ensure that the child’s IRO is kept informed once approval of the placement is granted.

The Looked After Review for a child placed with parents will be conducted in the same way as for a child in a Local Authority placement. All relevant paperwork and documents should be completed in the usual way by the Social Worker - see Looked After Review Procedure.

Statutory Visits should take place at the following intervals:

  • Within one week of the start of the placement;
  • Every 2 weeks for the first 2 months of placement;
  • A minimum of every 4 weeks for the duration of the placement, but more frequently it there are any increased risks.

If the child is placed with parents pending a full assessment, social work visits must take place at least once a week until the assessment is completed and ratified.

Statutory visits to a child placed with parents should be treated in the same way as for a child in a Local Authority placement, and should be recorded within case file.

As with all cases, the level of supervision should reflect both need and the level of concern and be discussed and agreed in formal supervision sessions that are recorded and transferred onto the case file contact notes.

Where there is a significant incident or issue, (such as a change in the people in the household, the child going missing from home, an increase in the level of risk to the child), the social worker must notify the Assistant Executive Director and Independent Reviewing Officer in writing within five working days in the form of an addendum to the Placement with Parents Report.


6. Planning

The primary purpose of placement with parents is to test rehabilitation. It is therefore expected that if the placement continues, and the child remains with his or her parents, that consideration will be given to discharge of the Care Order to avoid a child remaining looked after for longer than is necessary. This should be considered in LAC Reviews.

In order to ensure that applications for the revocation of care orders are made promptly all placement with parents arrangements that have been in place for six months or more are reviewed by the Placement with parents legal planning panel. This meets monthly and is chaired by the Head of Service and attended by the Local Authority legal advisor.

Discharge of the Care Order can only be achieved by application to the court, and approval for such an application by Children's Social Care can only be given by the Head of Service and should be recommended by the Looked After Children Review.


7. Termination of Placement

If it is decided that the placement is no longer in the child's best interests, Children's Social Care have a duty to terminate it. This should be the subject of a specially arranged Looked After Review and should be treated where possible like the breakdown of a Local Authority placement. The parents need to be fully consulted about the concerns held by the Local Authority and their views together with the views of all relevant professionals should be considered by the Local Authority before a decision is made. Legal advice should also be obtained by the child’s Social Worker or Team Manager.

In Re DE (A Child) (2014), 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.

If the situation is an emergency (i.e. a situation that would justify application for an Emergency Protection Order if the child were not already looked after), the Team Manager can take the decision to remove the child from the placement immediately, following consultation with the Local Authority legal department and the agreement of a Head of Service or Assistant Executive Director.

When the placement has been terminated, the Social Worker should ensure that all relevant agencies are notified (including the local authority in which the child is placed) and that the Assistant Executive Director is also informed.


Appendix 1: Placement with Parent Report for a Child Looked After Subject S31 / S38 Children's Act 1989

Click here to see Appendix 1: Placement with Parent Report for a Child Looked After Subject S31 / S38 Act 1989 Form


Appendix 2: NSPCC Toolkit

The NSPCC have developed a useful toolkit to support reunification of children with their parents:

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/services-and-resources/research-and-resources/2015/reunification-framework-return-home-practice/

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