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Placements with Connected Persons

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

FRG Initial Family and Friends Care - this resource outlines what a viability assessment for family and friend carers should look like, what social workers should consider and how to undertake international assessments.

RELATED CHAPTER

Family and Friends and Connected Persons Care Policy

AMENDMENT

In May 2021, this chapter was updated throughout in line with local practice, and new Appendices added.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Situations Where these Procedures do not Apply
  3. Approval of Immediate Placements of Looked After Children with Connected Persons
  4. Temporary Approval for Connected Persons in Urgent Cases
  5. The Placement
  6. Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons as Foster Carers
  7. Ending the Placement

    Appendix 1: Flowchart - Temporary Approval Process for a Connected Person as a Foster Carer

    Appendix 2: Regulation 24 Referral Form/Viability Assessment

    Appendix 3: Agreement for Accommodation of Children under Section 20 Children Act 1989

    Appendix 4: Form IHA - C: Initial Health Assessment (Birth - 9 years)

    Appendix 5: Form IHA – YP: Initial Health Assessment (10 years +)


1. Introduction

Gateshead Council welcomes Family and Friend and Connected Persons as Foster Carers, recognising the contribution that they make in that they play a very significant role in the life of a child with whom they are connected. They also provide important continuity for the child in allowing them to continue to identify with their heritage as well as the child being nurtured in an environment where they are both loved and cared for. A non-discriminatory approach is always adopted towards Family and Friend and Connected Persons Carers.

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.

Placements made under this procedure should only be made in exceptional or unforeseen circumstances as a viability assessment or Regulation 24 assessment should have been completed with the connected person prior to a placement commencing. This could include following a court remanding a child to local authority accommodation. See Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.

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'.

The procedure sets out the checks that need to be made before such a placement can be made.

It also covers the procedure to be followed to carry out the required assessment and approval of the Connected Person as foster carers if the placement is to last longer than 16 weeks.


2. Situations Where these Procedures do not Apply

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 this 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.


3. Approval of Immediate Placements of Looked After Children with Connected Persons

Before any placement with a Connected Person who is not already approved as a foster carer is made, a Regulation 24 Assessment should be completed, and the approval of the Service Manager is required.

Where the decision has been made by a team manager that is it not safe for a child to remain in the care of their parent(s) agreement should be sought from the relevant Service Manager. Once approval has been given then an immediate decision needs to be made about where the child can live whilst assessments are completed before a further decision is made about whether a child can safely return home (either as a result of the conclusion of a child protection investigation, or due to entering into the PLO process, or care proceedings are commenced).

Where it is agreed that the circumstances require the child to become "looked after" then the child can only be cared for by a connected person where that person has also been approved as a local authority foster carer. It may therefore be necessary for immediate approval to be given to the connected person in accordance with Regulation 24 to allow the connected person to become a local authority foster parent for a temporary period not exceeding 16 weeks. Approval of the initial viability assessment is required by the Service manager.

Temporary approval cannot be given under Regulation 24 until the proposed placement has been visited and as much of the information set out in Schedule 4 to the 2010 Regulations as is possible in the circumstances of the case has been obtained.

Before making such a placement the local authority should satisfy itself about the reasons for the carers coming forward to offer the placement and that there is no obvious barrier to undertaking a foster carer assessment.

The home must be visited by the child's social worker either alone, or jointly with a fostering officer, as part of the assessment about the suitability of the arrangements to ensure that the physical environment of the home and space available is suitable for that particular child. This also provides the social worker with an opportunity to clearly identify the composition of the carer's household and the nature and quality of relationships between those who live in the household.

The child's wishes and feelings about the proposed arrangements must be ascertained, subject to the child's age and understanding and wherever possible an opportunity should be provided for the child to visit the connected person's home before temporary approval is granted.

If the decision has been made that the child will become looked after because accommodation is being provided to the child under Section 20 of the Children Act the parent(s)' consent is required for the child to be placed with the proposed connected person. The parent(s) must agree to the placement and give written consent under Section 20. If the parents do not provide consent, an application must be made to court for either an emergency protection order or an interim care order, before the child can be placed with the connected person.

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 - see Section 6, Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons as Foster Carers.

Matters to be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a Connected Person to care for the child are:

  1. The nature and quality of any existing relationship with the child;
  2. Their capacity to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child (or children) concerned, to provide for his/her 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 his/her 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;
  3. State of health (physical, emotional and mental), and medical history including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
  4. 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 violence between members of the household, including the connected person;
  5. 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;
  6. Any criminal offences of which they have been convicted or in respect of which they have been cautioned;
  7. Past and present employment and other sources of income;
  8. Nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and the Connected Person.

The home must be visited by the social worker 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 Disclosure and Barring Service 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 social worker is in any doubt as to the suitability of the placement, s/he should consult the Fostering Service for advice and request that a viability assessment is undertaken before the placement is agreed.

Where the placement appears suitable and is approved 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.

A legal gateway meeting must take place to determine any future legal action (see Legal Planning/Gateway Meetings Procedure).

The placement may only continue after sixteen weeks if the carer is approved as a foster carer - see Section 6, Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons as Foster Carers - or in exceptional circumstances where the temporary approval is extended. An extension can only be made to complete the assessment or for representation at IRM.

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 and the IRO must be informed before the above approval is given.

As the Connected Person will be temporarily approved 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.


4. Temporary Approval for Connected Persons in Urgent Cases

This process will need to be completed within one working day if the child needs to be placed urgently. The child CANNOT move to live with carers until temporary approval has been granted. This can only be given by a service manager.

The need for an immediate or emergency placement for a child will be assessed as required by the child's social worker. Permission to accommodate the child must be sought from the service manager on call (see Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure).

A legal gateway meeting must be held immediately to consider the legal options for the child, including whether the child needs to be accommodated under Section 20 or whether a family arrangement is appropriate, supported under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.

If it is agreed that the child needs to be accommodated under Section 20, the social worker must explore with parents whether they will give consent to the child being Looked After by the Local Authority. Where consent is given under Section 20 parents must sign the Section 20 agreement (see Appendix 3: Agreement for Accommodation of Children under Section 20 Children Act 1989).

Where parents refuse consent for the child to be accommodated or refuse to sign the Section 20 agreement, further legal advice must immediately be taken to consider the options, which may include making an application to court for an emergency protection order.

Where parents agree to the child being accommodated, the social worker must explore with parents whether there are any "connected persons" (family members/friends) who would be able to care for the child.

The child's social worker must assess the suitability of these carers immediately (this must be completed prior to the child being placed with the carers) as the carers will require temporary approval under Reg 24, as outlined above. In emergency situations this will need to be done in the same working day.

The child's social worker must contact the Fostering Team to alert them to the start of the assessment of the temporary approval process and arrange a joint home visit that day.

PNC checks should be requested urgently for all those over 16 years old within the home. The child cannot be placed until these have been obtained.

A visit to the potential carers home should be urgently arranged by the child's social worker, jointly with the duty fostering officer wherever this is possible. In the event that a joint visit is not possible, the Assessment of Temporary Approval Reg.24 (Kinship Care) Referral Form/Viability Assessment (Appendix 2: Regulation 24 Referral Form/Viability Assessment) should be carried out by the child's social worker, after a phone consultation with the fostering social worker. The child's social worker must obtain as much of the information set out in Schedule 4 as is possible in the circumstances of the case (see Para 5.5 of the Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance) and section 5 of this guidance by completing the assessment on the Viability Assessment pro forma. The child's Social Worker must share written information with the carers and ensure they understand the information and the process. It is particularly important that carers understand that the arrangement is for a maximum of 16 weeks and that further assessment by a fostering officer is required.

The Assessment of Temporary Approval and PNC checks will be completed and signed by the relevant team manager. Agreement should be sought from the relevant service manager about the suitability of the placement and for approval and sign off.

If as a result of the assessment there are any concerns about the suitability of the proposed carers, further legal advice and discussions with the relevant team manager and service manager must be taken before the decision is made to request temporary approval from the Deputy Strategic Director. Any discussions about suitability must be shared with the strategic manager at the time of requesting temporary approval.

A child CANNOT be placed with the carers until Reg.24 (Kinship Care) Referral Form/Viability Assessment has been signed and returned via email to the child's social worker and relevant team manager.

The child's social worker should complete the Placement Information Record (PIR) on the child's electronic record and give carers a copy at the time the child is placed.

The child's social worker should create the placement on the child's electronic record and arrange a Placement Planning meeting within 72 hours of the child being placed.

The child's social worker must contact the IRO Service to arrange a Looked After Review and inform the IRO Service as soon as the child is placed to ensure that the review can take place within 20 working days. See Looked After Review Procedures.

The child's social worker should ensure that arrangements are in place for the initial health assessment to be completed for the child within 5 working days and ensure parents have signed the BAAF Consent Form. See Form IHA-C for children from birth to 9 years or Form IHA-YP for young people 10 years or older.

The child's social worker must update the child's electronic record to ensure the fostering allowance payments to the carers are in place.

The child's social worker should visit the child and the placement at least weekly until the first Looked After Review and following that not less than every 4 weeks.

The Fostering Service will then begin the formal assessment of the connected person as a local authority foster carer which must be concluded within 16 weeks of the date of temporary approval. See Assessment and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure.

Each temporary approval arrangement should be monitored by the relevant service manager through existing Panel arrangements to ensure that plans are progressed in a timely way and within the 16 week temporary approval window.

See Appendix 1: Flowchart - Temporary Approval Process for a Connected Person as a Foster Carer for a summary of key actions when seeking temporary approval of a connected person as a foster carer.


5. The Placement

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. This will include a risk assessment and permission for delegated authority. If it is not reasonably practicable to prepare the Placement Plan before making the placement, the Placement Plan must be prepared within five working days of the start of the placement.

If the child was not previously Looked After, the child's social worker will update the child's electronic record with the details of the placement prior to the child being placed there. The child's social worker will also send a notification of the child's placement and a request for the child's first Looked After Review to the IRO Service.

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 she/he refuses) 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 Services Department, Education Department, and where appropriate health services 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 him or her (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 Care Assessments and Plans Procedure.

The social worker must also arrange for the completion of a Personal Education Plan. 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.


6. Assessment and Approval of Connected Persons as Foster Carers

If the plan is for the placement to last longer than 16 weeks, the joint fostering/SGO assessment process should commence as soon as possible after the placement is made. On receipt of the authorised Regulation 24 assessment the Fostering Team Manager will allocate a social worker to undertake the joint assessment with the child/young person’s social worker. The fostering administration team will also organise for the fostering allowance to be paid to the connected person on the receipt of the authorised Regulation 24 assessment.

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 the 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 and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure).

A file will be opened for the foster carer's assessment. The allocated assessing social worker from the Fostering Team will immediately arrange for a slot to be booked on the Fostering Panel within 16 weeks for the assessment to be considered.

The allocated assessing social worker will check proof of identity from the proposed carers and arrange for the carers and members of the household aged 16 and over to complete applications for Disclosure and Barring Service checks and consent to other agency checks.

The signed consent form and Disclosure and Barring Service forms will be given to the administrative staff in the Fostering Service who will send off for the necessary checks as set out in Assessment and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure, Checks and References.

The allocated worker will explain the assessment process to the carers and provide them with written information.

The procedure for the assessment and approval is as for all applicants - see Assessment and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure.

If and when the carers are approved as foster carers, the procedures in relation to support, supervision and review of the foster carers are the same as for all approved foster carers.


7. Ending the Placement

When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic record and send notification to the finance section so that payments to the carer/provider will cease.

The social worker will also send copies to those notified when the placement was made.

The Fostering Team will notify the Fostering panel that the placement has ended and the carers will be deregistered. They will receive a letter from the fostering service notifying them of this.

Where appropriate, consideration may be given to holding a Disruption Meeting in which case the procedure set out in Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure should be followed.


Appendix 1: Flowchart - Temporary Approval Process for a Connected Person as a Foster Carer

Click here to view Appendix 1: Flowchart - Temporary Approval Process for a Connected Person as a Foster Carer.


Appendix 2: Regulation 24 Referral Form/Viability Assessment

Click here to view Appendix 2: Regulation 24 Referral Form/Viability Assessment.


Appendix 3: Agreement for Accommodation of Children under Section 20 Children Act 1989

Click here to view Appendix 3: Agreement for Accommodation of Children under Section 20 Children Act 1989.


Appendix 4: Form IHA - C: Initial Health Assessment (Birth - 9 years)

Click here to view Appendix 4: Form IHA - C: Initial Health Assessment (Birth - 9 years).


Appendix 5: Form IHA – YP: Initial Health Assessment (10 years +)

Click here to view Appendix 5: Form IHA – YP: Initial Health Assessment (10 years +).

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