Placement with Friends and Family Carers
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to any placement of a Child Looked After with a Connected Person who is not already approved as a foster carer at the time of the placement. It must be read in conjunction with the following procedures:
The placements in this chapter are known as Regulation 24 or connected persons' Placements. (Formerly Regulation 38).
This procedure will not apply where a Child Looked After stays with a relative or friend on a temporary basis for contact purposes only or for overnight stays. In these circumstances, Overnight Stays Away from the Placement or Other Staying Contact or Care Arrangements Procedure apply.
Once the Fostering Panel has approved the carers it becomes known as a friends and family Foster Care placement specific to the named children. In cases for friends and family carers there is no requirement to match the child when the plans change to long term foster care, as the kinship carers are approved for specific children only.
Children may also be placed with friends and family carers having acquired Looked After status following a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation - see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was reviewed and refreshed in December 2020.
N.B. Where any placement of a Child Looked After with a Connected Person proposed for a continuous period of sixteen weeks or more, in addition to the assessment and checks set out in Section 4, Assessment of Connected Person as Foster Carers, the Connected Person will have to be assessed as a foster carer. The responsibility for the foster carers' assessment will lie with the Fostering Service.
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."Children who are the subjects of care proceedings may not be placed with, or removed from carers without the agreement of the court, except in an emergency.
1. Emergency Placements (Regulation 24 Placements)
Before any placement with a Connected Person is made, the child's social worker must assess its suitability and consider the level of support likely to be required and the effect of the proposed placement upon the child's contact with parents, siblings and other relatives and friends who are significant to the child.
Matters to be taken into account 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; 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 abuse, 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 and each other including any sexual relationship; 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 abuse between members of the household, including the connected person;
- Their family history, including their childhood and upbringing, and the strengths and difficulties of their parents or others who cared for them; their relationship with parents and siblings and each other; educational achievement and any learning difficulty/disability; chronology of significant life events; particulars of other relatives and their relationships with the child and the connected person;
- Any criminal offences;
- Past and present employment and other sources of income;
- Nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and the Connected Person.
The home must be visited by the child's social worker as part of the assessment of the suitability of arrangements and a joint assessment must be completed with the fostering service. The assessment will require the approval of the Agency Decision Maker on the day of placement.
The child's wishes and feelings (subject to age and understanding) must be ascertained and recorded and wherever possible, an opportunity must be provided for the child to visit the home before the decision.
The views of parents/ those with Parental Responsibility must also be obtained.
The social worker must arrange for the carers and others aged 16+ within the household to complete applications for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and arrange for them to be sent as soon as practicable for checks to be made. The home must be visited by the child's social worker as part of the assessment of the suitability of arrangements and a joint assessment must be completed with the fostering service. The assessment will require the approval of the Agency Decision Maker on the day of placement.
In addition, prior to the placement, a written agreement must be completed by the child's social worker for signature by the carer confirming their commitment to meet their duties in relation to the placement, as set out in the Placement Plan recorded.
The placement may only continue after sixteen weeks if the Connected Person is approved as a Foster Carer by the Agency Decision Maker following a Fostering Panel recommendation and this timescale should be achieved wherever possible - see Section 4, Assessment of Connected Person as Foster Carers - or in exceptional circumstances where the temporary approval is extended.
This temporary approval can be extended for a further period of up to 8 weeks (if it is likely to expire before the assessment is completed) or until the outcome of the Independent Review (if the outcome of the assessment is that the Connected Person is not approved and seeks a review of the decision - 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 Agency Decision Maker and or Fostering Panel before the above approval is given.
2. Relevant Plans
The child's placement with a relative or friend must be part of the Care Plan, which should be drawn up before the placement begins or, in exceptional circumstances, within a maximum of ten working days of the placement starting.
The Care Plan is in two parts. The first gives an overview of the reasons for the child being looked after, the aim of the Care Plan, and the type of placement the child requires. The Care Plan part 2 contains the detail of the child's needs, what outcomes are to be sought for the child and the services that are to be put in place in order to achieve them.
It will also be necessary to draw up a Placement Plan with clear delegated authority.
For other required documentation, see Decision to Look After Procedure.
3. Approval of Placements
Prior to any placement with a non-approved friends and family carer the child's social worker must obtain approval for the immediate placement and the proposed financial arrangements to support the placement through the Agency Decision Maker.All placements must be referred to the Resource Panel.
4. Assessment of Connected Persons as Foster Carers
The child's social worker must immediately refer the case to the Fostering Service for the assessment of the carers to commence this will be to consider their suitability as carers/guardians and only if there is a requirement for the child to be looked after. If the Agency Decision Maker approves the carer the placement will have temporary approval and should be both supervised and assessed.
This temporary approval can be extended for a further period of up to 8 weeks (if the 16 weeks are likely to expire before the assessment is completed) or until the outcome of the Independent Review (if the outcome of the assessment is that the Connected Person is not approved and seeks a review of the decision - 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 Fostering Panel before the above approval is given.
A full assessment will be required to be presented to fostering panel for a recommendation and an agency decision. This assessment should consider the permanence plan for the child and whether the carers should remain as friends and family carers and/or Special Guardians.
Placements with friends and family should be considered only where a child is required to be looked after. In cases where there is no necessity for the Local Authority to gain or retain parental responsibility, Child Arrangements Order applications should be seen as the most appropriate outcome for the child and this should be supported and encouraged.
The procedure for approving the assessment via the Fostering Panel is the same as the procedure for the approval of all local authority approved foster carers. See Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure
The foster carers, once approved, will be asked to sign a Foster Carer Agreement.
The procedures relating to the review and support of the foster carers will be the same as for any approved foster carer.
Should the carers be assessed as unsuitable and the child is with them, they should be advised in writing and other arrangements should be sought. The placement should be considered as a Private Fostering placement until other arrangements are made.
5. Financial Support to Connected Persons
Where families place children with a Connected Person and request support and financial assistance from the department consider:
- Use of s17 for one-off payments for essential equipment;
- Use of s17 for a settling-in payment for a maximum of sixteen weeks. The maximum rate of payment is the boarding-out rate less child benefit, (which the carer should be asked to recover from the parent).
This period of support is intended to be available only to support the carer whilst arrangements are made for them to receive benefits and any other support that would have normally been available to the child's parent.
Consideration should be given to accommodating the child and assessing the carer as a friends and family foster carer only where:
- The alternative will be accommodation of the child within a Knowsley fostering (or agency) resource;
- The child is under 16;
- The placement is likely to be in the best interests of the child.
Where it is decided to assess a Connected Person as specific foster carers financial assistance may be offered for up to six weeks while a Single Assessment is carried out. The level of financial assistance is dependent on the child's needs and what the family request, but will not exceed the boarding out rate less child benefit.
6. Ending of Placement
All those notified of the placement must also be notified when the placement ends.