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5.1.12 Children Cared for by Family and Friends

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Family and Friends Carers Policy

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in September 2014 to acknowledge the introduction of the ‘Child Arrangements Order’ which replaced the Residence Order under the Children and Families Act 2014.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Family and Friends Care Options
  3. Procedure 
  4. Temporary Approval of a Connected Person
  5. Police Checks
  6. Post Placement Responsibilities

    Appendix 1: Flow Chart: Temporary Approval of a Connected Person (Regulation 24)


1. Introduction

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 define a 'connected person' as a relative, friend or other person connected with the child. Wirral Council must give preference to the placement of a child with a connected person if they are unable to remain with their birth parents. It is suggested that a connected person, although usually a relative or friend, might also include someone who knows the child in a professional capacity such as a Childminder, Teacher or youth worker.

There is no official data about the number of children in England who are being cared for by a relative, friend or other person connected with the child, but it has been estimated that the total may be between 200,000 and 300,000 of whom nearly 7,000 are looked after children who have been placed with family members and friends who have been approved as Foster Carers.

We know from research that children who are cared for by family and friends experience significant benefits by remaining within their own family and friend network; it reduces the trauma of having to move to live with strangers; it enables children to maintain attachments and links with key family members and as such re-enforces their sense of identity and self-esteem and the arrangement is likely to be more stable and long lasting as families use their own support and resources to care for their children.

Children who live with a Family and Friend Carer do not fall into a single category. The six main groups are listed in Section 2, Family and Friends Care Options, with an explanation of the Local Authorities' duties towards these children (DSCF, Every Child Matters 2005).

Children in Local Authority care, and placed with Foster Carers are only one of the possible arrangements. Placing children in foster care is a major life event for any child. The consideration of placements is key to ensure when a child becomes a child in care, their needs are suitably matched to the skills, experience and circumstances of carers. In turn, the carers can maximise the benefits of such provision for children and deliver positive outcomes. Whilst placing children with family and friends as Foster Carers can be of benefit; it is important that the other options are considered alongside the viability of potential Family and Friends Placements.

Research on Kinship Foster Care

There is much written on the subject of foster care. Research certainly supports an approach that considers placement choice. Appropriate information about the child needing a placement must be available to the service provider and prospective carer. Children can than be carefully matched and introduced; with a clear plan for how the foster care placement will meet the child's needs and work within a wider Care Plan.

Research consistently indicates that relative Foster Carer placements are 3 times less likely to disrupt than non relative foster care placements. However, it is also a significant finding that disruption rates are significantly less for children adopted. However these findings are based on carers being assessed as 'suitable' in the first instance and where possible this should be through a full assessment being presented to the Fostering Panel for consideration. Only in exceptional circumstances should the regulations governing emergency placements be applied (Regulation 24, The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review 2010). Approval can only be given by the Agency Decision Maker. The Viability Assessment must take account of the capacity of carers to support Permanence Plans.

The research is not saying relative Foster Carers placements do not disrupt, but there is evidence that placements where issues have been identified and appropriate measures to support and train carers put in place that risk of disruption is minimised.

Around 20% of relative care placements are very poor. Assessments and appropriate support are crucial in preventing poor quality placements and consideration needs to be given to the role of the prospective relative carer in the Care Plan. Where emergency approval is being considered, advice from the Fostering Service, District Manager or Senior Manager should be sought at an early stage.

(1) Research Sources:
Costs and Outcomes in Children’s Specialist Services, Messages from Research (Jennifer Beecham and Ian Sinclair, DFES 2007)
Relative Benefits: Placing Children in Kinship Care (Bob Broad and Alison Skinner, BAAF 2006)
Keeping them in the family: Outcomes for children placed with kin through care proceedings, Oxford Centre for Family Law and Policy.


2. Family and Friends Care Options

Child Arrangements Order

(See also Permanence Planning Guidance, Child Arrangements Orders.)

A Court may make a Child Arrangements Order under the Children and Families Act  2014. This specifies who the child lives with and gives the carer Parental Responsibility. When a Child Arrangements Order is in place, the Local Authority is under no duty to monitor the placement and the carer is under no duty to notify the Local Authority of the placement. Under our Policy for Child Arrangements Orders, Wirral may assist with the cost for a relative to make an application and may pay a Child Arrangement allowance provided specific criteria are met. However, the Local Authority is under no duty to provide financial support and it is provided at our discretion. Please refer to the Policy on Financial Support for Special Guardianship and Child Arrangements Orders for more specific guidance. Where a child's needs change or increase, the Local Authority can assess their needs as a child in need or take steps to assess the child's needs for safeguarding in line with the Children Act 1989.

Special Guardianship Order

A Court may make a Special Guardianship Order, appointing an adult over 18 to be the child's guardian. The welfare of the child is the Court's paramount consideration, and an order can only be made if the Court has received a report from the Local Authority covering the suitability of the applicant to be a Special Guardian. The Local Authority has to assess the needs of the Special Guardian for support needed to care for the child and can provide a range of support and services, including financial support. However, there is no duty to provide financial support, and any financial support is subject to a financial assessment and is subject to review. See the Policy on Financial Support for Special Guardianship and Child Arrangements Orders for more guidance. The Local Authority has no duty to monitor the placement but may become involved as above if the child's needs change or increase.

Privately Fostered by wider Family or a Family Friend 

A parent may make arrangements for their child to live with a member of the wider family or a family friend. The child is privately fostered if the placement lasts for longer than 28 days, the carer does not have Parental Responsibility for the child and falls outside of the definition of a close relative in s.105 of the Children Act 1989 (Grandparent, Brother, Sister, Uncle, Aunt; whether full blood, half blood or by affinity; or a step parent). The parent should notify the Local Authority in advance and/or the carer, or any agency that becomes aware this may be a privately fostered child should also notify the Local Authority. The Local Authority has a legal duty to undertake an assessment and checks of the suitability of the carer, and carry out regular visits to the placement to check on the child's welfare. The Local Authority is under no duty to financially support the private foster carer as a Foster Carer. However, if during the course of the private fostering assessment (or later through visiting) it becomes apparent the child may be a child in need, an assessment should be carried out and support/services may be provided as a child in need under s.17 of the Children Act 1989. However, financial support is only to be provided in exceptional circumstances and should be limited and for a short period. If the child may be in need of safeguarding, the Local Authority will carry out its duties in line with the Children Act 1989. Please refer to the Wirral LSCB Procedures for more specific guidance.

Appointed as a Guardian after the Death of a Parent

Where a parent has died and appointed a carer as guardian for the child, and no-one else holds Parental Responsibility, the carer will have Parental Responsibility. Where there is another parent with Parental Responsibility, the carer will be treated as looking after the child under a private arrangement and may be a Private Foster Carer. The Local Authority has no role unless the child is determined to be in need or at risk of significant harm.

Living with a Relative under a Private Arrangement 

A parent may make arrangements for their child to live with a close relative without any involvement of the Local Authority. There is no obligation to notify the Local Authority. The Local Authority may have a role however if the child is in need or at risk of significant harm.

Child in Care of the Local Authority 

A child may be in care as a result of an interim or full Care Order (s38 or s31 of the Children Act 1989), or under a voluntary agreement between the Local Authority and the child's parents (s20 of the Children Act 1989). Local Authorities are under a duty to make arrangements to enable a child in care to live with a relative or friend of the family unless this would not be reasonably practical or consistent with their welfare (s23 (6) of the Children Act 1989). Any family member or friend who cares for a child in care must be approved as a Foster Carer. Approval must be given by the Agency Decision Maker. Where a child is in the care of the Local Authority and placed with a connected person they will receive the Local Authority agreed Fostering Allowance and receive the Band Skills Fee in the same way as all other Foster Carers once they have completed the approved Foster Carer training.


3. Procedure

Living with a Relative under a Private Arrangement 

The Local Authority may be involved with this arrangement but it is essential to be clear why and on what basis. Examples of when this may occur are:

  • As a result of a Family Group Conference where the family have agreed for the child to live with a close relative as part of a support plan either short-term or long-term, see Family Group Conferences Procedure;
  • Where as part of an Child Protection Plan either in an emergency or on a planned basis the parent agrees for the child to live with a close relative while assessments are undertaken;
  • As part of a Child In Need Plan, a close relative cares for the child for a fixed short-period while assessments are undertaken or as part of a support plan to the parent with parental agreement.

The parent may not be able to make the arrangements directly themselves but if he/she has agreed this, the Local Authority can assist the family to agree and make the arrangements. The Local Authority role is not to "place" the child, but to support the family in making its own arrangements.

Any financial support that the Local Authority may provide to the relative carer is provided under s17 of the Children Act 1989 and should be provided in kind (e.g. purchase of beds, transport to school/nursery) as the financial responsibility for supporting the relative lies with the parent. However, in exceptional circumstances the Local Authority can provide a small and time-limited amount of financial support subject to assessment.

Where the arrangement is part of a Child Protection Plan, checks including police and departmental record checks must be made of the relative and checks done on the children in the household before the child moves to be satisfied that the child's welfare is not compromised.

The parent and carer must sign a Private Arrangement Agreement with the Local Authority which confirms the status of the child, details of the Private Arrangement, the role of the Local Authority and what support is being provided. The Private Arrangement Agreement can be found on ESCR.

It is essential that where the Local Authority is involved that the child's needs are kept under review via the child in need process or child protection process and timescales set to complete any assessments. If the arrangement is likely to become long term, then advice should be provided to the relative carer about Child Arrangements Orders and Special Guardianship Orders.

Before any emergency arrangement is made, as much information must be gathered as possible to aid a decision as to whether the child actually needs to become a child in care. For example, the child is at significant risk of harm and it is assessed as not safe for the parent to maintain care at that point. The emergency arrangement maybe via an Emergency Protection Order, or where the parent agrees for the child to be accommodated under s20 as an alternative to the Local Authority seeking a legal Order through the Courts.

We have a duty to place with family if this is reasonable and consistent with the child's welfare. The decision as to whether the child is in care is made by the Senior Manager and any situations where this arises must be referred to him/her for a decision. If a member of staff is unsure as to whether the child should become a child in care, the Senior Manager must be contacted to confirm the child's status.

In the Care of the Local Authority

When does a child become a child in care?

The criteria for becoming looked after or a child in care are:

  • Under s 20 of the Children Act 1989 as a voluntary agreement with the persons with Parental Responsibility and as a result of becoming looked after we place with a family member under s23(6) of the Children Act 1989;
  • Under s38 (Interim Care Order) and s31 (Care Order) of the Children Act 1989.

Under s20, the Senior Manager makes the decision as to whether a child becomes looked after or 'in care. To inform this decision, the social work assessment must show:

  • What efforts have been made with parents to explore the child living with other family members as a private arrangement for a period of further assessment?
  • What is the level of risk of significant harm to the child and how immediate is that risk - is there evidence to support an application for an Emergency Protection Order or to seek police assistance?
  • How has that risk been managed to date and what further monitoring and support arrangements can be provided to support the child remaining?
  • Is there another person/parent with Parental Responsibility who can care for the child?
  • What is the level of parental agreement and co-operation?
  • Has legal advice been sought?
Once a child has become looked after or placed in care, we have a duty to assess family and friends as potential Foster Carers, if this is practicable and consistent with the child's welfare.

Viability Assessment

A Viability Assessment is a relatively brief assessment undertaken to decide whether a full assessment should be embarked upon. It is necessary to focus on the key areas that might indicate whether someone is potentially suitable to look after a child, usually as a Foster Carer or Special Guardian. There are no regulatory requirements around the completion of a Viability Assessment but can be directed to be done by the Court. A Viability Assessment should be carried out using the Regulation 24, Temporary Approval Assessment for a Connected Person Document. If any case where there is an identified need for a child to become looked after or a child in care, the normal arrangements for approving this course of action would be applied according to the children in care procedures.


4. Temporary Approval of a Connected Person

Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010 allows the Children and Young People's Department to authorise a placement of a child in care with a connected person who is not a Foster Carer when they are satisfied that it is the most appropriate placement for the child. Regulation 24 states that a connected person can be given temporary approval as a Foster Carer for up to 16 weeks while the full assessment is completed in accordance with the Fostering Services Regulations 2011.

A connected person means Grandparent, Brother, Sister, Uncle or Aunt (whether full or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership), step parent or friend of or other person who is connected such as Childminder, Teacher or Youth Worker who the child knows in a more professional capacity.

Where children live with family or friends and there is a need to secure them permanently, in exceptional circumstances children accommodated under s.20 may be placed with a Family and Friend Carer; but in these cases it is likely that the child has no one with Parental Responsibility available to them and permanence options need to be considered. Consideration should be given to making a Private Law Application:
  • In considering the suitability of the prospective carers, the Social Worker must complete a temporary approval assessment prior to the child being placed. The assessment should take account matters detailed in Schedule 4 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010. The Social Worker should record the details on a Regulation 24, Temporary Approval Assessment for a Connected Person Document.

At the commencement of the temporary approval assessment the Social Worker should make the Team Manager of the Fostering Service aware that there is a possibility that a full assessment will be needed in the near future this will ensure that there is no delay in undertaking the full assessment of the connected person should it be required.


5. Police Checks

Before a child is placed, or a child is living with a relative/friend as part of a Child Protection Plan a paper copy of Specialist Services' request to complete a police check in relation to Regulation 24 should be faxed to FCIU, FAO Danielle. It needs to be made clear that the Local Authority is unable to place the child until the check is completed.

A written response to the fax must be requested.

The request and FCIU response must be attached to the Form C Temporary Approval Assessment before passing to the District Manager to agree.

In an emergency the police check can be done by telephone but must be followed up by fax as soon as possible (the same day). If the response is by telephone a short response in writing by return fax must be requested.

The Agency Decision Maker for Wirral Children and Young People's Department is the Senior Manager (Children's Resources). Placements under Regulation 24 are intended to be made exceptionally and must not be made without the authorisation of the Agency Decision Maker (or the delegated decision maker in his/her absence.

Consideration by Agency Decision Maker

In deciding whether a placement is suitable and in the best interests of the child the Agency Decision Maker will need to ascertain that:

  • There are clearly identified reasons why the full assessment process as required by Regulation 25 and Regulation 26 of the Care Planning and Case Review Regulations 2010 cannot be undertaken before the placement is made;
  • The placement is the most appropriate placement for the child;
  • The child's wishes and feelings about the proposed placement have been heard and the views of the child's parents and others with Parental Responsibility have been sought and recorded;
  • The proposed accommodation has been assessed by the Social Worker as suitable to care for the child, including the sleeping arrangements;
  • The support available will safeguard, promote the welfare of the child and meet the child's needs as detailed in the Care Plan;
  • Immediate arrangements have been made for a full assessment to be undertaken within the 16 week period and presented to a foster panel for approval (an additional 8 weeks are available in exceptional circumstances - Regulation 25);
  • The Social Worker has completed a temporary approval assessment taking into account the matters detailed in Schedule 4 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review the accommodation has been visited and inspected, including sleeping arrangements;
  • The proposed carer, all other people over the age of 16 living at the accommodation and regular visitors who may have unsupervised contact with the child have been identified and that police and local agency checks have been undertaken;
  • Regulation 24 Temporary Approval Assessment Form C completed by the Social Worker;
  • Regulation 24 Temporary Approval Assessment Form C countersigned by Practice Manager/Team Manager and forwarded to District Manager for consideration;
  • Regulation 24 Temporary Approval Assessment Form C countersigned by District Manager Fieldwork and faxed to the Agency Decision Maker;
  • The proposed carer is willing to make a written agreement with the Local Authority which outlines their duties under Regulation 24.

All submissions made to the Agency Decision Maker will be recorded on a database so the process can be monitored to ensure compliance with timescales. It will be the Fostering Service's responsibility to provide the Agency Decision Maker with panel dates.

The Agency Decision Maker will consider the request and notify the Social Worker of the decision. If approval by the Agency Decision Maker is refused the child must not be placed with proposed carers or remain with proposed carers. The relevant Practice Manager/ Team Manager must be informed in writing.

If the information is not provided to enable a decision to be made, a meeting may be called to consider:

  • What information is outstanding;
  • How and when it can be obtained so that the Agency Decision Maker can consider it;
  • If the information is not obtainable in a reasonable timescale and is critical whether the matter should progress to a full assessment being presented to panel prior to making a decision.

If the placement is authorised by the Agency Decision Maker it is only for a maximum of sixteen weeks. However, Regulation 25 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review identify circumstances where temporary approval process may be extended. These circumstances are:

  • Where the approval process has taken longer than anticipated then temporary approval may be extended for a further eight weeks (can only be extended once). Consultation must take place with the fostering panel (Carer can attend) and inform the Independent Reviewing Officer.

Where an extension beyond the 16 weeks is requested it will be the responsibility of the Agency Decision Maker to ensure that this is recorded on the database along with the reason for the request and outcome of the decision made. The Agency Decision Maker should also monitor the timescales to ensure the extension does not go beyond 8 weeks:

  • Where the connected person has not been approved following the assessment process and seeks a review of the decision through the Independent Reviewing Mechanism (temporary approval will continue until the outcome of the review is known. When these time periods expire and if the connected person has not been approved in accordance with the Fostering Services Regulations 2011, the Social Worker must arrange for an alternative placement and remove the child from the connected person. A friend or relative does not have the right to apply for a Child Arrangements Order without the leave of the Local Authority at this point.

Following Approval

Following approval the Agency Decision Maker will notify the Fostering Service of the approval.

The paperwork most be sent to the administrator for foster payments to ensure appropriate payments are set up on ICS/SWIFT.

Details of the carer and the child's placement must to be entered onto ICS/Swift.

The carer must sign the written agreement prior to the placement being made.

The Placement Agreement must be completed with the carer prior to the placement of the child.

Copies of the Referral and Information Record, Chronology and Care Plan must be supplied to the carer and Fostering Service prior or on the day of placing the child with the connected person.

The Quality Assurance Unit must be notified of:

  • A placement;
  • Change of placement;
  • Change of legal status.

A Supervising Social Worker from the Fostering Service will be allocated to undertake a full assessment of the carer(s).

Note: If approval is given it is for a named child only.


6. Post Placement Responsibilities

The field Social Worker will be responsible for:

  • Weekly visits to the child in placement whilst the placement is a 'Regulation 24 placement'. The visit should include seeing the child alone, for at least part of the visit. The visit should be recorded on a Statutory Visit form and placed on the Child's case file;
  • Full information in relation to the child, their history, Care Plan, matching considerations that relate to the child and the decision to place with these carers plus any supporting evidence of their ability to provide appropriate and adequate care for the child to be provided to the Fostering Service within 3 weeks.

The Supervising Social Worker in the Fostering Service will be responsible for:

  • Commencing a Foster Care Assessment and booking a Foster Panel date within 16 weeks of placement being made;
  • Presenting a complete Foster Care Assessment to the Fostering Panel within 16 weeks of placement being made;
  • Presenting the case to Panel within 16 weeks even if the full assessment has not been completed as failing this the placement would become unlawful.

The Team Manager - Fostering Service will be responsible for:

  • Passing the Foster Panel recommendation to the decision maker for a decision in respect of Foster Carers registration;
  • Notifying the decision to the field Social Worker, applicants, child (dependant upon age and understanding) and any other relevant parties;
  • Ensuring that a full assessment is presented to Fostering Panel within 16 weeks of the placement being made.


Appendix 1: Flow Chart: Temporary Approval of a Connected Person (Regulation 24)

Click here to view Flow Chart: Temporary Approval of a Connected Person (Regulation 24).

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