Placements with Connected Persons
Where a child is unable to live with their parent, and once agreement has been reached for the child to become Looked After we should seek to place the child within their own network rather than with mainstream foster carers.
This procedure covers the requirements for assessing carers from within a child's family or friends' - Connected Persons - network where an emergency or immediate placement is needed.
An assessment of the child's needs, including the need for the child to be Looked After must be completed before any decision is made to place a child under Regulation 24 and therefore begin the assessment of a Connected Person. The decision to look after the child must be made by a Nominated Officer or the Head of Children's Social Care - see Decision to Look After Procedure.
The assessment of Connected Persons Carers differs only slightly from that of mainstream foster carer applicants. The main differences are the timescales involved and the need for the placing social worker to begin the assessment immediately, including an assessment of the child's relationship with the prospective carer and any immediate safeguarding issues in relation to family relationships. Before any placement with a Connected Person who is not already approved as a foster carer is made, the approval of the Agency Decision Maker is required. Any such approval can only be given for 16 weeks from the date of the placement. After that period of time, further assessment must be carried out and further approval sought.
These procedures do not apply where a child (under 16 years) goes to live with a relative or friend and this is a private arrangement between the parent/person with Parental Responsibility and carer If such a placement continues for 28 days or more, the child may come within the definition of a Privately Fostered child, in which case the local authority's duties in relation to the placement are set out in the Private Fostering Procedure.
USEFUL RESOURCESLooking after Someone Else's Child (GOV.UK)
The following procedure covers immediate placements of looked after children with a Connected Person i.e. where the carers are not already approved as foster carers. As with any placement, the responsible Authority must be satisfied that the placement is the most suitable means to safeguard and promote the child's welfare, not withstanding the Connected Person is not yet approved as a foster carer. The Authority must be satisfied that it is necessary for the child to be placed with the Connected Person before the Connected Person's suitability to be a foster carer has been assessed in accordance with the Regulations. These provisions are to be used only in exceptional circumstances and where there are clearly defined reasons why a full foster carer assessment cannot be undertaken before a placement is made. There is a risk that if a child is placed before the full approval of the carer as a local authority foster carer they may not be approved at the end of the process resulting in a further move for the child.
A Connected Person is defined as "A relative, friend or other person connected with a child. The latter is someone who would not fit the term 'relative or friend', but who has a pre-existing relationship with the child. It could be someone who knows the child in a more professional capacity such as (for example) a child-minder, a teacher or a youth worker."
Relative is defined as "a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent."
2. Prior to Placement
The child's social worker must complete an assessment of the child's needs and whether accommodation is required, prior to any decision to place a child under Regulation 24, Fostering Regulations 2011. The Agency Decision Maker is required to consider and agree the approval of the connected carers as foster carers.
The social worker should explore the viability of a proposed placement by completing the "Viability Assessment Connected Person Carers". Each applicant's details must be entered on the Client Information System and records checked to see if they are known to Children and Young People's Services. An interim Police Check should also be made via the Child Protection Unit.
Matters to be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a Connected Person to care for the child are:
- The nature and quality of any existing relationship with the child;
- Their capacity to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child (or children) concerned, to provide for their physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care; to protect the child adequately from harm or danger including from any person who presents a risk of harm to the child; to ensure that the accommodation and home environment is suitable including, where relevant, an initial risk assessment of any pets, together with the environment in which the pet is kept; in relation to the child's age and developmental stage, to promote their learning and development; to provide a stable family environment which will promote secure attachments for the child, including promoting positive contact with parents and other connected persons, unless this is not consistent with the child's welfare;
- State of health (physical, emotional and mental), and medical history including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
- Family relationships and the composition of the household, including the identity of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of any relationship with the connected person and each other including any sexual relationship; any relationship with the parents; any relationship between the child and other members of the household; other adults (not members of the household) likely to have regular contact with the child; any current or previous domestic abuse between members of the household, including the connected person;
- Their family history, including their childhood and upbringing, and the strengths and difficulties of their parents or others who cared for them; their relationship with parents and siblings and each other; educational achievement and any learning difficulty/disability; chronology of significant life events; particulars of other relatives and their relationships with the child and the connected person;
- Any criminal offences of which they have been convicted or in respect of which they have been cautioned;
- Past and present employment and other sources of income;
- Nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and the Connected Person.
Normally the viability assessment should be undertaken jointly with a fostering social worker. The Fostering Team Manager will allocate a Fostering Social Worker from the Fostering Team.
The home must be visited as part of the assessment of the suitability of arrangements.
The child's wishes and feelings (subject to age and understanding) must be ascertained and recorded and wherever possible, an opportunity must be provided for the child to visit the home before the decision is finalised.
The views of parents / those with Parental Responsibility must also be obtained.
The proposed carer should be given information about the assessment process which will follow if the placement is to last longer than 16 weeks, including the need for DBS checks and other agency enquiries on all members of the household aged 16 and over, as well as interviews with referees, adult children and ex-partners, which will be part of any such fostering assessment.
Where the placement appears suitable and is approved by the Agency Decision Maker a written Placement Agreement should be completed by the child's social worker with the proposed carer.
The prospective carers need to be made aware that any approval is only temporary and does not imply continued approval beyond the 16 (sixteen) weeks.
The placement may only continue after sixteen weeks if the carer is approved as a foster carer, or in exceptional circumstances where the temporary approval is extended under Regulation 25 for a further period of 8 weeks only.
This temporary approval can be extended for a further period of up to 8 weeks (if it is likely to expire before the assessment is completed) or until the outcome of an Independent Review (if the outcome of the assessment is that the Connected Person is not approved and seeks a review of the decision - see Assessment of Prospective Foster Carers Procedure). The IRO must also be informed. A decision to extend the temporary approval must be approved by the Nominated Officer.
As the Connected Person will be temporarily approval as a foster carer, the Connected Person will be required to sign a foster carer agreement. A Connected Person approved under these regulations will be entitled to the same support and services including fees, allocation of social worker and allowances as a foster carer.Before deciding whether to extend the approval, the Local Authority must consider if the placement is still the most appropriate placement available, and it must be considered by the Fostering Panel before the above approval is given. The IRO must also be informed. A decision to extend the temporary approval must be approved by the Agency Decision Maker. The assessing social worker must ensure a report is completed and sent to the appropriate fostering panel for consideration in relation to the extension of the placement under a Regulation 25 arrangement.
If the Viability Assessment is favourable to the proposed carers and potentially would meet the child's needs, then the placing social worker must ensure that referencing checks are applied for. Then the full assessment must commence on the decision to place the child. A separate file must be established for the proposed carers.
3. At or Prior to Placement
A Placement Planning Meeting should be held before the placement or, where this is not possible because of the urgency of the placement, within 3 working days.
On the placement of the child, the child's social worker will ensure the child's Care Plan and the written Placement Plan is given to the carer.
If the child was not previously Looked After, the child's social worker will send a notification of the child's placement and a request for the child's first Looked After Review to the Independent Review Unit. If the child was already looked after, the social worker will send notification of the placement to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.
The child's social worker must visit and see the child alone in the placement (unless they refuse) each week until the first Looked After Review and thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks during the period of temporary approval. This also applies where the child is placed under an Interim Care Order. The visits are to be fully recorded as statutory visits.
The child's social worker will update the electronic record with the details of the placement and notify the finance section of the placement to trigger payments to the carer.
Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the relevant local Children's Social Care Department if the placement is in a different local authority area.
The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the 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. They must be sent before the placement wherever possible or within 5 working days of the placement.
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, GP and any health professional or YOS worker actively involved with the child.
It will be necessary for the child's social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to them (which is preferable) or in the area where they are placed.
In relation to a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to arrange a Health Assessment - see Health Assessment and Health Recommendation Plans Procedure.
The social worker must also arrange for the completion of a Personal Education Plan - see the Education of Children Looked After and Previously Looked After Procedure. Every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are reasons which would be detrimental to their well being.
Applicants need to be aware that the assessing social worker will seek evidence of their "competency" or skills from a variety of sources.
Applicants should be asked to provide a safe care policy as part of the assessment report.
Connected Person carers are expected to attend training. Social workers should check with the Fostering Team Manager about dates of any Assessment/Preparation Group training.
Forms, References and the Provision of Information
At commencement of the assessment, the fostering social worker will use the Fostering Network Assessment form for presentation to the Fostering Panel.
Applicants should be provided by the social worker with a copy of "Becoming a Foster Carer - An Applicant's Guide to the Assessment Process" (Fostering Network).They should also be provided by the social worker with the "Safer Caring" booklet (Fostering Network). The social worker should include a discussion with the applicants of their understanding of these issues in the full connected carer assessment.
The carers need to sign the Foster Carer Agreement. The social worker should confirm on the daily record sheet that the carers have understood the contents. A copy should be given to the carers as well as a copy kept on file.
The applicants (i.e. the carers) should complete an Application Form in order all the statutory checks and references can be completed.
The applicants (i.e. the carers) and all in the household over 16 years should complete DBS reference check applications and provide necessary evidence of identity (copies of ID should be kept on file).
The assessing social worker should ensure that the Medical Form AH (CoramBAAF) is signed by the applicants with the necessary details given on the front page.
The "Consent Form for References" needs to be completed.
(N.B. Application Form (Fostering Network A2) Parts 1 & 2 onwards can be completed prior to placement if time allows).
An interim Police Check should be made via the Child Protection Unit.
All referencing forms when completed should be returned to Business Support (Fostering). This should include a copy of the Application Form. If the Application Form is delayed the social worker must advise the clerk.
Business Support (Fostering) will send off for checks and hold replies. The assessing social worker should check their progress with the Administrative Assistant.
Personal referees need to be interviewed at a very early stage using the written format which can be sent out by the assessing social worker. Business Support (Fostering) should be advised if the social worker is sending out the Personal Reference Details Questionnaire direct to the referees (Fostering Network A8). Referees need to have known the applicants for at least 2 years and they should not be a relative.The assessing social worker should make a separate record of their interview with the referee including comments as to its reliability. This record needs to be attached to the Assessment Report Form for presentation to the Fostering Panel. The assessing social worker must ensure that at least 2 referees are interviewed.
It is the responsibility of the assessing social worker to check the references and attach copies of all replies to the assessment for presentation to the Fostering Panel.
Any concerns noted should be stated in assessment which the Fostering Social Worker will pursue.
4. Ongoing Process
A fee will be payable to the carers from the date of approval.
The child's social worker will continue to support the placement alongside the allocated Fostering Social Worker from the Fostering Team - see Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure.
If the assessing social worker is unable to present a report to Panel within agreed timescales then the Fostering Team Manager should be notified.
5. Statutory Visits
If the child is placed with a Connected Person with temporary approval, visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks. The social worker should:
- See the child alone unless the child, being of sufficient age and understanding to do so, refuses; and
- Prepares a written report of the visit.
For further information, please see: Social Worker Visits to Children Looked After Procedure.
6. Ending the Placement
When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic record.
The social worker will also send copies to those notified when the placement was made.Where appropriate, consideration may be given to holding a Disruption Meeting in which case the procedure set out in Placement Planning Meetings and Disruption Meeting Procedure should be followed.