Children Act 1989: Family and Friends Care: Statutory guidance for local authorities about family and friends providing care for children who cannot live with their parents.
Family Rights Group, Initial Family and Friends Care Assessment: A good practice guide outlines what a viability assessment for family and friend carers should look like, what social workers should consider and how to undertake international assessments.
This chapter was reviewed and updated in October 2018.
- Values and Principles
- Legal Framework
- Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friend Carers
- Provision of Financial Support - General Principles
- Supporting Contact with Parents
- Family Group Conferences
- Complaints Procedure
- Annex A: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options
Children may be brought up by members of their extended families, friends or other people who are connected with them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different arrangements.
This policy sets out the local authority's approach towards promoting and supporting the needs of such children and covers the assessments which will be carried out to determine the services required and how such services will then be provided. The senior manager with overall management responsibility for the family and friends care policy is:
Manager of the Fostering Service,
305-313 Green Lanes,
This policy will be regularly reviewed, and made freely and widely available.
The Responsible Authority must be satisfied that the placement is the most suitable means to safeguard and promote the child's welfare, notwithstanding the Connected Person is not yet approved as a foster carer. The Authority must be satisfied that it is necessary for the child to be placed with the Connected Person before the Connected Person's suitability to be a foster carer has been assessed in accordance with the Regulations. These provisions are to be used only in exceptional circumstances and where there are clearly defined reasons why a full foster carer assessment cannot be undertaken before a placement is made. There is a risk that if a child is placed before the full approval of the carer as a local authority foster carer, they may not be approved at the end of the process resulting in a further move for the child.
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."
The procedure sets out the checks that need to be made before such a placement can be made, if the arrangement is a formal oneIt also covers the procedure to be followed to carry out the required assessment and approval of the Connected Person as foster carers if the placement is to last longer than 16 weeks and longer term family and friends foster care is the care plan for the child/ren.
2. Values and Principles
This policy is underpinned by the principles of the Children Act 1989, the key principle being that a child should be enabled to live within their family if this is in their best interest.
Enfield Council is committed to ensuring that, where appropriate, all children in the borough grow up as part of a loving family that can meet their development needs. Where possible, this should be with their birth parents or, if this is not possible, with a relative or a member of the child's social network. Enfield Council will only place children in alternative care if it is believed to be necessary to safeguard their well-being.
Children are at the centre of any decisions made about them. Enfield Council will ensure that children are active participants and their wishes and feelings will be taken into account in all relevant processes when adults are trying to solve problems and make decisions about them.All formal family and friends arrangements will be assessed to make sure that they are able to meet the child's specific needs and keep them safe. The assessment will take into account the particular situation of the child, carers and the relationships within the family.
3. Legal Framework
The following statutory powers and duties provide the legal basis for departmental involvement in a family and friends care arrangement:
- The Children Act 1989;
- The Children and Young Persons Act 2008;
- The Children Act 1989 Guidance & Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review;
- Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities.
The local authority has a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need* living within its area and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families wherever possible. The way in which the local authority fulfils this duty is by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's assessed needs (Section 17, Children Act 1989). This can include financial, practical or other support.
It is important to note that the local authority does not have a general duty to assess all arrangements where children are living with their wider family or friends network rather than their parents but it does have a duty where it appears that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a 'Child in Need'.
To clarify the children who may come within the definition of Children in Need, the London Borough of Enfield use the Continuum of Help and Support.
Children in Need may live with members of their family or friends in a variety of different arrangements, some formal and some informal. Different court orders are available to formalise these arrangements where required.
Looked after children will always come within the definition of Children in Need, whether they are accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (with parental consent) or in care subject to a Court Order whereby the local authority shares parental responsibility for the child. The local authority has a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for a looked after child to live with a member of the family (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989).
For a detailed summary of the meaning and implications of different legal situations, the rights of carers and parents, and the nature of decisions which family and friends carers will be able to make in relation to the child, please see Annex A: Caring for Somebody Else's Child - Options. Section 4, Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friend Carers, which sets out the local authority's powers and duties in relation to the various options.
In relation to financial support, the local authority may provide carers of children in need with such support on a regular or one-off basis, under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This may occasionally include discretionary funding based upon a financial means test. However, the individual circumstances of the placement will determine the nature and amount of any financial support and who can authorise its payment. The legal status of the child will have a bearing on the levels of financial support which may be available to carers. There are different legislative provisions which apply to financial support for children living with family or friends in 'Looked After'/Adoption/Special Guardianship/Child Arrangements Order arrangements. The following sections of this policy set out the financial support that we may provide to family and friends who are caring for children in these different contexts.
Information regarding the support available under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 for Children in Need is available in the Child in Need Plans and Reviews Procedure.
* A Child in Need is defined in Section 17(10) of the Children Act 1989 as a child who is disabled or who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by the local authority.
4. Different Situations whereby Children may be Living with Family and Friends Carers
4.1 Informal family and friends care arrangements
Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, the family may make their own arrangements to care for the child within the family and friends network.
The local authority does not have a duty to assess any such informal family and friends care arrangements, unless it appears to the authority that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to assess the child's needs and provide services to meet any assessed needs of the child. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. This can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support.
Parental responsibility remains with the birth parents, but the carer may do what is reasonable to safeguard or promote the child's welfare.
Please see Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) for information and further links to guidance about additional support.
4.2 Private fostering arrangements
This is a private arrangement between the parent/person with Parental Responsibility and carer. A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent or close relative, where the child is to be cared for in that home for 28 days or more. 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.' It does not include a child who is Looked After by a local authority. In a private fostering arrangement, the parent still holds parental responsibility and agrees the arrangement with the private foster carer.
The local authority has a duty to assess and monitor the welfare of all privately fostered children and the way in which they carry out these duties is set out in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005. However, the local authority may also become involved with a child in a private fostering arrangement where the child comes within the definition of a Child in Need. In such cases, the local authority has a responsibility to provide services to meet the assessed needs of the child under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Following assessment, a Child in Need Plan will be drawn up and a package of support will be identified. As in Section 4.1, Informal family and friends care arrangements, this can comprise a variety of different types of services and support, including financial support.
4.3 Family and friends foster carers – 'Connected Persons'
Where a child is "looked after", the local authority, has a responsibility wherever possible to make arrangements for the child to live with a member of the family who is approved as a foster carer (Section 22 of the Children Act 1989). The child can be placed with the family members prior to such approval, subject to an assessment of the placement, for up to 16 weeks. This temporary approval can only be extended in exceptional circumstances. In this context the carer is referred to as a Connected Person and the process of obtaining approval for the placement is set out in the Placement with Connected Persons Procedure. Where temporary approval is given to such a placement under the procedure, the carers will receive financial support on a regular basis. This may cover placements at very short notice.
In addition the child will have a placement plan which sets out the specific arrangements surrounding the child and the carers including the expectations of the foster carers and the support they can expect to receive to enable to fulfil their responsibilities for the child.
Before any placement with a Connected Person is made, the placement should be approved by the Nominated Officer. In Enfield the Nominated Officer is the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) who grants temporary approval through the Placement Panel. It is the responsibility of a social worker from the Child's Team, either CIN or LAC, to complete the paperwork to request temporary approval of a Connected Person. In an emergency situation, permission to place a looked after child with a family and friends carer can be granted by the relevant Head of Service but the case must then be presented to the next Placement Panel.
Any such approval can only be given for 16 weeks from the date of the placement. During that period of time, further assessment must be carried out and further approval sought.
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 including where relevant an initial risk assessment of any pets, together with the environment in which the pet is kept; in relation to the child's age and developmental stage, to promote his/her learning and provide development; to 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 violence, substance misuse or mental health problems, and whether this is a smoking household;
- 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;
- 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, 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 of which they have been convicted or in respect of which they have been cautioned;
- 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.
- Should we add immigration status in to this?
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 whenever possible, an opportunity must be provided for the child to visit the home before the decision is finalised.
The views of parents/those with Parental Responsibility must also be obtained.
The proposed carer should be given information on the full fostering assessment process, if the placement is to continue beyond 16 weeks, including the need for Disclosure and Barring Service checks and other agency enquiries on all members of the household aged 18 and over. In addition, interviews will be undertaken with referees, adult children and ex-partners, which will be part of any such fostering assessment. The DBS and all other checks and references should be completed in the early stages of the assessment to avoid a delay in meeting the 16 week timescale.
Where the social worker is in any doubt as to the suitability of the placement, s/he should consult the Fostering Service for advice before the placement is agreed.
Where the placement appears suitable and is approved by the Nominated Officer a written Placement Agreement should be completed by the child's social worker with the proposed carer.
The prospective carer needs to be made aware that any approval is temporary and does not imply continued approval beyond the 16 weeks.
The placement may only continue after 16 weeks if the carer is approved as a foster carer 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 an Independent Review (if the outcome of the assessment is that the Connected Person is not approved and seeks a review of the qualifying determination). The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) must also be informed. A decision to extend the temporary approval must be approved by the Nominated Officer.
As the Connected Person will be temporarily approved as a foster carer, the Connected Person will be required to sign a foster carer agreement. A Connected Person approved under these regulations will be entitled to the same support and services as a foster carer, including an allowance and an allocated social worker.
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.
The assessment and approval process for connected persons who apply to become foster carers for a specific 'looked after' child will be the same as for any other foster carer. An information pack will be available to potential foster carers and a social worker from the Fostering Service will be allocated to carry out the assessment. Once approved as foster carers, they will be allocated a social worker from the fostering service. The procedures in relation to support (including financial support), supervision, training and review of carers are the same as for all approved Foster Carers.Whilst the child remains a 'Looked After' child, connected persons/family and friends carers caring for the child will be expected to co-operate with all the processes that are in place to ensure that the child receives appropriate care and support, e.g. contributing to reviews of the child's care plan (LAC reviews), Health assessment checks, Personal Education Plans (PEPs) and working with the child's social worker to ensure the child's needs are met on a day to day basis.
4.4 Child Arrangements Order
A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order which sets out the arrangements as to when and with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.
These orders replace the previous Contact Orders and Residence Orders.
A Child Arrangements Order may give parental responsibility to the person in whose favour it is made. Parental responsibility is shared with the parents.
Authority for day-to-day decision making about the child should be delegated to the carer(s), unless there is a valid reason not to do so.
Child Arrangements Orders may be made in private family proceedings in which the local authority is not a party nor involved in any way in the arrangements. However, a Child Arrangements Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is placed may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.
The local authority may pay Child Arrangements Order Allowances to relatives or friends, unless they are a spouse or civil partner of a parent, with whom a child is living under a Child Arrangements Order. This is set out in paragraph 15 of Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, however this is discretionary.
4.5 Special Guardianship Order
Special Guardianship offers a further option for children needing permanent care outside their birth family. It can offer greater security without absolute severance from the birth family as in adoption.
Relatives may apply for a Special Guardianship Order after caring for the child for one year. As Special Guardians, they will have parental responsibility for the child which, while it is still shared with the parents, can be exercised with greater autonomy on day-to-day matters than where there is a Child Arrangements Order.
Special Guardianship Orders may be made in private family proceedings and the local authority may not be a party to any such arrangements. However, a Special Guardianship Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.
Where the child was Looked After immediately prior to the making of the Special Guardianship Order, the local authority has a responsibility to assess the support needs of the child, parents and Special Guardians, including the need for financial support.
See also the Protocol for Special Guardianship Financial Support.
4.6 Adoption Order
Adoption is the process by which all parental rights and responsibilities for a child are permanently transferred to an adoptive parent by a court. As a result the child legally becomes part of the adoptive family.
An Adoption Order in favour of a relative or foster carer (who was a 'Connected Person') with whom a child is living may be an appropriate outcome as part of a permanence plan for a Child in Need or a 'Looked After' child.
Local authorities must make arrangements, as part of their adoption service, for the provision of a range of adoption support services. They then have to undertake assessments of the need for adoption support services at the request of the adopted child, adoptive parents and their families, as well as birth relatives. The support required is then set out in an Adoption Support Plan and this may include financial support.
See also the Adoption Support Fund (ASF), for details of what financial assistance may be available to holders of Adoption Orders, the applicable criteria and who within the local authority will make decisions under the policy.
5. Provision of Financial Support - General Principles
There are three categories of payment, which may be considered. One or more of these may be applicable, depending on the particular circumstances of the case:
- Subsistence crisis (one-off) payments
These should be used to overcome a crisis, following the best assessment that can be achieved in the circumstances;
- Setting-up Allowances
These are for such items as clothing, furniture, or bedding. The social worker must be satisfied that the carers' financial position justifies the payment through a financial assessment. Assistance may be given subject to conditions, including repayment in certain situations. However, in most situations, it will be inappropriate for the Department to seek to recover money provided under these circumstances;
- Weekly living contribution
It is possible for the local authority to make regular payments where family members or friends care for a child whether or not the child is not Looked After. Where regular payments are to be made, relative carers should be assisted to maximise their Income/Benefit as regular payments may adversely affect an individual's claim to income support.
In all cases where regular financial support is agreed, a written agreement will be drawn up detailing the level and duration of the financial support that is to be provided, and the mechanism for review.
The following criteria will be applied to all such payments:
- The purpose of the payments must be to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- As part of the assessment, a view should be taken as to whether the carers need financial support based on their reasonable requirements in taking on the care of the child;
- There are no other legitimate sources of finance;
- Payments will be paid to the carer, not the parents;
- The payment would not place any person in a fraudulent position.
The authority works with landlords to ensure that, whenever possible, family and friends carers living in social housing are given appropriate priority to move to more suitable accommodation if this will prevent the need for a child to become "Looked After".
7. Supporting Contact with Parents
The authority is under a duty to promote contact for all Children in Need, although this differs depending on whether or not the child is Looked After.
Where the child is not Looked After, we are required to promote contact between the child and his/her family 'where it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard and promote his or her welfare'. As part of the support arrangements, it may be identified that specific assistance is required to ensure that any such contact can be managed safely. If necessary, information will be made available to family and friends carers about local contact centres and family mediation services, and how to make use of their services.
Where a child is Looked After, we are required to endeavour to promote contact between the child and his or her family 'unless it is not practicable or consistent with the child's welfare'. The overall objective of the contact arrangements will be included in the child's Care Plan and the specific arrangements will be set out in the child's Placement Plan - see Contact with Parents/Adults and Siblings Procedure.
8. Family Group Conferences
Family Group Conferences are meetings held between professionals and family members, which aim to achieve the best outcomes for children. They promote the involvement of the wider family to achieve a resolution of difficulties for Children in Need, and may help to identify short-term and/or permanent solutions for children within the family network.
We will offer a Family Group Conference or other form of family meeting at an early stage. If a child becomes Looked After, perhaps following an emergency, without a Family Group Conference having been held, then (where appropriate) we will arrange one as soon as possible.
Please refer to the Prevention and Support Services section of the Resource Library for the relevant forms for the Family Group Conference service.
See also Family Group Conferences Procedure.
9. Complaints Procedure
Where a family or friends carer is not satisfied with the level of support provided to enable them to care for the child, then they have access to the local authority's complaints process. Our aim would be to resolve any such dissatisfaction without the need for a formal investigation but where an informal resolution is not possible, then a formal investigation will be arranged.
The timescales and process are set out in the Complaints and Representations Procedure.