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5.1.1 Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters

RELATED GUIDANCE

The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations - Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review, June 2015

Fostering For Adoption: Practice Guidance (CoramBAAF)

AMENDMENT

In May 2018 this chapter was extensively revised and should be re-read in full. In particular Section 4.1, Duty to Consider Fostering for Adoption Placement, was updated to reflect the inclusion of the child’s relationship with any person who is a prospective adopter with whom the child is placed into the list of considerations whenever a court or adoption agency is coming to a decision relating to the adoption of a child (s9, Children and Social Work Act 2017).


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Placement with Dually-Approved Carers
  3. Concurrent Planning
  4. Fostering for Adoption
  5. Temporary Approval of Adopters as Foster Carers


1. Introduction

This procedure concerns the placement of a child with carers who are ‘dually approved’, either for early permanence placements i.e. fostering for adoption, or concurrency. This means they are approved both as prospective adopters and as foster carers. Carers may be approved by Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) or Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption (CCA).

The advantage of this type of placement is that a child could be placed with foster carers who, subject to a Placement Order being made or parental consent, are expected to go on to become the child’s adoptive family. The child therefore benefits from an early placement with their eventual permanent carers and does not require a placement change once permanence has been secured. Delay in finding a permanent family for young children who have already experienced neglect early on in their lives can have a profoundly damaging effect on their development.

It is essential that carers are fully involved in the planning of placements and kept appraised of care plans to ensure they are always fully aware of progress and plans for the child.

These placements are foster placements. This placement will only become an adoptive placement if the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) has decided that the child should be placed for adoption; and either a Placement Order has been made or parental consent to the child’s adoption is given.

For the majority of children in such placements, progression towards adoption will be the anticipated outcome. It is possible that such a placement may not lead to adoption, for example because the child’s plan changes where rehabilitation with the birth family is successful, because suitable family or friends come forward or because the court does not agree to make a Placement Order. This may mean that the child returns home or is moved to another permanence arrangement.

CCC/CCA must ensure that people who are willing to care for a child in this way are fully aware that the placement may not lead to adoption and are given appropriate information, training and support. They must fully understand their role and legal responsibilities as foster carers in progressing the child’s Care Plan to achieve the most appropriate outcome for the child.

Early permanence placements via fostering for adoption or concurrency is an established practice for placing children with dually approved carers. As these placements are foster placements, rather than placements for adoption, they could be made under existing legislation. The law has however, developed to make the situation more explicit and regulations now specifically allow approved prospective adopters to be given temporary approval as foster carers for a named child.

The Children and Families Act 2014 imposes a duty upon local authorities to consider placement with dually approved carers whenever it is considering adoption or where the decision has been made that the child ought to be placed for adoption, but where the agency does not yet have authority to place the child for adoption through either a Placement Order or parental consent.

Fostering for adoption combines the temporary placement of a child under the Fostering Regulations with the potential for the placement to become the permanent adoption placement. The principle of these placements is that delay and disruption for children is damaging and that it should be the adults, particularly including the Foster for Adoption Carer, who deal with the uncertainty and emotional risks, rather than the child.


2. Placement with Dually-Approved Carers

The following are some examples of situations where placement with dually-approved carers should be considered:

  • Where parents have had one or more child/ren previously placed for adoption or other forms of permanent placement and the evidence strongly suggests that the likelihood of significant harm remains;
  • The local authority does not have a proactive plan to reunify the child to the parents’ care as their circumstances are such as to pose a risk of significant harm;
  • Where this is the first child, the circumstances of the parents and the assessed risks to the child are such that there is no proactive plan to return the child to the birth parents;
  • Where parents have indicated that they may want their child adopted, but have not formally consented.

The local authority will not consider such a placement where the child is Accommodated (s20 Children Act 1989) and there is a reasonable likelihood that the child will be able to return to his or her birth parents or to family or friends.


3. Concurrent Planning

Concurrent planning is usually used in cases where return to the birth family is still being assessed, but it is expected that adoption will become the plan for the child should this not be successful.

Concurrent planning requires the identification and delivery of a detailed reunification plan while the child is placed with carers who are approved for both fostering and adoption and who support that plan. If the reunification proves unsuccessful, the foster carers can go on to adopt the child once Care Proceedings and the Placement Order application are completed, followed by the formal matching processes, including matching panel, thereby ensuring continuity of attachment.

The foster carers, as well as providing temporary care for the child, would normally take them to regular supervised contact sessions with their parents and other relatives. In addition, the carer may spend time with the parents at both ends of contact sessions to update them on the child’s progress. This enables a relationship to develop which is supportive to the parents.

Children’s Services would normally provide focused support to advise the parents to help them to change their lifestyle and improve their parenting skills with the aim of enabling their child to return home. If this is the outcome, the child will have both maintained contact with their parents and sustained their attachment to them.


4. Fostering for Adoption

4.1 Duty to Consider Fostering for Adoption Placement

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, where the local authority is considering adoption for a child or is satisfied that the child ought to be placed for adoption but is not yet authorised (either through parental consent or a Placement Order) to place the child for adoption, the authority MUST consider placing the child with a relative, friend or other Connected Person who is also a local authority foster carer or, where they decide that such a placement is not the most appropriate placement, then they must consider placing the child with a local authority foster carer who has been approved as a prospective adopter.

Where a child is placed in a fostering for adoption placement, the relationship which the child has with the person who is a prospective adopter must be considered by the Court or Adoption Agency alongside other relevant relationships the child has with their relatives or other persons.

The carers may be dually approved by being fully approved adopters and foster carers for any child, or they might be approved prospective adopters who have been temporarily approved as foster carers for a named child under regulation 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 – see Section 5, Temporary Approval of Adopters as Foster Carers.

Such a placement must be approved by the Agency Decision Maker (Adoption) who must:

  • Be satisfied that:
    • The placement is the most appropriate placement available for the child and will safeguard and promote their welfare; and
    • The child’s wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration, and the IRO has been informed; and
  • If their whereabouts are known, notify the child’s parent(s)/guardian of the proposed placement.

4.2 Considering Adoption for a Child

Examples of when a local authority may consider fostering for adoption include:

  • Where the local authority is trying to rehabilitate the child with the birth parents, there are no suitable kinship carers and adoption is the best option for the child if rehabilitation does not succeed;
  • Where the local authority is able to demonstrate to the ADM and the court why the child cannot return home, why the child has not been placed with family or friends, why no other permanence plan is appropriate for the child and why adoption is the right plan for the child;
  • In cases where the birth parents have indicated that they are likely to consent to the child being placed for adoption, but have not yet consented;
  • Where the ADM has made the decision that the child should be placed for adoption, but does not yet have authority to place the child for adoption.

Examples of where the local authority will not be considering adoption as the primary plan include where:

  • The child is likely to return home;
  • There are family or friends who can care for the child;
  • A permanence placement other than adoption is more appropriate for the child.
If, at any point during the planning of a Fostering for Adoption placement or if the child is already in such a placement, there is any change to the circumstances of prospective carers, (including relatives) or the child’s Care Plan changes, a planning meeting or LAC review should be held promptly.

4.3 Notifications

Where a decision is made to place a child in a Fostering for Adoption placement, the Agency Decision Maker will make arrangements to:

  • Notify the prospective adopter in writing;
  • Explain the decision to the child in an appropriate manner, having regard to the child’s age and understanding;
  • Explain to the birth parents (which includes fathers without Parental Responsibility) / guardian the legal implications.

Where the child is voluntarily Accommodated, the notification should remind the birth parents of their right to remove the child from the local authority’s care and should provide advice on access to legal advice and appropriate advisory bodies.

The parents should be informed that the local authority cannot pre-judge the outcome of Care Proceedings and only the court can authorise placement for adoption if the parents do not consent to their child being placed for adoption.


5. Temporary Approval of Adopters as Foster Carers

Approved prospective adopters can be given temporary approval as foster carers. This process can be carried out at the same time as the adopter approval process.

This temporary approval can be given for a named Looked After child, where the local authority consider that this is in the child’s best interests.

Before giving such approval, the responsible authority 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 responsible authority, 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 the local authority;
  • The approval as a prospective adopter is terminated;
  • The prospective adopter is approved as a foster carer (ie not just for the named child);
  • At the end of the 28 days’ written notice given by the prospective adopter 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 in accordance with the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

End