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4.3.1 Placement 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 Placement with Connected Persons Procedure.

See Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure for procedures relating to the initial decision to looked 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.

AMENDMENT

In May 2018 this chapter was extensively revised and should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. Consultation
  2. Placement Request
  3. Matching and Approval of Placement
  4. Placement Planning
  5. Notification of Placement
  6. Support and Monitoring of Placements
  7. Ending of Placements
  8. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
  9. Long Term (Permanent) Foster Placements


1. Consultation

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 else with parental responsibility;
  • 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 Child Arrangements 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

Where a decision has been made that a child requires a foster placement, the child's social worker should request a placement by contacting the Access to Resources Team (ART). Admission requires specific approval (see Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure) and any unplanned change of placement requires District Safeguarding/Service Manager authorisation.

In making this request, the social worker will complete the 'Placement Request' form to provide information about the child, the type of placement sought, the Care Plan, the date by which the placement is required, the likely length of time for which the placement is required and the expected level of contact between the child and parents. The social worker should also outline any risks associated with the placement.

The duty worker at ART will check with Fostering 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 placement is available and the child requires a placement without delay, the ART will advise the social worker must obtain the agreement of their Head of Service using the ‘Authorisation to Fund' form. This will authorise ART to make enquiries with independent fostering agencies.

Where there is a child already in the proposed foster placement, contact should be made with the social worker for that child. Where the child is from a different local authority, the consent of that child's local authority should be sought by the ART worker for external placements and by the fostering duty worker for in-house.


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 (wherever possible and appropriate, the child should not change school);
  • The expectations around contact with relatives and friends;
  • The child's identify/race/culture;
  • The child's history;
  • The child's needs and vulnerabilities including behaviour and any known risks;
  • The child's health (physical and emotional);
  • The purpose of the placement.

The matching process should also consider the carer's availability and:

  • Their experience, strengths and any contra-indicators in relation to the child’s age group and presenting needs;
  • The family composition;
  • The distance from the foster home to the child's school, birth family and friends;
  • The carer’s ability to engage with the birth family and promote the contact required for this placement;
  • Other children in the placement;
  • The foster carer's children, their experience of fostering and any potential issues relating to the foster child’s ‘place’ in the family.

Once a potential placement has been identified, the child's social worker will liaise with the foster carer's supervising social worker 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, clarify the implications of, and any required action in relation to, any risks associated with the placement. It is essential that full information is shared. 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, it is not uncommon for young siblings to share a room. For unrelated children, each child over 3 years should have their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the social worker in discussion with their line manager would have to specifically agree to the sharing of a room. This must be addressed during the matching process and carefully considered if, in the future, there is a proposal for the child to share a room with a different child.

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 with an independent fostering agency, the ART Manager can approve the placement and a written agreement will be drawn up with the fostering agency setting out the precise terms and conditions between the local authority and the agency. Where the placement is with independent foster carers who live outside the local authority area, see also Out of Area Placements Procedure.

N.B. In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid disrupting a child's education, the Head of Service must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4, except in an emergency or where a placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury - see Education of Looked After Children Procedure.

The social worker may then arrange an introductory visit to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate). They should obtain and share with the child the foster carers’ profile book to give the child some insight into the foster home before they meet.


4. Placement Planning

Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will arrange a Placement Planning Meeting after liaising with the foster carer and the foster carer's supervising social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency). The meeting will usually be held in the new placement. See also Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure.

Except in emergency placements, the Placement Planning Meeting should be held before the placement. Where this is not possible, it should be held in order that the Placement Plan is prepared within 5 working days of the start of the placement.

Participants will include:

  • The parent (if appropriate);
  • The child (if appropriate);
  • The foster carer;
  • The supervising social worker;
  • Any other relevant professionals, e.g. a representative from the child's school and/or the Virtual 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. Children 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 (including contact arrangements) set out in the Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure:

  1. The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
  2. Where the authority has, or is notified 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 to be put in place by the placement provider to keep the child safe; details of the child's current Safety Plan;
  3. The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
  4. Where the child is Accommodated:
    1. The respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility;
    2. Any delegation of authority by parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority and/or the foster carer(s) in relation to the following matters (and identifying any of these matter on which the local authority/parents/Persons with Parental Responsibility consider that the child may make a decision:
      • Medical and dental treatment;
      • Education;
      • Leisure and home life;
      • Faith and religious observance;
      • Use of social media;
      • Any other matter upon which the local authority/parent/other with parental responsibility considers appropriate.
    3. 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;
    4. Where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact.
  5. The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain in advance approval for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays;
  6. The arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
  7. The obligation on the carers to comply with the terms of the foster care agreement;
  8. Provide copies of any Court order, parental consent, Care/Pathway Plan and Safety Plan.

The child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan and Placement Plan / Placement Information Record to the child, parents and foster carers before or at the latest, within 72 hours of 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, stories, etc.

The child's social worker must provide the child and the parent with written information about becoming Looked After, including information about the Complaints Procedure.

In addition, 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 and be helped to assimilate these as they settle.

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 must never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers.


5. Notification of Placement

The child's social worker will update ICS with the details of the placement and complete Form SOC 408, sending it to the Access to Resources Team (ART).

The ART undertake notifications which should be before the start of the placement where possible, or within 5 working days.

Notification of the placement will also be sent to 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.

The social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.

The child's social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer or, if it is the first placement, the Independent Reviewing Service of the placement. This will trigger the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer and the setting up of a Looked After Review.

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 should also notify - preferably in writing but it may be verbally - all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including nursery/school and any health professional or YOS worker actively involved with the child.

It will be necessary for the foster carer or the child's social worker to ensure 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.

In relation to a first Looked After placement the Designated Nurse for LAC will contact the social worker and carer to arrange a Health Assessment which must be undertaken within 20 days- see Health Assessments and Action Plans Procedure. The social worker must also contact the Virtual School, the child’s current school or, where the child does not have a school place, the relevant education officer, with a view to the completion of a Personal Education Plan within 20 days of admission and, thereafter, termly. See Education of Looked After Children Procedure.

For any new placement, every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless this would be detrimental to his or her well being.


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, as a minimum, every six weeks during the first year, thereafter every six weeks (or three months if the placement is intended to last until the child is 18 and changing the visiting pattern has been specifically agreed by a LAC Review) - see Social Work Visits to Looked After Children Procedure.

The foster carer will also receive support and supervision from their supervising social worker - see Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure for in-house placements - and from the independent fostering agency (for external placements).

Where there are concerns in relation to the progress of the placement, the social worker and supervising social worker should discuss additional resources or training to assist the carers, or consider holding a Placement Planning Meeting or bringing forward the LAC Review.

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 ICS.

See also Looked After Reviews Procedure.


7. Ending of Placements

When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update ICS and complete a SOC 408 form so that payments to the carer/provider will cease and appropriate notifications made to those notified when the placement was made.

All written information on the child, which the foster carer holds, should be returned to the child's social worker.

In appropriate cases, the foster carer should be asked to complete an end of placement report and provide information and materials such as photographs and mementoes for the child’s life story.

Children must, when they leave the home, be helped to understand the reasons and be supported with the transition – including where they are returning home or progressing to independence.

Foster carers should be encouraged and 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

In Cambridgeshire, responsibility for the recruitment, assessment and approval of adopters, including those offering concurrency and fostering for adoption has been contracted to Coram Cambridgeshire Adoption (CCA).

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 the local authority consider that this is in the child’s best interests.

Before giving such approval, the CCA will:

  • Assess the suitability of that person to care for the child as a foster carer;
  • Obtain confirmation from the local authority that the plan for the child is concurrency or fostering for adoption;
  • Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the responsible authority, the Social Care and CCA, 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;
  • The prospective adopter gives 28 days written notice that they no longer wish to be temporarily approved as a foster carer in relation to the child; or
  • The child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopter.


9. Long Term (Permanent) Foster Placement

Where it is the case that the most appropriate route to permanence is long-term foster care, the regulations set out the arrangements for making such a placement, including:

  • That foster care is the plan for permanence and is recorded in the child’s care plan (Reg 5(a));
  • That the foster carer has agreed to act as the child’s foster carer until the child ceases to be looked after;
  • That the responsible authority has confirmed the nature of the arrangement with the foster carer(s), the birth parent and the child; and
  • The child and foster carer have a clear understanding of the support services they will receive to promote the placement.

The assessment and planning process for long-term foster care should address the child’s current needs and likely future needs (including 'Staying Put' if appropriate), and the capacity of the foster carer to meet these needs now and in the future. The length of placement will vary according to the child’s age and the long-term plan for the child, including the transition to adulthood. 

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 promptly 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.

There may be circumstances where it is not considered appropriate and the reasons for this decision must be clearly set out in writing to the foster carer. This decision should also be communicated to the child, where appropriate, and family finding for a suitable long term carer should be started without delay.

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 carer to care for the child 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, family configuration (including placement of other children under fostering arrangements), existing relationship (if any) with the child, knowledge and skills and capacity to care for the child long term.

It is imperative that the foster carer fully understands and explicitly agrees to the long term commitment they are making to the child [regulation 22B (2)(f)]. The social worker must make a record of the discussion of these matters (including the outcome) as part of the assessment process. This should include whether the foster carer is willing and able to offer a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement.

Agreement must be sought from the Head of Service for Corporate Parenting if the placement is with an Independent Fostering Agency, so that appropriate budget planning can take place.

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 [regulation 9(3)].

Where it is agreed that the child will be placed in 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 (Reg 2(1)).

End