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5.1.17 Placement with Parents

BACKGROUND

Section 23 (4&5) of the Children Act 1989 states that a child who is subject to a Care Order (or Interim Care Order) can only be placed with a parent (or other person with Parental Responsibility) in accordance with specific regulations. These regulations are the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010. These regulations are relevant when a child has previously been made subject to a Care Order or Interim Care Order and for whom, rehabilitation is being considered. Placing a child subject to a Care Order with their parent under these regulations, enables the Local Authority to continue to share Parental Responsibility for the child while rehabilitation is tested.

In addition, these regulations are also used when a child subject to a Care Order is planned to spend a period of more than 24 hours in the care of a parent.

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure relates to any child who is subject to a Care Order / Interim Care Order.

Placements under these regulations should only be used in cases where rehabilitation is being considered, or where it is planned that a child subject to a Care Order will spend a period of more than 24 hours in the care of a parent.

If it is not ordinarily expected that a Social Worker, upon making an initial application for a Care Order/Interim Care Order, will simultaneously be seeking to place the child at home subject to the Placement with Parents Regulations. In such circumstances a more appropriate Order should be sought (Supervision Order). However, in making an application for a Supervision Order the Court is at liberty to make whatever Order it sees fit, including a Care Order. In such circumstances where it was not the planned implication of the Order to remove the child from the care of the parents, the Social Worker should seek Nominated Officer's approval, in the manner detailed below. All parties should, however, be warned that should the Nominated Officer decline to approve such a placement then the Local Authority will have no option but to remove the child from the care of the parents.

NB: The Nominated Officer is a Senior Manager of the Local Authority that looks after the child, nominated in writing by the Director of Children's Services, for the purposes of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010.

The procedure only applies to any placement that meets the following criteria:

Please note that the regulations are different for young people aged 16 and over (see Section 10, Children Over 16).

RELATED CHAPTER

Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure

This chapter was added to the manual in May 2014.


Contents

  1. Decision Making
  2. Assessment of Parents Suitability to Care for the Child
  3. Placement of Child with Parents before Assessment Completed
  4. Process
  5. Supervision of Placement
  6. Planning
  7. Termination of Placement
  8. A Series of Short Placements with Parents
  9. Immediate Placements
  10. Children Over 16

    Appendix A: Placement with Parents Report

    Appendix B: Placements with Parents Parental Agreement


1. Decision Making

The decision to make a placement can only be made by the Nominated Officer.

A decision to place the child with the parents must not be put into effect until it has been approved by the Nominated Officer.

It will be the Social Workers responsibility to carry out an appropriate assessment on the parents’ suitability to care for the child and complete a Placement with Parents Report which can be found on ESCR (see Appendix A: Placement with Parents Report). They must also prepare a Placement Plan for the child. Additional information must be provided on the Placement Plan where arrangements are to place the child with his/her parents for the purposes of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010. This information will include:

  • Details of the support and services which will provided to the parent during the placement;
  • The obligation of the parent to notify the responsible Authority of any relevant change in circumstances;
  • The obligation of the parent to keep the information provided about the child and family or other person confidential;
  • Circumstances for obtaining approval for the child to live in a household which is not the parent’s;
  • Arrangements for requesting a change to the agreement; and
  • Circumstances in which the placement will be terminated.

A Placement with Parents Parental Agreement (see Appendix B: Placements with Parents Parental Agreement) which can be found on ESCR must also be completed by the Social Worker with the Parents’.

A child must not be placed with parents if that would be incompatible with an Order as to contact under Section 34, Children Act 1989.

During the course of a Looked After Review, it may be considered that rehabilitation under these regulations may be appropriate. However, the Looked After Review can only recommend that the responsible team give consideration to such a placement.

A Planning Meeting held by the responsible team can make a recommendation, but the decision always rests with the Nominated Officer.

The Nominated Officer must be satisfied that:


2. Assessment of Parents Suitability to Care for the Child

Before deciding to place a child with parents, the Local Authority must:

  • Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the Local Authority, the placement will safeguard and promote the child's welfare and meet his/her needs set out in the Care Plan; and
  • Review the child's case;
  • Assess the suitability of the parents to care for the child, including the suitability of the proposed accommodation and all other members of the household over 18;
  • Take into account:
    1. The parents' capacity to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child:
      • To provide for the child 's physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care;
      • To protect the child adequately from harm or danger, including any person who presents a risk of harm to the child;
      • To ensure that the home environment is safe for the child;
      • To ensure that the child's emotional needs are met and he/she is provided with a positive sense of self, including any particular needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin, and cultural and linguistic background, and any disability the child has;
      • To promote the child's learning and intellectual development through encouragement, cognitive stimulation and the promotion of educational success and social opportunities;
      • To enable the child to regulate his/her emotions and behaviour, including by modelling appropriate behaviour and interactions with others;
      • To provide a stable family environment to enable the child to develop and maintain secure attachments to the parents and other persons who provide care for the child.
    2. The parents' state of health (physical, emotional and mental). This is now extended to include the parents' medical history, including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
    3. The parents' family relationships and the composition of the parents' household, including:
      • The identity of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of their relationship with parents and one another, including any sexual relationship; their relationship with any parent of the child;
      • Other adults who are not members of the household but are likely to have regular contact with the child;
      • Current/previous domestic violence between household members including the parents.
    4. The parents' family history, including:
      • The particulars of the parents' childhood and upbringing, including the strengths and difficulties of their parents/carers;
      • The parents' relationship with their parents and siblings, and their relationships with each other;
      • The parents' educational achievement, including any specific learning difficulty/disability;
      • A chronology of significant life events;
      • Other relatives and their relationships with the child and parents.
    5. Criminal offences of which the parents have been convicted or cautioned;
    6. Parents' past and present employment/sources of income;
    7. The nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and parents.

In relation to other members of the parents' household, the assessment must take account of the above considerations except (d), (f) and (g).

The assessment should include any available information about the parents' previous experiences of looking after children. Where a parent has other children subject to care/adoption orders, earlier case records should be explored to ascertain the circumstances which led to Social Work involvement and any indication that the capacity of the parent to bring up children has changed.


3. Placement of Child with Parents before Assessment Completed

Where the Nominated Officer considers it necessary and consistent with the child's welfare, the child may be placed with parents before the Assessment of Parents' Suitability to Care for the Child (see Section 2, Assessment of Parents Suitability to Care for the Child) has been completed, provided:

  • Arrangements are made for the parents to be interviewed to obtain as much of the assessment information as can be readily ascertained at that interview;
  • The assessment and the review of the child's case are completed within 10 working days of the child being placed;
  • The decision on placement is made and approved within 10 working days of the assessment being completed; and
    • If the decision is to confirm the placement, the Placement Plan is reviewed (and if appropriate amended);
    • If the decision is not to confirm the placement, the placement is terminated.

The child's Social Worker will be responsible for carrying out background checks on the parents and other people living in the parent's household which will help to gather information from other agencies about the suitability of the proposed placement.

Practitioners should also seek to meet with all other members of the household before placing the child. This is particularly relevant to identifying issues such as domestic violence and substance misuse which may impact on the child's safety.


4. Process

When a team responsible for the welfare of a child subject to a Care Order decides that a placement with parents may be appropriate, the Team Manager will convene a Planning Meeting to discuss the situation. It is essential that all relevant people are invited to this Meeting, and that if relevant people are unable to attend, that their views are sought. It would also be appropriate to seek the views of the IRO prior to the Planning Meeting being held. It would be better practice for such a move to be the recommendation of a Statutory Review.

If the Planning Meeting agrees that a placement with parents is appropriate, a recommendation can be made to apply for approval of such a placement by the relevant Nominated Officer. The Planning Meeting decision should not be taken to mean that the placement has been agreed.

The Local Authority should consider whether the Care Order is still required. The Authority and parents may agree to apply to discharge the Care Order; such an agreement must include the level of support and supervision by the Local Authority, and co-operation by parents. The Authority must provide such services and support to the parents as appear to be necessary to safeguard and promote the child's welfare, and record details in the Care Plan and Placement Plan.

In order to ensure an efficient response, the Team Manager should at this stage liaise with the Nominated Officer, and advise them that a request for placement under Placement of Children with Parents Regulations is forthcoming. At this stage, the Nominated Officer can advise the Team Manager of any additional issues that need to be clarified before a decision can be made.

If responses from other agencies are received before information is sent to the Nominated Officer (see below) then they should be incorporated into this information. However in many cases, the information will not be received in time. Information should still be sent to the Nominated Officer by the Social Worker and the Report (See Appendix A: Placement with Parents Report) should clearly indicate which checks have been received and which are still awaited.

The child's Social Worker will ensure that the relevant LAC paperwork e.g. Care Plan etc. are updated to show that the plans for the child have changed and the reasons for this.

The child's Social Worker will prepare a report for the Nominated Officer that includes:

  • Basic details of young person;
  • Details of proposed placement;
  • Reasons for proposed placement;
  • Plan for monitoring of the placement (including involvement of other agencies);
  • Progress and outcomes of checks with other agencies;
  • The views of other relevant agencies.

The child's Social Worker will also, in partnership with the parent, complete an agreement between Children’s Specialist Services and the parent, detailing the proposed placement, monitoring plans and any additional conditions.

This information, together with electronic case files, will be reviewed by the Team Manager and then sent to the Nominated Officer for approval.

The Nominated Officer will make a decision within 5 working days of receipt of the information. However this may be a provisional decision, based on the outcome of background checks that may not have been received yet. Dates of decisions should be clearly recorded on the child’s case file on ICS.

The Social Worker should ensure that all relevant parties are notified in writing of the placement once it is made, including the Independent Reviewing Officer. The letter should make the child's legal status, and the fact that the Local Authority share Parental Responsibility clear. Where this placement is in another Local Authority area the child's Social Worker should ensure that the relevant notifications are made to that Local Authority.


5. Supervision of Placement

When a placement is made under Placement of Children with Parents Regulations, the Local Authority continues to share Parental Responsibility for the child, and hence, the child remains Looked After. For this reason, all the statutory monitoring mechanisms for Looked After children continue to apply. Looked After Reviews and Statutory Visits are still required.

Looked After Reviews are required to take place at the following intervals:

  • Within 20 working days of the start of the placement;
  • Within 3 months of the first review;
  • Thereafter at 5 monthly intervals.

In order to ensure that the first review can take place within 20 working days of placement, it is required for the Social Worker to contact the IRO once the decision is made to apply for approval of the placement (e.g. following the Planning Meeting).

The Looked After Review for a child placed with parents will be conducted in the same way as for a child in a Local Authority placement. All relevant paperwork and documents should be completed in the usual way by the Social Worker - see Looked After Reviews Procedure.

Statutory Visits should take place at the following intervals:

  • Within one week of the start of the placement;
  • Every 6 weeks for the first year;
  • Thereafter, at intervals of not more than 6 weeks (3 months if the placement is intended to last until the child is 18).

If the child is placed with parents pending assessment (Regulation 19), Social Work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.

If the child is placed with parents under a Care Order, a visit should take place within one week of the Care Order, thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.

NB: for young people aged over 16 years, Statutory Visits are not a legal requirement.

Statutory visits to a child placed with parents should be treated in the same way as for a child in a Local Authority placement, and should be recorded within case files.

As with all cases, the level of supervision should reflect both need and the level of concern and be discussed and agreed in formal supervision sessions that are recorded and transferred onto the case file contact notes.

In view of any significant event, such as a change in the people in the household, the child going missing from home, or suffering or being at increased risk of significant harm the Social Worker must, within five working days notify the Nominated Officer and Independent Reviewing Officer in writing in the form of an addendum to the Placement with Parents Report.


6. Planning

The primary use of placements under Placement of Children with Parents Regulations is to test rehabilitation. It is therefore expected that if the placement continues, and the child remains with his or her parents, that consideration will be given to discharge of the Care Order.

Discharge of the Care Order can only be achieved by application to the court, and approval for such an application by Children's Specialist Services can only be given by a Nominated Officer after a Planning Meeting has been held.

If this Planning Meeting recommends discharge of the Care Order, a request will be made to the relevant Nominated Officer for approval of this plan.


7. Termination of Placement

If it is decided that the placement is no longer in the child's best interests, Children's Specialist Services have a duty to terminate it. This should be the subject of a specially arranged Looked After Review, and should be treated where possible like the breakdown of a Local Authority placement.

If the situation is an emergency, the Team Manager can take the decision to remove the child from the placement immediately, following consultation and the agreement of the Designated Manager (See Looked After Reviews Procedure).

When the placement has been terminated, the Social Worker should ensure that all relevant agencies are notified (including the local authority in which the child is placed) and that the Nominated Officer is also informed.


8. A Series of Short Placements with Parents

A series of short-term placements with parents can be treated as one placement, with the same process for approval, providing that:

  • No single placement is for a duration of more than 4 weeks;
  • The total of placements does not exceed 120 days within a period of 12 months.


9. Immediate Placements

In some cases, an immediate placement with parents may be necessary. The Children Act 1989 makes provision for such placements in emergencies, and these placements can be made before the checking/assessment process is completed. However, the Social Worker must:

  • Interview the proposed carer to ensure that they understand their responsibilities, and to obtain as much information as possible;
  • Inspect the accommodation to ensure that basic needs can be met;
  • Obtain as much information as possible about any household members who are over the age of 16;
  • Checks (at least verbally) with Police and Health, to assess whether there are any Child Protection concerns;
  • Seek approval from Nominated Officer before a placement is made;
  • Complete the same placement agreement;
  • All other checks and assessment should be completed within six weeks of the start of the placement.


10. Children Over 16

For children aged over 16, some of the regulations do not apply. However, this is very much dependant on the level of understanding and vulnerability of the child and the individual situation and levels of risk. Regardless of the age of the young person, the Local Authority still have a duty to promote their welfare, although the wishes and feelings of the young person are also important.

The regulations that do not apply to young people aged 16 and over are:

  • Regulation 3 - it is not a requirement to undertake background checks with other agencies before the placement can be made;
  • Regulation 6 - where an immediate placement is necessary for a young person aged 16 or over, the checks listed under 8.1 are not a requirement;
  • Regulation 7 - the placement agreement is not a requirement;
  • Regulation 8 - it is not necessary to inform other agencies of the placement;
  • Regulation 9 - "statutory visits" are not a requirement, but this is very much by exception, i.e. unless the team manager is satisfied, otherwise Statutory Visits will take place;
  • Regulation 12 - it is not necessary to notify agencies of the termination of the placement.

However, the Children Act 1989 makes it clear that Local Authorities have the discretion to apply these regulations if there is good reason to do so. For example, it may be felt that due to individual circumstances, Statutory Visits need to be made in a particular case.


Appendices

Click here to view Appendix A: Placement with Parents Report

Click here to view Appendix B: Placements with Parents Parental Agreement

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