Placements in Foster Care
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to all placements of children in foster care including placements with independent fostering agencies.
For placements of Looked After children with connected persons who are not approved foster carers at the start of the placement, see Placements with Connected Persons Procedure.
See Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure for procedures relating to the initial decision to look after a child, and the drafting and approval of the care plan and other essential documentation.
Children may also be placed in foster care having acquired Looked After status following a remand to local authority accommodation, see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.
- The Placement Process Guidance - this sets out to full process for identifying and approving fostering and residential placements from both internal and external resources, including supported accommodation;
- Access to Resources and Placements Panel: Travel and Transport;
- Corporate Parenting Strategy.
At the point that it is determined that a placement may be required, and throughout the subsequent process of identification, planning and placement, the social worker must consult and take account of the views of the following people:
- The child;
- The child's parents;
- Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
- Other members of the child's family who are significant to the child or who have a contact order in their favour in relation to the child;
- The child's school or the education service;
- The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them;
- Any other relevant person, e.g. nursery, health care professional, Children's Guardian.
The views of these people should be given by them, in writing, or should be recorded by the social worker. If the child's wishes are not acted upon, the reason should be given.
2. Placement Request
Note: The full process for identifying and approving placements is set out in the Placements Process Guidance in the Dudley Practice Guidance. Any emergency placement, outside the panel process described in this document and summarised below, must be approved by the Head of Service.
When the need for a new placement is identified, the child's social worker must complete the Access to Resources and Placements Panel (ARPP) Referral Form and email it to the ARPPanel mailbox.
When the ARPP has granted approval to search for a placement, the social worker must complete a Placement Referral Form and email it to the placements duty mailbox.
The Placements Team will check whether an in-house placement is available that appears to be appropriate to meet the child's needs. If such a placement is available, or if there is a possibility of a placement by the required date, the social worker will be advised accordingly.
If no appropriate in-house placements are available and the child requires a placement without delay, the Placements Team will make enquiries with independent fostering agencies to identify a suitable placement.
Where there is a child already in the proposed foster placement, the Placements Team will contact the social worker for that child and, where the child is from a different local authority, will seek the consent of that child's local authority.
3. Matching and Approval of Placement
The matching process should consider the child's needs especially regarding the following key areas:
- The child's education;
- The expectations around contact with relatives and friends;
- The child's identity/race/culture;
- The child's history;
- The child's behaviour;
- The child's health;
- The focus of the placement.
The matching process should also consider the carer's availability and:
- Their experience;
- Their strengths;
- The family composition;
- The distance from the foster home to the child's school;
- Other children in the placement;
- The foster carer's children.
Once a potential placement has been identified, the child's social worker will liaise with the foster carer's supervising social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency) to agree arrangements for the placement. At this stage, the social worker will also discuss the child with the prospective foster carer and, in particular, share/clarify any risks associated with the placement with the foster carers and the supervising social worker. Wherever possible, the child's social worker should visit potential carers and consult with other professionals, prior to a decision about the appropriateness of a placement being made.
In relation to the sharing of bedrooms, each child over 3 should have their own bedroom. Any proposal for children over the age of 3 to share a bedroom must be agreed in advance by the Service Manager (Adoption and Fostering): this must therefore be addressed during the matching process.
Where the proposed placement is an in-house placement, it will be presented to the social worker's manager for approval: in-house placements do not need to be brought back to ARPP for approval to place.
If the placement is outside the foster carer's terms of approval or an exemption is required, see Exemptions and Extensions/Variations to Foster Carer Approval Procedure.
If the proposed placement is external, when all pre-placement checks have been completed, the child's social worker will update the ARPP Referral Form with details of the proposed placement, including a clear breakdown of costs.
When the placement has been agreed by the ARPP (or in an emergency by the Head of Service), the child's social worker will:
- Complete a case note on CCM stating clearly what was agreed at the Panel; and
- Send an email to the placements duty mailbox, confirming the agreed costs and the start date.
A Placements Officer will then produce an Individual Placement Agreement and send it to the child's social worker. The social worker must check it, confirm or correct it, and return it within 7 days.
N.B. In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education,the Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting the education arrangements for a child in Key Stage 4 (unless the change was made in an emergency or the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury - see Education of Children in Care and Previously Looked After Children Procedure.
When the foster placement has been approved, the placement planning process can start - see Section 4, Placement Planning.The social worker may then arrange an introductory visit to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate).
4. Placement Planning
Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will liaise with the foster carer and the foster carer's supervising social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency) to arrange a Placement Planning Meeting. The meeting will usually be held in the new placement. See also Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure.
Participants will include:
- The parent;
- The child (if appropriate);
- The foster carer;
- The supervising social worker;
- Any other relevant professionals, e.g. a representative from the child's school;
- Anyone else considered appropriate or who will have a role in the placement.
The purpose of the first Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan (which will be recorded on the Placement Information Record). This will involve a discussion of the child's needs to ensure careful matching, including the child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin, as well as the child's health and education needs and how these are to be met. It will also include the arrangements for registering the child with local health professionals (GP, dentist and optician).
In addition the Placement Planning Meeting will consider the type of introduction process required, for example whether arrangements should be made for the child, parents and the social worker to visit the foster home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. The child should be able to visit the foster home and talk in private with the carer. If this is not possible, arrangements may be made for the carers to visit the child and parents; or for information about the foster carers to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the foster home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child's behaviour within the home.
For children placed in foster care, the Placement Plan should cover the following issues in addition to those for all placements set out in the Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure:
- The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
- Where Dudley Children's Services is aware of Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the day to day arrangements that the foster carer must have in place to keep the child safe;
- The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
- Where the child is accommodated:
- The respective responsibilities of Dudley Children's Services and the parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility;
- Any delegation of responsibility by parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility to Dudley Children's Services and /or the foster carer(s) in relation to the following matters:
- Medical and dental treatment;
- Leisure and home life;
- Faith and religious observance;
- Use of social media;
- Any other matters upon which the parents/others with parental responsibility/Children's Services consider appropriate.
- Any of the of the above matters on which it is agreed that the child may make decisions;
- The expected duration of the arrangements and the steps to bring the arrangements to an end, including arrangements for the child to return to live with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility;
- Where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact.
- The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain in advance the approval of Dudley Children's Services for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays;
- Dudley MBC's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
- The obligation on the carers to comply with the terms of the foster care agreement.
The meeting also provides an opportunity to ensure that the foster carers have a copy of any relevant court order and that full information is shared with them about the child's needs and any behaviour management issues.
Except in emergency placements, the Placement Planning Meeting should be held before the placement. Where this is not possible, it should be held at the latest within 5 working days of the placement.
The child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan and Placement Plan to the child, parents and foster carers before, or at the latest within 5 working days after, the placement.
At the time of the placement, the foster carers should also be given any additional information about details of the child's day to day needs which are not covered by the Placement Plan/Placement Information Record but are important to ensure that the carers are in the best possible position to help the child settle in the new placement, for example any particular fears at night-time or the child's favourite toys.
The child's social worker must provide the child and the parent with written information about coming into care, including information on using the Complaints Procedure.
In addition, as indicated above, the social worker should ensure that any other information about the placement that is available for the child is obtained and given to him/her. Children must understand house expectations before the placement is made.In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in. Suitable luggage should be used and a child's belongings should never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers.
5. Notification of Placement
The child's social worker will update CCM with the details of the placement and ensure that notification is sent to the finance section so as to trigger payments to the foster carer.
The following notifications should be sent out before the start of the placement wherever possible, or at the latest within 5 working days of the placement.
The child's social worker will notify:
- The Designated Nurse for LAC;
- The education service;
- The relevant local Children's Services (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority); and
- The child's GP; and
- All family members consulted about the proposed placement.
These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the person with whom the child is to be placed.
The child's social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer. If this is the child's first placement, the social worker will notify the Independent Review Unit and this will trigger the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer, and arrangements for the first Looked After Review.
When the child has moved into the placement, the social worker must confirm the move with the Placements Team and complete a change of circumstances on CCM.
The child's social worker should also notify - preferably in writing - all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including nursery/school and any health professional or YOT worker actively involved with the child.
The child's social worker will confirm with the foster carer that the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to him or her (which is preferable) or in the area where they are placed.
If this is the child's first Looked After placement the social worker will liaise with the Designated Nurse for LAC to arrange a Health Care Assessment - see Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure for further details. The social worker must also contact the relevant school of, where the child does not have a school place, the relevant education officer with a view to the completion of a Personal Education Plan - see Education of Children in Care and Previously Looked After Children Procedure.
For any new placement, every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are reasons which would be detrimental to his or her well being.
If travel to school is an issue, see Access to Resources and Placements Panel: Travel and Transport. The aim of this policy is to provide guidance on travel support and to ensure that all options have been considered before taxis are booked. Independent travel will always be the preferred option and it should be standard that parents and carers get children to appointments and other activities.
The Travel and Transport Service are able to provide advice and guidance on all aspects of travel support available including access to Independent Travel Trainers who work with children to improve their road safety skills. Social Workers are encouraged to investigate the terms and conditions agreed with carers and to ensure that allowances paid for travel are either fully utilised or recovered. There are separate Home-to-School/College Travel Support Policies and it is important there is no duplication of funding when a child qualifies under these policies rather than the Social Care Travel Support Policy & Procedures. Further information on the Service is at www.dudley.gov.uk.
6. Support and Monitoring of Placements
The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and then, at a minimum, every six weeks during the first year, thereafter every six weeks (three months if the placement is intended to last until the child is 18). For children in long-term foster placements visits after the first year should not be less frequent than six monthly - see Social Worker Visits to Children in Care Procedure.
The foster carer will also receive support and supervision from their supervising social worker (for in-house placements) - see Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure - and from the independent fostering agency (for external placements).
Where there are concerns in relation to the progress of the placement, consideration should be given to seeking additional resources to assist the carers.
Where there are any changes to the type of placement or to the child's legal status during the placement, the child's social worker must update CCM.
The records should be monitored for quality, adequacy and retention.
A looked after review should be convened where:
- The child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
- The placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm; or
- The child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that an early review is not justified.
See also Child in Care Reviews Procedure.
7. Ending of Placements
When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records on CCM and notify the finance section so that payments to the carer/provider will cease. The social worker will also inform all those notified when the placement was made.
All written information on the child, which the foster carer holds, should be transferred to the supervising social worker for transfer to the child's social worker.
In appropriate cases, the foster carer should be asked to complete an end of placement report.
When a child leaves a foster home the social worker should help him/her to understand the reasons for the move and ensure that s/he is supported with the transition - including return home and independence.
Foster carers must be supported to maintain links with children who leave their care, where appropriate.
Where the placement ends in an unplanned way, consideration should be given to holding a Disruption Meeting - see Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure.
8. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
A person who is approved as a prospective adopter may be given temporary approval as a local authority foster carer for a named Looked After child, where Dudley Children's Services consider that this is in the child's best interests.
Before giving such approval, the Children's Services must:
- Assess the suitability of that person to care for the child as a foster carer; and
- Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the Dudley MBC, the proposed arrangements will safeguard and promote the child's welfare and meet the child's needs as set out in the Care Plan.
The temporary approval period expires when:
- The placement is terminated by Children's Services;
- The approval as a prospective adopter is terminated;
- The prospective adopter is approved as a foster carer;
- The prospective adopter gives 28 days' written notice that they no longer wish to be temporarily approved as a foster parent in relation to the child; or
- The child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopter.
9. Long Term Foster Placement
Where the most appropriate route to permanence for a particular child is long-term foster care, the following requirements must be met:
- Children's Services must decide that foster care is the plan for permanence and record this in the child's care plan;
- The foster carer must agree to act as the child's foster carer until the child ceases to be looked after;
- Children's Services must confirm the nature of the arrangement to the foster carer(s), the birth parent and the child; and
- Children's Services must give the child and foster carer a clear statement of the support services they will receive to promote the placement.
Where it is agreed that a child needs a long-term foster placement, this should be communicated clearly to the foster carer, the child's parents or any other person who is not a parent but has parental responsibility and the child.
Where the decision has been taken that the plan for permanence is long-term foster care and the child is in an existing foster care placement, it may be that the carer and (where appropriate) the child want the existing foster placement to be the long-term foster placement. Such a proposal should be considered in a reasonable timescale taking into account the existing relationship between the child and the foster carer, the length of time in placement, the child's relationships with the foster carer's wider family and community. Consideration should also be given to the progress the child has made in the placement, recorded through the case review process.
In some circumstances it will not be felt appropriate to consider the current foster carer as a possible long-term carer for the child. The reasons for this decision should be clearly set out in writing to the foster carer. The decision should also be explained to the child in a manner that is appropriate to their age and understanding.
Before deciding to place a child in a long-term foster placement, (whether or not this means moving to a new carer) the ability of the identified long-term foster carer to meet the child's needs both now and in the future should be assessed. The support and services which will be needed to ensure that the placement is stable, secure and meets the child's needs should be identified taking into account:
- The carer's previous fostering or other childcare experience;
- The carer's family configuration (including placement of other children under fostering arrangements);
- The existing relationship (if any) between the carer and the child;
- The planned length of the placement (this will depend on the child's age and the long term plan for him/her); and
- The carer's knowledge, skills and capacity to care for the child long term under a fostering arrangement.
It is imperative that the foster carer fully understands and explicitly agrees to the long term commitment they are making to the child. A record of the discussion of these matters including the outcome should be made as part of the assessment process.
The decision to place a child in a long-term foster placement with a particular foster carer should be discussed and recorded as part of the review process. This decision should then be recorded in the placement plan and agreed and signed by the foster carer.