Placement with Parents
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure applies to any placement of a child, on a Care Order or an Interim Care Order*, with a Parent for more than 24 hours.
*Note however that this procedure does not apply to children subject to Interim Care Orders where the placement is required by the court under Section 38(6) Children Act 1989 for the purposes of assessment, (and is therefore not subject to the Care Planning, Placement and Review Regulations 2010).
These procedures do not apply to the placement of children with Connected Persons (See Placements with Connected Persons Procedure.
For a summary of the permissions and forms that must be completed in relation to this chapter, please see the Permissions List
1. Planned Placements
In exceptional circumstances a child may be placed without the immediate need to follow these procedures; please see Section 2, Unplanned (Emergency) Placements. 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.
1.1 Consultation before Placement
Before a child is placed, the following people must be consulted and their views accounted for:
- The child;
- Both Parents including a Parent who is not the proposed Carer of the child;
- Any other member of the family who is significant to the child;
- The GP and any other relevant health professional, in order to provide advice concerning any known health issues for the Parents which may impact on their capacity to meet the needs of the child;
- For children who are already looked after, refer to the Health Care Assessment, which provides information on the child's health care needs. These must be taken into account in making a placement with Parents;
- For children being placed with Parents immediately after the making of an Interim Care Order, arrangements should be made for a Health Care Assessment to be conducted in relation to the child;
- The Head Teacher of the child's school and any other education professional as appropriate, e.g. Educational Welfare Officer, Educational Psychologist;
- If the child has a disability, is in the process of being assessed for Special Educational Needs (SEN) or has already an Education, Health or Care Plan;
- The Police;
- Youth Offending Team, if it has contact with the family;
- Probation Providers, if they are in contact with the family;
- The relevant Children's Social Care Services if the child is placed in another local authority's area;
- Existing Carers (Foster Parent, residential worker etc.);
- The foster Carer or Manager of the children's Home currently caring for the child;
- The Independent Reviewing Officer;
- The Children's Guardian (if the child is subject to care proceedings).
The consultation should be formal. The persons being consulted should be written to, requesting their views on the proposed placement. It is important that those who are consulted should reply in writing; their written replies should be placed on the case file. The consultations and assessments should be recorded on Form: Assessment of Proposed Carer/Household Member.
If appropriate a letter should also be sent to the child, as part of the consultation process with the child.
1.2 Assessment and Checks before Placement
The suitability of the proposed placement should be assessed, (and recorded on Form: Assessment of Proposed Carer/Household Member, through:
- Obtaining relevant information about the proposed main Carer or Carers and all members of the household,
- Inspecting the accommodation including the sleeping arrangements;
- Checking the proposed Carer and all members of the household aged 18 by asking the Police (Public Protection Unit) to carry out checks;
- The GP (all requests should be made via the Medical Advisor for Adoption and Fostering), and Children's Social Care Services records.
The assessment should take account of:
- The parents' capacity, and the capacity of other adult members of the household, to care for children. Where a child has suffered, or was likely to suffer, significant harm the assessment should address 'what has changed in parental capacity and circumstances that indicate this placement will be in the child's best interest and will promote safe care?'. 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 including, where relevant, the need for a risk assessment of any pets and the environment in which they are kept;
- 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 their 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.
- The parents' state of health (physical, emotional and mental), the parents' medical history, including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
- The state of health (physical, emotional and mental) of other adult members of the household and their medical history, including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
- 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 and abuse between household members including the parents.
- 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.
- Criminal offences of which the parents or other members of the household have been convicted or cautioned;
- Parents' past and present employment/sources of income;
- The nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and parents;
- 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.
1.3 Recommending the Plan
A written report should be prepared recommending the plan. The areas to be covered are outlined in Section 1.5, What to Include in the Written Report.
In some circumstances the proposal for Placement with Parents will come as a result of a Looked After Review.
1.4 Approval of the Plan
The written report, including a copy of the assessment, should be forwarded to the Nominated Officer for approval. When a child is the subject of care proceedings, please see Section 3, Placements during Care Proceedings.
A Placement Plan or Placement Agreement covering expectations of the placement should be drawn up, including clarification of the circumstances under which agreement to the placement will be terminated.
The placement can only be made after the approval of the Nominated Officer has been given and the Placement Plan prepared, except as set out in Section 2, Unplanned (Emergency) Placements.
The Nominated Officer must be satisfied that:
- The child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
- The assessment of parents' suitability to care for the child (see Section 1.2 Assessment and Checks before Placement) has been completed;
- The placement will safeguard and promote the child's welfare;
- The Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted.
If approval is given, consideration should be given to whether the Care Order is still required. The Local Authority and parents may agree to apply to discharge the Care Order and if so, such an agreement must include the level of support and supervision to be provided by the Local Authority after the Care Order has been discharged, and the level of co-operation by the parents.
1.5 What to Include in the Written Report/Plans
The matters that must be covered in the written report to be considered by the Assistant Director before authorising the placement are as follows.
- Summary of child's and family's history;
- Summary of how and why the child came to be in care;
- Summary of plan for the child when they originally came into care;
- Details of proposed placement with Parent; full name, family composition and placement timetable including:
- Any therapeutic input that may be required to assist the child and/or parents to acknowledge the reasons for the child being placed in care, to ensure there is no minimisation of previous actions and to assist in the process of coming to terms with any trauma that may previously have occurred.
- Outcome of the assessments, consultations and enquiries made as required by the assessments outlined above; including an assessment of the Parents ability to meet the identified needs of the child;
- Aims and objectives of the proposed placement (there needs to be great clarity about why this placement is being proposed) and long term plan for the child;
- Any identified areas of risk involved in the placement;
- Support and services to be provided to the family and child to meet the child's needs;
- Details of supervision of placement;
- Arrangements for education;
- Contingency plans in case of breakdown.
As well as the usual contents, the proposed Placement Plan must include the following:
- Details of the support and services to be provided to the parents and the child during the placement;
- The obligation on the parents to notify the Local Authority of any relevant change in circumstances including any intention to change address, any changes in the household in which the child lives and any serious incident involving the child;
- The obligation on the parents to ensure that any information relating to the child or the child's family or any other person given in confidence to the parents in connection with the placement is kept confidential and that such information is not disclosed to any person without the consent of the Local Authority;
- The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain the prior approval of the Local Authority for the child to live in a household other than that of the parents;
- The circumstances in which the placement of the child with the parents pending completion of the assessment of suitability will be terminated if the decision following completion of the assessment is not to confirm the placement.
N.B. The Local 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.
1.6 Short Term Placements
Where the relevant Plan or Plans provide for a series of short term placements of a child with a Parent, the requirements as to consultation, enquiries and checks may be carried out once only rather than every time a placement is made, provided that
- All placements occur within a period which does not exceed 1 year;
- No single placement is for a period of more than 4 weeks; and
- The total duration of the placements does not exceed 90 days.
If a series of short-term placements is part of a longer-term rehabilitation plan, further consultation and approval must be obtained before the rehabilitation plan is extended or the child is returned to the parent's full-time care.
1.7 Social Work Visits during the Placement
The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within 1 week of the placement and thereafter every 6 weeks see Social Worker Visits to Children Looked After Procedure.
If the child is placed with parents pending assessment (see Section 2, Unplanned (Emergency) Placements), 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.
1.8 Ending of Placement
Wherever possible the decision to end a placement should be made at a Looked After Review and the ending should take place in a planned way. In Re DE (A Child) , the High Court stated that not less than 14 days notice of a removal of the child should be given to the parents, save in an emergency.
The Court further stated that any removal of a child in circumstances where the child's welfare does not require immediate removal, or without proper consideration and consultation, is likely to be an unlawful interference with the rights of the parent and child under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In emergencies, the Social Worker must discuss the case with their manager, who will make the decision taking account of legal advice, which must always be sought.
All those notified of the placement starting (see Section 3, Notifications of Placement) should be notified, in writing, when it ends; preferably notifications should be made prior to the ending, or as soon as practicable thereafter.
2. Unplanned (Emergency) Placements
The Nominated Officer may approve an unplanned placement without the necessary consultation and checks having been made provided that:
- There are exceptional circumstances which justify an immediate placement and it is consistent with the child's welfare;
- There has been an interview with the proposed Carer who agrees to the placement and provides as much of the assessment information as can be readily ascertained at the interview,
- The accommodation has been inspected; and
- Information has been obtained about and the social worker seeks to meet the other people in the household. (This is particularly relevant to identifying issues such as domestic violence and substance misuse which may impact on the child's safety). This should include checks with the local police (using a Consent to Police Check form); checks to establish if any child is subject to a Child Protection Plan; and checks of local social care records;
- 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 confirm the placement, the placement is terminated.
The reasons for a decision to place a child on this basis must be fully recorded, signed by the Nominated Officer manager and placed on the child's file.
If the child is placed in these circumstances, social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, and thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.
A 'Working Agreement' should be completed by the practitioner with the parents to clarify the expectations of the parent(s) and ensure the child is safeguarded and their needs are met during this temporary phase before the Statutory Review.
For unplanned placements, this Procedure must be undertaken and the report presented to the Nominated Officer within 6 weeks. The comprehensive assessment procedures should be followed, as set out in Section 1, Planned Placements.
3. Notifications of Placement
The child's social worker will update the child's electronic record with the details of the placement.
Notification of the placement will be sent by the child's social worker to the Designated Nurse for CLA, the relevant person in the education service, the local Children's Services (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority) and the child's GP.
The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement, as well as all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including school and any health professional or YOT worker actively involved with the child.
The child's social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer.
These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the children's home where the child is to be placed.
The notifications should be before the start of the placement or within 5 working days.
4. Placements during Care Proceedings
Assessments during care proceedings may result in plans for a child subject to an Interim Care Order being rehabilitated Home prior to the conclusion of the proceedings. In this case, the same enquiries should be made of other agencies as outlined in Section 1.1, Consultation before Placement and Section 1.2, Assessment and Checks before Placement.
The Assistant Director should decide what supporting documentation is required for approval, e.g. social work statement, expert assessment report, and whether a further report from the Social Worker is required.