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1.1.7 Achieving Permanency for Children in Wirral Policy

This chapter was added to the manual in March 2015.


Contents

1. The Purpose of this Policy
2. Introduction
3. Permanency Principles
  3.1 Children in Need
  3.2 Children in Care
  3.3 Children with Disabilities
  3.4 Care Planning Process
  3.5 Management
4. Permanency Options
5. Supporting Permanency
6. Financial Support
7. Meeting the Young Person’s Educational Needs
8. Meeting the Health Needs
9. Transition to Adulthood
10. What We Must Achieve
11. People Affected
12. Responsibilities
13. Summary
  Appendix 1 – Comparative Table


1. The Purpose of this Policy

  • To ensure that every child looked after is given the opportunity to develop to their full potential through living within a permanent family situation;
  • To ensure that support provided to achieve permanency for children is equitable and fair to families and children in Wirral;
  • To ensure that plans for permanence are child centred and deliver the best outcomes for children and young people;
  • To ensure that there is probity in the decision making process by the local authority for providing support;
  • To ensure there are clear criteria for identifying the route to support children;
  • To ensure that the support is within the resources available to Wirral Council.


2. Introduction

The concept of permanence for children in care arises from attachment theory and is a framework for planning. Secure attachments are thought to be critical to how we develop, how we regard ourselves, and how we relate to others. Children with secure attachments to their parent(s) tend to thrive; they feel good about themselves, cope well with life’s challenges and are able to form good relationships. Secure attachment is key to the development of resilience and self esteem. However children who have not experienced such attachments tend to view themselves negatively, are reluctant to trust others.

Permanence is defined as “providing each child with a base for life or a family they can call their own, and more hopefully a family for life.” [1]

Attachment is a propensity to make strong affectionate bonds to particular others and it explains the distress and disturbance felt and demonstrated when there is separation or loss from that person or persons. [2]

This policy reinforces the belief that each child has their own individual needs, which include issues around their identity, and ongoing contact with friends and relatives. All of these need to be taken into account as part of individual assessments and plans for permanency.

This permanency policy seeks to ensure that when a child comes into care, there is a plan which will, in the shorter or longer term, provide them with a permanent carer or carers to whom they can attach. This may be achieved through one of the following options:

  • Returning to their parent(s), with the identified support services in place;
  • Being placed with extended family or friends (Friends and Family placement);
  • Placement with a substitute family through adoption, long-term fostering, a child arrangement order or special guardianship with a support plan;
  • Long term residential care in certain specific situations.


[1] Triseliotis, 1983
[2] Bowlby, J 'Postscript' in Murray-Parkes C, Stevenson-Hinde J and Marris P (eds) (1991) Attachment across the Life Cycle. London: Routledge.


3. Permanency Principles

Children are entitled to grow up as part of a loving family which can meet their needs during childhood and beyond. This involves a consistent parent figure throughout their childhood. Wirral Council is therefore committed to achieving permanence for children from childhood into adulthood.

The child’s welfare, development, safety and individual needs will be at the centre of the permanency planning process. The child’s wishes and feelings will be actively sought and fully taken into account at all stages. Children’s ethnic origin, cultural background, religion, gender, sexuality, disability and language will be fully recognised and positively valued and promoted when decisions are made. The particular needs of disabled children will be fully recognised and additional support provided as required.

3.1 Children in Need

It is best for children where possible and where it is safe to do so to be brought up by their own birth family. Where children are in need the Council and their partners will provide services to support children to remain with their birth parents.

Children in need is defined as children whose vulnerability is such that they are unlikely to reach or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development, or their health and development will be significantly impaired, without the provision of services, and children with disabilities. Children Act 1989 S17(10).

The Council recognises that some parents and their children will need a considerable amount of support on a continuing basis in order for the children to be brought up by their birth family.

For some children who cannot continue to live with their birth parents the threshold is not reached for becoming children in care. In these situations families can be advised and encouraged to find solutions for themselves through alternative family members or friends caring for the children and obtaining parental responsibility through Child Arrangement Orders (CAO) and Special Guardianship Orders (SGO). Any support the Council may decide to provide will be in accordance with a child in need assessment. Further information can be found in the Child in Need Procedure and the Children Cared for by Family and Friends Procedure.

See also Child in Need Guidance - Practitioner and Multi-Agency Summary Handbook.

3.2 Children in Care

Where children have been subject to care proceedings and the children are in the care of the local authority, reunification with the birth parents will be the first option for permanency where this is considered to be safe and can be achieved in a reasonable timescale. However it is not in a child’s best interest to remain indefinitely in care whilst reunification with parents is being pursued and the department will aim to ensure that periods in care are kept to a minimum.

Where children are in the care of the local authority and residing with their birth parents the cases will be reviewed at an early stage with a view to discharging the care order once it has been demonstrated that the changes made have been sustained.

Where a child becomes a child in care, on a voluntary basis, and is not due to abandonment or the death of their parents, the principle will be for reunification within a maximum of 6 weeks where it is safe to do so.

Where a child is being reunified with birth parents a support plan (Children in Need Plan) will be put in place. For further details see Child in Need Multi-Agency Procedures.

Where children cannot remain in the care of their birth parents, in the first instance the Council will explore the possibility of finding a permanent home with alternative carers. In particular for young children consideration should be given at this stage to adoption and alternative permanent solutions with family and friends.

Research shows that placements with family and friends often lead to greater stability (though less stable than adoption). In one study [3], 72% of placements with family and friends were still stable after two years of care compared to 55% of those with unrelated foster carers. However some family and friends placements can be very poor and careful assessment and adequate support are critical. Where the local authority has placed children with families and friends and the placement is stable, safe and secure permanent solutions can be found through applying for a Child Arrangement Order or Special Guardianship Order. (Note – children may also live with a relative or friend through a private arrangement where the sections on children in need and private fostering applies).

Placed is defined as where a child is in the care of the local authority and the local authority makes a decision where they should live and who with.

Where a child arrangement order or special guardianship order is not in the child’s best interest family and friends may be assessed initially as family and friends foster carers with a plan for a more permanent option. Family and friends foster carers are approved by the agency decision maker following recommendations from the Fostering panel and become Connected Carers.

Family and friends foster carers, Connected Carers, are defined as a relative or friend caring full-time for a child who is in the local authority’s care and has been assessed and approved by the local authority as a foster carer. In emergencies the child can be placed with family and friends prior to such approval, subject to an assessment and temporary approval of the placement, for up to 16 weeks, by the nominated officer.

Where children are currently placed with family and friend foster carers long term, the Council will encourage the foster carers to apply for more permanent options of Child Arrangement, Special Guardianship or Adoption Order provided this is consistent with the child’s best interests.

Where permanence cannot be achieved with the child’s birth parents, family or friends the Council will make every effort to find alternative permanent families that will promote the child’s well-being and development and provide the highest standard of care according to their individual assessed need.

Wherever possible, the child’s birth family will be consulted and involved in establishing a plan which best meets the child’s needs. The council encourages the use of Family Group Conferences to involve the birth and extended family and friends in the permanency planning process.

[3] Farmer and Moyers (2005) Children Placed with Family and Friends: Placement Patterns and Outcomes

3.3 Children with Disabilities

For children with disabilities to achieve permanence full consideration is required of all of their needs, and consequently where these are complex and meet the criteria their needs will be managed within the specialist disability team. Adaptation and equipment needs will form part of the support requirements. Adaptations will be considered following assessment via the occupational therapy service.

Options of increased respite parenting support services and shared care will be actively considered to avoid the voluntary admission to care due to a combination of the complexity of the child’s behaviour and lack of parenting capacity. Also rather than residential schooling social care will explore added specialist support with parents and education.

Special Guardianship may provide an option for permanency where parents wish to retain some contact and do not want to relinquish all parental responsibility which they would do with adoption. In other situations long term fostering may the best permanent option.

3.4 Care Planning Process

Planning for permanency is dependent on a skilful needs assessment and regular review of the plan’s effectiveness. A Social Work Assessment of Need (SWAN) must be undertaken early in the child’s care episode and be updated as necessary following ongoing review of the child’s needs in care.

A care plan for permanence with the best placement options for the child will flow from the Social Work Assessment of Need (SWAN) and must be available at the second Child in Care (CiC) review which is held no later than 4 months on from the entry into care. Care plans for permanence will identify one of the following placement options and the support needs:

  • Return to birth parent(s) or close relatives;
  • Friends and family carers;
  • Approved adopters;
  • Long-term foster carers;
  • Specialist other provision.

In the case of return to birth parent with a support plan, under placement regulations, a time frame will be specified as to when parents will no longer need the local authority to share parental responsibility.

The care plan for permanence will also identify the proposed legal route:

  • Adoption application;
  • Special guardianship application;
  • Child arrangement order application;
  • Discharge of care order or exit from section 20 care.

3.5 Management

Where permanent placements are being considered for children in care, full and accurate information, consent and signed placement agreements, including delegated authority, must be in place and provided to the care provider. Without this the standard of care provided and the stability of the placement is seriously compromised.

Delay is the most significant issue in the life of a child in care. Where assessments and planning are carried out in professional and timely manner the impact of delay is minimised. The converse is true; when planning is poor and timescales are not met the outcomes for the child are less likely to be good. Not settling a child’s long term future can have a severe impact on the health and development of children. Therefore the local authority will endeavour to ensure a plan for permanency will be considered at the 4 month review for all children in care.

Achieving permanency for children has lifelong implications for all involved. It requires lifelong commitment from many different organisations, professions and individuals who have to work together to meet the needs of those affected by permanence.

The council recognises that children, young people and their carers may need ongoing support, including financial support to achieve permanency. Levels of financial support will be considered on the basis of general welfare principles according to clear and specific guidance provided by the department.


4. Permanency Options

Click here to view the Range of ways to achieve permanency for children chart.

There are various options for achieving permanence for children. These include:

  • Reunification/remaining with birth families;
  • Adoption;
  • Special Guardianship Order;
  • Child Arrangement Order;
  • Family and friend fostering;
  • Long Term Local Authority Fostering;
  • Residential placements;
  • Private fostering.

The route chosen to achieve permanence will depend on:

  • The age of the child;
  • The child’s special needs, including disabilities;
  • The child’s relationship with their birth family and the likely relationship available to them once they reach adulthood;
  • Any risks posed by the birth family to the stability of a permanent placement;
  • The child’s wishes.

Each route to permanency is governed by legislation and require different degrees of intervention. They give carers different degrees of parental responsibility and enable the local authority to provide different levels of support. Brief comparisons are detailed below.

Re-unification/remaining with birth parents

Whilst reunification with birth parents may be considered as an option, this should not delay plans for alternative permanency options. Therefore it may be appropriate to start the process of assessments for adoption and/or special guardianships at the same time, called twin-tracking.

Where children are in the care of the local authority, but reside with their birth parents (placed with parents), clear timescales are needed to assess when birth parents have demonstrated that the changes they have made are sustainable and the care order may be discharged.

Birth parents who are struggling to care for their children and where the children are assessed as being children in need may be supported using Section 17 funding.  This will occur whether the children have remained with them or the plan is for re-unification following the children being taken into the care of the local authority.

Adoption

Adoption provides the child with a legal permanent new family, which they belong to all their lives. The child becomes a full member of the adoptive family; they take their family name and assume the same rights and privileges as if they had been born to the adoptive parents, including the right of inheritance. The birth parents no longer have any legal rights over the child and they are not entitled to claim them back.

This is most suitable for children who are unlikely to return to their birth parents within a reasonable timescale. All potential adopters have to be assessed by an adoption agency and approved by an agency decision maker.

Special Guardianship

Special Guardianship seeks to bridge some of the gaps of the Adoption Act and the Children Act 1989.

Special Guardianship provides a comparatively stable legal arrangement, until the child is 18 years old, while preserving a link with the birth family. The Special Guardian is given sole responsibility for caring for the child and for making decisions about their upbringing. However unlike adoption the Special Guardianship Order can be revoked. Parents retain parental responsibility, but their rights to exercise this are limited to consent to adoption, changing the child’s name and removing the child from the UK for periods longer than 3 months.

Special Guardianships are particularly suitable for older children who have been in care for some time on a care order, and care planning has identified that a special guardianship application will secure the plan for permanence.

Special Guardianships also recognise the important role that the extended family network can play in providing permanency for children. It avoids the confusion that may arise for children where adoption by a family member may mean that a child’s grandmother would become their mother etc. (vertical and horizontal skewing).

There are limits on who can apply to become special guardians as follows:

  • Any guardian of the child;
  • A local authority foster carer with whom the child has lived for one year immediately preceding the application;
  • Anyone who holds a child arrangement order with respect to the child, or who has the consent of all those in whose favour a child arrangement order is in force;
  • Anyone with whom the child has lived for three out of the last five years;
  • Where the child is in the care of a local authority, any person who has the consent of the local authority;
  • Anyone who has the consent of all those with parental responsibility for the child;
  • Any person, including the child, who has the leave of the court to apply.

The local authority is required to provide a court report detailing the assessment on the suitability of the Special Guardians and the needs and wishes of the children. The decision for all applications for Special Guardianships and any support plans, including financial support will be made by the Head of Specialist Services following recommendations made by the Permanency Panel

Child Arrangement Orders

A child arrangement order decides the arrangements for who a child is to live with.

These orders remove the child from the care system and provide for parental responsibility to be shared between the carer with a child arrangement order and the birth parents. Child arrangement orders continue until the child reaches the age of 16 (or 18 at the courts direction when the person is not the parent or guardian) or until the court makes a child arrangement order in favour of someone else. This form of arrangement may be appropriate in certain circumstances where the applicants wish to share parental responsibility with the birth parents. There is no involvement from the local authority in applying for child arrangement orders other than where the local authority has decided that an assessment for financial support is appropriate. Any financial support provided is discretionary.

Long term foster care

Long term foster care can provide a stable home during childhood (and sometimes beyond), but the child has no legal position within the foster family. The foster carers also have no parental responsibility and have to seek approval from the local authority and birth parents for many decisions. All potential foster carers have to be assessed by the local authority and considered by the Fostering Panel which makes a recommendation to the agency decision maker, who makes the decision.

For some children, particularly older children, where the behaviour is more challenging or where parents cannot take them back, long term fostering is a positive option.

Residential

Residential care for some young people needing specialist support is a positive option and can provide for stability which allows for planning of subsequent moves into foster care. This is particularly the case where young people find making attachments difficult. Multiple care givers in this situation may be better able to manage the intensity of behaviour and emotional demands and level and type of risky behaviours and provide the best long term stability. The key to achieving permanency being detailed matching of the young person to the placement.

Private Fostering

A private fostering arrangement can be a permanency option where the parents make their own arrangements for someone other than a close relative to care for their child long term.

A private fostering arrangement is one that is made privately (that is to say without being instigated by a local authority) for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative, with the intention that it should last for 28 days or more. The private foster carer becomes responsible for providing the day to day care of the child. Overarching responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child remains with the child’s parents or other person with parental responsibility.

There is a requirement that all private fostering arrangements must be notified to the local authority. The local authority assesses the suitability of the arrangement and arranges visits on a regular basis.


5. Supporting Permanency

Following the permanent placement with adopters of special guardians the local authority is required to provide support services according to the Adoption Support Regulations 2005 and the Special Guardianship Regulations 2005. The support can include:

  • Financial support;
  • Support groups for children, carers and birth parents;
  • Mediation services in relation to contact with birth parents;
  • Therapeutic services;
  • Assistance where disruption of the placement may occur;
  • Counselling, advice and information.

Where carers are looking after a child under a Child Arrangement Order the local authority has the discretion, according to the Children Act 1989, to make a contribution to towards the cost of the accommodation and maintenance of the child.

Wirral’s local authority Adoption Service currently provides the following post adoption support work:

  • Access to an adopted person’s birth records, including preparatory counselling, and intermediately work;
  • Assessment of support needs for adoptive parents, including preparation of a support plan for each matched child and carer and annual review;
  • Letterbox system for maintaining contact between adopted children and their birth families;
  • Bi-monthly newsletter;
  • Individual child therapy with specialist input from a Consultant Child Psychiatrist;
  • Provision of assessed financial support through an adoption allowance.

In addition the authority has a contract with ‘After Adoption’ which provides:

  • Independent support for birth parents who have had their children adopted through care proceedings;
  • An after adoption support helpline;
  • Assistance with tracing people over the age of 25 and all the associated tasks;
  • Supported reunification introductions between birth parents and adopted children.

Where the child or young person is placed long term with foster carers or in residential care the child or young person will receive ongoing support from their social worker, including regular reviews, and will be provided with information about how to access an independent advocate and the children’s complaints officer.

Local authority long term foster carers will receive support from a supervising social worker and opportunities for ongoing training. Specialist support is also available for those caring for children and young people with complex emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties through Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).


6. Financial Support

Any financial support paid to adopters, special guardians and those with child arrangement orders is discretionary and requires a financial assessment. It will be considered following an assessment for support in respect of a child who:-

  • Immediately prior to the Order being made was looked after by the local authority; or
  • Were made subject to an Order as part of a care plan in care proceedings; or
  • Has been assessed as a child in need.

In addition the following criteria must also be met:

  • Where it is necessary to ensure that the carer can look after the child;
  • Where the child needs special care which requires greater expenditure of resources by reason of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties, or the continuing consequences of past abuse or neglect;
  • Where it is necessary for the local authority to make any special arrangements to facilitate the placement or the adoption by reason of:
    • The age or ethnic origin of the child; or
    • The desirability of the child being placed with the same adoptive parent as his brother or sister (whether of full or half-sibling) or with a child with whom they previously shared a home.
  • Where such support is to meet recurring costs in respect of travel for the purpose of visits between the child and a related person;
  • Where the local authority considers it appropriate to make a contribution to meet the following kinds of expenditure—
    1. Expenditure on legal costs, including fees payable to a court in relation to an adoption, special guardianship or child arrangement order;
    2. Expenditure for the purpose of introducing an adoptive child to his adoptive parent;
    3. Expenditure necessary for the purpose of accommodating and maintaining the child, including the provision of furniture and domestic equipment, alterations to and adaptations of the home, provision of means of transport, and provision of clothing, toys and other items necessary for the purpose of looking after the child.

Where the special guardian/adopter or carer with a child arrangement order was receiving a fostering allowance for the child, as an approved foster carer, immediately prior to the Order, and they were receiving a skill fee, they will continue to receive the skill fee in addition to any allowance for a transition period of 2 years.

All approved foster carers receive an allowance and agreed expenses, which cover the full cost of caring for each child or young person placed with him or her (Fostering Standards 2002). The fostering allowance is an amount paid that is dependent on the age of the child, and in Wirral skill fees are also paid to some foster carers. Fees are reward payments, paid to carers recognising their skills in caring for children and young people, and allows for foster carers to progress through three levels. The fostering allowance is not subject to a financial assessment.

For private fostering arrangement parents are responsible for financial support arrangement between themselves and the carers. Financial support from the local authority will only be available if the child has been assessed as a child in need. Such support is allowed under s17 of the Children Act 1989 and is usually provided in kind (e.g. purchase of beds, transport to school/nursery – note: Criteria for Transport Policy must be adhered to). In exceptional circumstances the local authority can provide a small and time-limited amount of financial support subject to assessment.


7. Meeting Children and Young People’s Educational Needs

Children in Care are particularly vulnerable to disrupted education and often have unrecognised educational needs. This can lead to a range of unsatisfactory outcomes and greatly reduced chances to enjoy a productive and happy life. Changes in educational placement, as a result of coming into care, may also have the effect of de-stabilising care placements and making permanency more difficult to achieve.

Social Workers are expected to ensure that children in care have properly planned and supported educational arrangements. This will require effective joint working between themselves, carers and schools’ designated teachers which takes proper account of the child’s educational needs and wishes. The social worker therefore has a duty to ensure that there is a current Personal Educational Plan and that it forms an integral part of the child’s care plan.

Placement stability discussions need robust challenges across schools and council services and added care in planning to keep children and young people engaged, with a clear recognition that young people often feel they have had multiple rejections by adults within their life.


8. Meeting the Health Needs

Every child in care will have a named health professional to help ensure their health needs are being met. Holistic health assessments, including sexual and emotional health, are an important part of each child’s care plan.

A Health Plan is developed from the assessment of the child’s health needs and forms the health dimension of the care plan. It should specify the actions to be taken and the services to be provided to meet the health needs as identified in the assessment, the person or agency responsible for undertaking each action and the timescales and intended outcomes.

It is the Social Worker’s responsibility to make sure health assessments are carried out. Clinical Commissioning Group have a duty to comply with requests for assistance to make sure the assessment happens. The Social Worker must make arrangements for a GP to carry out an assessment of the child’s state of health and provide a written report of the assessment. A copy of each report must be given to the child, subject to his/ her age and understanding, the parent (s) (if appropriate), carer (s) and Independent Reviewing Officer.

When drawing up a Health Plan the Social Worker should ensure that the child is provided with health care, necessary immunisations and any necessary medical and dental attention. This will include registering the child with a GP and arranging regular check-ups with a dentist. In the case of a child with disabilities or special needs, consideration should be given to continuity of specialist care. Use of NHS provision and school health services should be the same for children in care.

Arrangements must be made by the Social Worker for a registered GP, nurse or midwife to review the child’s health and provide a report of each review at least six months before the child’s 5th Birthday or once every 12 months after the child’s 5th birthday.

Some children looked after return to their birth parents when they cease to be Looked After. Therefore, it is good practice for the Social Worker to involve parents in health assessments. Where a child has been Accommodated under Section 20 the parents must be given the opportunity to be involved in the child’s health assessment.

Any plans for permanency will ensure that a child’s health needs are being met and will continue to be met throughout their childhood. Attention to a child’s mental health needs is particularly important with 50% of children in residential provision requiring such services. The child and adolescent mental health service are an important resource that can be accessed.


9. Transition to Adulthood

Achieving a permanent and stable home for young people will assist in their transition to adulthood. Adoption and Special Guardianship support services can be accessed for families that find they may need additional support many years after they started caring for their children.

For children that remain in care, either with foster carers or in residential provision, the department’s leaving care service will ensure that young people are provided with the necessary help, support, preparation and financial assistance to ensure a successful transition to independence. Young people age 16+ leaving the care of the local authority are adequately prepared by having their needs assessed and having an agreed plan (Pathway Plan) for their future up to the age of 21 years, or 24 years if they are in further education.


10. What We Must Achieve

All children and young people in need are assessed and placed appropriately with a plan for permanency i.e. family home or alternative care.

To make this happen we will:

  • Train staff in assessment skills, consistency in threshold levels, and planning for permanency;
  • Identify core training requirements on permanency, make proposals about the delivery of training and monitor the progress;
  • Develop supervision skills of managers to further develop social work skills;
  • Stop Care Orders being made inappropriately and achieve discharge of Care Orders on children at home for more than 12 months;
  • Explore model for bringing together social work practice with spot-purchasing and contracting (making assessments and making placements) and to review role and function of Resource & Independent Placement panels.

Wirral has a pool of alternative carers (foster carers, adopters, special guardians, and care staff) that match the needs of children needing care outside their birth families, and the carers are trained, equipped, and skilled to provide the best possible home for children placed with them.

To make this happen we will:

  • Collect and analyse appropriate monitoring information about carers to ensure that recruitment is inclusive and representative of Wirral communities;
  • Organise recruitment of carers to match the identified needs of children;
  • Look at developing remand and respite foster care.

Vulnerable birth parents are supported to maintain care of their own child(ren).

To make this happen we will:

  • Develop family support services through Family Group Meetings and a consistent family support service;
  • Promote and develop family group meetings by:
    1. Continuing to provide a service to families with acute needs who have a child or young person on the edge of care;
    2. Developing capacity to also offer a service to families with additional needs in order to prevent family breakdown.
  • Ensure that where children are reunited with parents a clear written support plan is developed and presented for review by senior managers and children’s reviewing officers (where involved).

Children are successfully maintained in their placement, with more children and young people receiving support in a planned way.

To make this happen we will:

  • Develop support for adopters, special guardians through the parenting strategy;
  • Develop the skills of foster carers through training and support to achieve the CWDC standards in foster care.

The plans for permanency meet the needs of the children and young people concerned.

To make this happen we will:

  • Improve feedback mechanisms from children, young people and carers;
  • Develop a departmental set of minimum standards around permanency for children & young people, carers and staff;
  • Track and monitor all the permanent/long term placement breakdowns and revise our practise around understanding and managing disruption.


11. People Affected

  • Children, young people and their families and carers living within Wirral;
  • Children and their carers where the children have been placed outside Wirral;
  • Staff working with children, young people and carers in Wirral.


12. Responsibilities

Councillors (as the corporate parents), children’s services managers, head teachers, social workers and all professionals concerned with the care of the child or young person have responsibility for making sure that this policy is fully implemented and all other stakeholders for making an appropriate contribution to the process.

In addition managers are responsible for ensuring that all staff receive training on permanency to ensure the principles embedded in this policy are understood by all.


13. Summary

Achieving permanency for children in Wirral Policy

What do we mean by permanency?

Councils are responsible for making sure that children and young people are safe. Sometimes this means a child or young person cannot stay with their parents and the council will find somewhere else for them to live, called ‘in care’. We want to make sure children and young people who are ‘in our care’ are found a stable, secure and loving place to live. We believe that children and young people should wherever possible be able to live with the same family from a child until they are an adult.

Who could be the permanent carers?

A permanent home could be:

  • Living with parents;
  • Going to live with a relative such as grandparents, aunt and uncle or a family friend;
  • Going to live with a new family, called a foster carer or an adopter;
  • Living in a private fostering arrangement;
  • Living long-term in a residential home.

There are different legal ways of making adults other than parents permanent carers. These are:

Foster care - the council approves people to look after children in their own home who are ‘in care’. Foster carers are assessed for their suitability to look after children and receive ongoing training and supervision from the council. Foster carers cannot make many decisions about children in their care. Decisions would be made jointly between the council, parents and the courts. If children in care are living permanently with a relative or friends of the family, they can be approved foster carers. Foster carers may also be someone the child in care has not known before.

Special Guardianship Order – this is a court order which gives carers responsibility for making most decisions about a child’s life. It is intended carers would continue to look after the child until they are 18. However, unlike adoption the order can be changed and the child could return to the parents or be looked after by someone else. Special Guardianship would be used where links are to be maintained with parents as they can still make some decisions about their child.

Child Arrangement Order – this is a court order which says who a child is to live with. This can be used when a child goes to live long-term with a relative or friends. Carers who have a child arrangement order can make some decisions about a child’s life, but they would usually have to get agreement from the parents as well.

Adoption – this would mean that the adopters would become the legal parents of a child previously ‘in care’ and the child would change their family name to the family name of the adopters. The adopters would be able to make all the decisions about the child’s life. The child may still have contact with their birth parents and brothers and sisters, where it is safe. This would be arranged through the social worker.

Private fostering – this is where parents make their own arrangements for someone, who is not a close relative, to look after a child. If the arrangement is longer than 28 days a social worker will visit the home and assess the carers for their suitability to care for the child. A social worker will also visit the child regularly to make sure they are being cared for properly.

How do we make sure children have a permanent home?

As soon as a child comes into care there should be a plan for who the permanent carer should be.

Statutory independent reviews (child in care reviews) take place where the child’s views can be heard and their social worker and carer will help them to take part, either personally or with some comment made on their behalf – in writing, in text, in email or spoken to by someone they trust.

The Social Worker is a significant person for a child in care as they are the link between their home and their placement and between their past, present and future. The Social Worker will also help maintain and monitor contact between a child/young person and their family as agreed in their care plan. Social Workers have a duty to make regular statutory visits which will form the minimum level of support to the child/young person, but Social Workers are expected to visit and support children and young people more regularly, depending on their needs.

Where it is safe we will always try to reunite a child with their parents. We will try to do this as quickly as possible.

Where this does not seem to be possible, or we are not sure, we will also make plans for finding alternative permanent carers.

We will first look to see if there are any relatives or friends of the family that could care for the child long-term.

At all stages we will ask the child about their wishes and feelings, and take into account any special needs they have and their racial, cultural and religious background.

We will also involve, where possible, the parents and extended family and friends in the planning for permanency.

We know that some carers may need some additional help to look after the child. This could be a fortnightly allowance to cover the costs of looking after the child, and some money to buy clothes, bedroom furniture, toys etc. It could be support group meetings for the child or carers, counselling, therapeutic services and help from social workers with arrangements for contact with the parents and brother and sisters. Any help provided will depend on the particular needs of each family.

What we are doing to make this happen

We will make sure social workers and other professionals get the right training.

We will provide additional support to birth parents so that they can look after their children without them being taken into care. This will be through family support services and family group meetings.

We will recruit alternative carers that match the needs of the children to be placed with them. All long term carers will receive training that gives them the skills to provide a permanent home.

We will make sure that adequate financial support is available to families.

We will involve children and young people and the carers in making sure we are doing this right.


Appendix 1 – Comparative Table

Click here to view Appendix 1 – Comparative Table.

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