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4.2.9 Friends and Family Care Policy and Placement of Looked After Children with Connected Persons Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in June 2011 to take account of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010, which came into effect on 1 April 2011.


Contents

1. Policy
2. Legal Framework
3. Definition
4. Principles of Friends and Family Care
5. Family Group Conferences
6. Alternatives to Placements with Connected Persons
7. Placements of Children with Connected Persons
7.1 Regulation 24 Immediate Placement with Connected Person
7.2 Criteria for making a Regulation 24 Immediate Placement
7.3 Approving Placements with Connected Persons - Flowchart
8. Procedure for making a Regulation 24 Placement - Responsibilities of the Children in Need Teams
8.1 Pre-Placement Assessment
8.2 Written Agreement with the Carer
8.3 Obtaining Approval for the Placement
8.4 Notification of the Placement
8.5 Referral for Viability Assessment
8.6 Financial Support for the Placement
9. Responsibilities of the Fostering (Kinship) Service
9.1 Assessment of Connected Persons
9.2 After the Placement is Approved
10. Visits to the Placement - Statutory Responsibilities of the Children In Need Teams
11. Support Services to Connected Person Carers
12. Long-term Legal Options
13. Role of the Fostering Panel
Appendix 1: The Munby Judgment
Appendix 2: Viability Assessment
Appendix 3: Full Kinship Assessment Form


1. Policy

The preferred option for every child who cannot live with their parents is to grow up in the care of their family or with an adult with whom they have an existing significant relationship. 

Where birth parents cannot look after their children, most families will find a solution from within their family network.  They may need temporary or short term help from children’ services and this can be provided under section 17 of the 1989 Children Act - see Financial Assistance to Children in Need Procedure.

Some families will set up private fostering arrangements to solve their difficulties and these should be notified to the local authority under the private fostering regulations - see Private Fostering Procedure.

This document refers only to the procedure for placements with Connected Persons made for children who are Looked After

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."


2. Legal Framework

A Looked After child can only be placed with an approved foster carer, but Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010, allows a child to be placed with a Connected Person for up to 16 (sixteen) weeks or while the carer is being assessed as an approved foster carer.


3. Definition

A placement with a Connected Person can be defined as being an arrangement where:

  • A child cannot live with their parents and is living away from the parental home with a relative or friend 

    and
  • the placement has in some way been assisted or initiated and/or is supported by Children’s Services 

    and
  • the child would otherwise be with foster carers, in residential care, independent living or adopted.


4. Principles of Friends and Family Care

  • Where a child cannot safely remain in the care of his parents, the local authority is required to intervene to protect the child but must also take any necessary steps to promote family life for the child.
  • The Children Act 1989 states that when a child comes into the care system either by agreement with parents or under a court order, the local authority must aim to reunite the child with the family.
  • A key principle of the Children Act 1989 is that children are best brought up within their families and, for the purposes of the Act, the term ‘family’ is to be understood broadly.  The guidance underpinning the Act defines “family” widely and includes relatives, friends and other significant people in a child’s life.
  • Keeping children as close as possible to their family and social culture reduces the likelihood of placement breakdown, reduces the anxiety in children of having to live with strangers in an unfamiliar environment and often results in better outcomes for the child.
  • Section 23(1) to (6) of the Children Act 1989 places a duty on local authorities to ensure the placement of children with relatives or with people with whom they are familiar or connected, as an alternative to being looked after by strangers, and states:  “unless it is not practicable or consistent with the child’s welfare, the child must be placed with family and friends, near home and with any siblings who are also looked after by the local authority”.
  • The Children Act affirms that family life will vary according to culture, class, religion, and community and asserts the importance of ethnicity, culture and language being significant factors in shaping decisions affecting children.
  • Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which is part of UK Law under the Human Rights Act 1998, requires public authorities to have respect for individuals and family life.
  • Children, parents, family members and family friends should be involved in decision making and planning about child placements as collaboratively as possible.


5. Family Group Conferences

A Family Group Conference is a collaborative decision-making forum that brings together informal (family, friends, community) and formal (professional, agency) networks to discuss the plan for a child and make decisions for the child’s future.

Family Group Conferences should always be offered to the family before a decision is made about an arrangement involving a Connected Person.

Consideration must always be given to holding a Family Group Conference:

  • When accommodation is requested or proposed
  • When a decision is made to commence Care Proceedings

Family Group Conferences are convened by an independent Family Group Conference Co-ordinator who helps family members to devise a suitable plan to care for the child from within their own resources.  Currently Enfield purchases a service from an independent provider via the Deputy Head of Children In Need - see Family Group Conferences Procedure

Effective placements with Connected Persons are more likely to emerge from Family Group Conferences as the parents and family are involved in the planning and decision-making for the placement.


6. Alternatives to Placements with Connected Persons

a. The use of Section 17 financial assistance for non looked after children

Departmental policy is to promote the upbringing of Children in Need by their families, but to only provide financial assistance in exceptional circumstances.

Parents should be encouraged to contribute to their child’s care and should transfer the Child Benefit Allowance to their child’s carer.

The financial means of the carer must be taken into account and efforts made to ensure that they are receiving their welfare benefits entitlement.

Where section 17 financial support is provided, it will be subject to continuing review to ensure that the care arrangements are continuing to meet the needs of the child - see Financial Assistance to Children in Need Procedure.

b.  Private Fostering

Any voluntary placement of a child with someone who is not a close relative for longer than 27 days will be subject to the Private Fostering Regulations 2005.  For further details of the relevant procedure, see Private Fostering Procedure.

A close 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."


7. Placements of Children with Connected Persons

Where a child is placed in with a Connected Person for more than 16 weeks, the National Minimum Standards for Foster Care will apply and the Connected Person must be assessed as a foster carer for that child.

A child is deemed to be ‘Looked After’ when they have been:

  • Accommodated (Section 20, Children Act 1989)
  • Made the subject of a Care Order or Interim Care Order (Sections 31 and 38, Children Act 1989).
  • Placed in Police Protection (Section 46, Children Act 1989)
  • Arrested and Detained (Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984)
  • Remanded by the Court (Children and Young Persons Act 1969) and then accommodated under Section 21, Children Act 1989.
  • Held in Secure Accommodation (Section 25, Children Act 1989).

In certain situations, it will not be possible to complete the full fostering approval process of the Connected Person before the placement begins and in these cases, the procedure required for a Regulation 24 placement will need to be followed in order to allow the child’s immediate placement with the carer.

7.1 Regulation 24 Immediate Placement with Connected Person

Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 allows the local authority to make an immediate placement with a Connected Person who is not yet approved as a local authority foster carer whilst an assessment of the child’s needs is undertaken and/or the Connected Person is being assessed as a foster carer.

It is important to remember that Regulation 24 placements last for only 16 weeks (sixteen) beginning from the date the child is placed with the carer. At the end of the 16 weeks period the child should either return home to his or her parents (if this is appropriate and in the child’s best interests) or longer-term placement options for the child’s care should be ready for implementation.  If it is not, the allocated social worker must be able to demonstrate the progress of the Care Plan and the reasons for the delay.

In exceptional circumstances, 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 Fostering Panel before the above approval is given.

7.2 Criteria for making a Regulation 24 Immediate Placement

The following criteria should be considered when making a Regulation 24 immediate placement:

  • An immediate/emergency placement is required.
  • The identified placement is deemed to be in the best interests of the child.
  • The placement may last for only 16 weeks unless the Department can demonstrate the assessment of the child’s needs and the assessment for the approval of the Connected Person as a foster carer are imminent.
  • The suitability of the arrangements must be assessed - see Section 8.1, Suitability Assessment.
  • A written agreement has been signed by the carer who agrees:
    1. To care for the child as if s/he were a member of the family.
    2. To sign agreements for checks and Police, Health, Local Authority and Education references on all persons over 16 years who live in or have regular and substantive contact with the household.
    3. To allow a local authority officer to visit at any time.
    4. To keep information confidential.
    5. To comply with Court Orders and/or the local authority’s requirements about contact.
    6. To permit the child to be removed at any time if the local authority decides it is no longer a suitable placement.

7.3 Approving Placements with Connected Persons - Flowchart

Flowchart to follow


8. Procedure for making a Regulation 24 Placement - Responsibilities of Children in Need Teams

8.1 Suitability Assessment

Before any placement with a Connected Person can be approved by the Placement Panel, the child’s social worker must assess its suitability, including 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.

In making such an assessment of suitability:

  • The proposed carer must be interviewed
  • The accommodation must be inspected and
  • Information must be obtained about other persons in the household.
  • The proposed carer and all members of the household aged 16 and above must be checked with the Police Child Abuse Investigation Team, the family’s GP and Children’s Social Services records.

Matters to be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a Connected Person to care for the child are:

  1. The nature and quality of any existing relationship with the child
  2. 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.
  3. State of health (physical, emotional and mental), and medical history including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems
  4. 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 violence between members of the household, including the connected person
  5. 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
  6. Any criminal offences
  7. Past and present employment and other sources of income
  8. 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 social worker as part of the assessment of the suitability of arrangements.

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 proposed carer should be given information about the assessment process which will follow if the placement is to last longer than 16 weeks, including the need for DBS checks and other agency enquiries on all members of the household aged 16 and over, as well as interviews with referees, adult children and ex-partners, which will be part of any such fostering assessment.

The social worker must arrange for the carers to complete applications for Disclosure and Barring Service checks then send the completed applications as soon as practicable to the Fostering Service for checks to be made as part of the assessment of the carers. The check should be addressed to the manager of the Fostering (Kinship) Team - see Section 9.1, Assessment of Connected Persons.

The child’s placement with a Connected Person 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 days of the placement starting.

For the required documentation, see Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure

8.2 Written Agreement with Carer

Prior to the placement, a written agreement must be completed by the child’s social worker for signature by the carer. In the agreement, the carer must agree:

  1. To care for the child as if s/he were a member of the family.
  2. To sign agreements for checks and Police, Health, Local Authority and Education references on all persons over 16 years who live in or have regular and substantive contact with the household.
  3. To allow a local authority officer to visit at any time.
  4. To keep information confidential.
  5. To comply with Court Orders and/or the local authority’s requirements about contact.
  6. To permit the child to be removed at any time if the local authority decides it is no longer a suitable placement.  

8.3 Obtaining Approval for the Placement

The child’s social worker must obtain approval for the immediate placement and the proposed financial arrangements to support the placement from the next available Placement Panel. If the placement is made before a Placement Panel meeting, the approval of the Designated Manager (Placements with Connected Persons) is required.

8.4  Notifications of the Placement

The child’s social worker must notify the placement to all those consulted and involved in the decision-making process.

In order to ensure the appropriate arrangements to pay carers are in place (see paragraph 8.6), a Start/Stop Form should be completed and distributed in accordance with the Administrative Processes in relation to Stop/Start Forms Procedure.

In addition, the child’s social worker must complete a Change of Circumstances Form providing the necessary information to the relevant administrative staff, so that the child's electronic recording system can be updated.

The social worker must also notify in writing, or arrange for the team administrative staff to send written notification to the following:

  1. The Children’s Protection and Review Unit. This notification will trigger, if necessary, the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer, who will contact the social worker to make arrangements for a Looked After Review. A representative of the Access to Resources Team may be invited to this review.  If there is already an allocated Independent Reviewing Officer, the written notification can be sent directly to that person.
  2. The appropriate health trust, local education service and Children’s Services Authority for the area where the child is placed. These notifications must be made in writing advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the home where the child is to be placed.  It will be necessary for the social worker to ensure that the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to them or in the area where they are to be placed.
  3. In relation to a first looked after placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to arrange a Health Care Assessment. In relation to a change of placement, the child's social worker must email the new placement address to the Designated Nurse for Looked After Children and Health Clerical Officer so that arrangements for subsequent Health Care Assessments can be made with the relevant medical practitioner. (See Joint Protocol for the Health of Looked After Children and Young People).

    The social worker must also complete a Personal Education Plan (see Education of Looked After Children Procedure).

8.5  Referral for Viability Assessment

See Appendix 2: Viability Assessment.

Once the decision is taken to assess relatives or friends as carers under Regulation 24, the allocated children in need social worker must complete a referral and email it to the duty service of the Kinship and Permanence Team. The referral must be signed by the Deputy Head of the Children in Need Service to indicate that funding has been agreed for a Viability Assessment.

The Kinship and Permanence Team will commission a Viability Assessment which should be completed within 16 weeks of the start date and will book the case into the Fostering Panel.  The completed Viability Assessment will be submitted to the Fostering Panel by the children in need social worker and the independent assessor.

The children in need social worker will ensure that the Assessment and Care Plan are available for the Fostering Panel with a recommendation as to whether or not to recommend approval of the Connected Person.

The Fostering Panel will receive the reports and give advice and guidance about further areas for assessment.

8.6 Financial Support to the Placement

Financial support to Regulation 24 carers is arranged by the children in need social worker at income support and child benefit rates for the 16 week assessment period or until the carer has been approved by the Fostering Panel. All rates are reviewed annually and normally rise in line with inflation. 

If the assessment of need identifies that the child has specific needs that require additional financial support, approval must be sought by the social worker from the Deputy Head of Children In Need.


9. Responsibilities of the Fostering (Kinship) Service

The Fostering (Kinship and Permanence) Service holds responsibility for the assessment and approval of all Regulation 24 care arrangements. 

The service will:

  • Undertake the Viability Assessments of Connected persons as short-term foster carers (and long-term carers for children over 12) (see Section 8.5).
  • Carry out the financial assessments for all Connected Persons.
  • Complete a support plan (in the form of a written agreement) for all Connected Persons - see Section 11, Support Services to Kinship Carers
  • Advise Looked After Reviews of looked after children in placements with Connected Persons and Family Group Conferences where a placement with a Connected Person is being considered.
  • Provide ongoing support and advice where necessary to individual carers.
  • Ensure that Connected Persons who are approved as foster carers receive a review one year after approval and then every other year thereafter - see Review of Foster Carers Procedure.
  • Provide information and advice on all aspects of kinship care to social workers, other agencies and members of the public.

The Fostering Team takes two separate referrals, one for the child and one for the proposed carers.

The Fostering (Kinship) Service is responsible for undertaking the Full Assessment of the carers, the carers’ home and members of the household aged 18 years and over who are not the proposed carers. 

They also hold responsibility for securing from the carers all relevant agreements (detailed below).

The placement must be addressed on the Full Kinship Assessment Form (see Appendix 3: Full Kinship Assessment Form). 

Medical Record on Proposed Carer

The carers’ consent must be sought. If consent is given it must be evidenced by the carer’s written signature on the form. The form can then be sent to the carers’ GP together with the ‘Fees Payable to Doctors for Sessional Work’.

DBS Checks

The carers’ consent must first be sought.  If consent is given it must be evidenced by the carers’ written signature on the DBS check form. This should be sought at Viability Assessment stage as DBS checks can be delayed.  The check should be addressed to the manager of the Fostering (Kinship) Team.

The consents to DBS and medical checks are to be sought as soon as the placement is proposed, with the aim that the completed checks are made available prior to the beginning of the placement.

The Fostering (Kinship) Social Worker must inform the Children In Need Service and the proposed carers of the outcome of their assessment.  This includes informing them of the reasons that led to the decisions reached.

9.1 Assessment of Connected Persons

Standard assessment processes may disadvantage carers who are Connected Persons because they have a different profile to orthodox foster carers. They tend to be older, poorer and with more health problems.

Such carers should be approved on their ability to provide care that is in the best interests of the child they are caring for.

Assessments look at the balance between the strengths and limitations of the carers and seek to balance risk and need.  Providing the safety of the child is not compromised, a plan for addressing any concerns identified within the assessment should be put into place.

9.2 After the placement is approved

he Fostering (Kinship) Service is responsible for providing support to the carer.  The carers will be invited to attend existing fostering support groups and to take part in the training programme available to foster carers. They should be given the same information as that provided to other Enfield foster carers, including information on practical issues such as overnight stays and contact as they are sometimes unsure about the legal implications of many situations that arise when caring for a child - see Contact with Relatives and Friends (including Overnight Stays) Procedure.

The Fostering (Kinship) Service is responsible for providing any equipment that the carers may need to enable them to meet the specific needs of the child.

All Regulation 24 carers are allocated to a social worker from the Fostering (Kinship) service.   

After approval by the Fostering Panel, if the assessment identifies that the child has specific needs that require additional financial support, this will be calculated by the Fostering (Kinship) worker and will be paid on top of the basic kinship allowance.


10. Visits to the Placement - Statutory Responsibilities of the Children in Need Teams

Looked After Children in Regulation 24 placements are subject to the usual Looked After Children requirements - see Social Worker Visits Procedure

In addition, the child’s social worker must visit the child in the placement once every week during the first 4 weeks of the placement until the first Looked After Review. Thereafter the visits must be every four weeks during the period of the temporary approval.

At each visit the social worker must seek and speak with the child and the carers. The child should be given the opportunity to be seen alone by the social worker and the child’s bedroom should be seen at each visit.

The Fostering (Kinship) Social Worker has a duty to visit the placement once every four weeks.


11. Support Services to Connected Person Carers

Where a Connected Person is approved as a kinship carer for the child, they will be paid the same rates as all other long-term foster carers. All rates are reviewed annually and normally rise in line with inflation. 

These rates are paid by the Kinship and Permanence Team once the carer as been fully approved by the Fostering Panel.

Such carers often have a range of practical support needs, which may include issues around housing, finance, transport, education and health. They are also sometimes in need of emotional support and advice about difficult contact arrangements, strained family relationships and behavioural problems in the children they are caring for.  It is the role of the Supervising Social Worker to assist the carers with these needs.

Providing support to carers who are Connected Persons is an important aspect of sustaining a placement. It is essential that social workers work collaboratively with all members of the family and other involved agencies, in order to fully support the placement and to avoid the risk of placement breakdown.

The support needed by the carers is likely to vary and it is the responsibility of the assessing social worker from the Fostering (Kinship) Team to construct a support package, which reflects the individual circumstances of the placement as well as the needs of the child. The support package should be produced in the form of a written agreement between the Department and the carer and should outline the plan of support with clear timescales and a date for review of the plan.

Connected Person carers also have the same rights of access to the foster carer training provided by the Department, as well as the parenting groups and specialist support provided by the HEART team. The provision of respite for the carers (from within the family or through the Department’ respite fostering service) should always be explored.

Written information should be made available to children, parents and Connected Person carers.  The booklet includes details about the family’s rights and the services available to them. It also contains information on the options and arrangements families can make for their children, the services available and how to get them, how assessments are made, the options for financial support and the family’s rights to use the complaints procedure.


12. Long-Term Legal Options

See also Permanency Planning for Looked After Children Procedure.

For a minority of children, reunification with parents may not be an option.  In these cases the possibility of long-term placement with their Connected Person carer should be explored.

There are essentially three ways of achieving long-term placement with Connected Persons.

These options are:

  • The child remains with the carer under a Residence Order;
  • The carer obtains a Special Guardianship Order in respect of the child;
  • The carers are assessed as adopters for the child and the child remains accommodated until an Adoption Order is obtained.

The Department must be satisfied that the proposed placement option is in the child’s best interests.

The aim in deciding the most appropriate legal option should be to empower the carer and to minimise the Department’s role in caring for the child as long as this is consistent with the child’s best interests. 

The case should always be presented at the Fostering Panel to approve the plan. 


13. Role of the Fostering Panel

See also Fostering Panel Procedure

he Fostering Panel sits on a three weekly basis and will provide advice and guidance for assessments at the viability stage of the assessment of a Connected Person and will recommend approval of long-term placements of Looked After children with such carers on completion of a Full Kinship Assessment.

Paperwork must be submitted to the Panel Administrator prior to the Panel date.

The assessing social worker from the Fostering Team has responsibility for presenting the full assessment to Panel along with the child’s social worker.

The Viability Assessment is presented by the children in need social worker and the person commissioned to carry out the assessment - see paragraph 8.5.


Appendix 1: The Munby Judgment

The judicial review of Manchester City Council’s policy on payments to carers who are Connected Persons occurred because two such carers of Looked After Children were paid significantly less than Local Authority foster carers.

Once approved as long-term carers they were paid at the normal rate.

The judgment (under Lord Justice Munby) found the policy to be both irrational and contrary to Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, now incorporated into law by the Human Rights Act.

The impact of the judgment is that payments to carers who are Connected Persons must be made on the same basis as Local Authority carers whether it be a short-term or long-term arrangement.  Any difference should relate to the child’s needs or the skills of the carer or some other relevant factor that is used as a basis for an authority wide policy.


Appendix 2: Viability Assessment

Click here to view Appendix 2


Appendix 3: Full Kinship Assessment Form

Click here to view Appendix 3

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