SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
For some Children in Care, the most appropriate plan may be long-term fostering. This could be by their current foster carers or by foster carers as yet unknown to them.
Long-term fostering must be part of clear Permanency Plan. Foster carers offering long term care need to understand that they are committing to a child being part of their family until independence and beyond.
RELATED GUIDANCEThe Care Planning and Fostering (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) Regulations 2015
In June 2019, this guidance was reviewed throughout to ensure it reflects local practice; Section 1, Key Points is new and summarises best practice and process in relation to long-term foster placements.
The 2015 guidance and regulations provided a revised definition of permanence in England:
“Permanence is the long term plan for the child’s upbringing and provides an underpinning framework for all social work with children and families from family support through to adoption. The objective of planning for permanence is therefore to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond and to give them a sense of security, continuity, commitment, identity and belonging.”
The regulations provide for the first time a definition of a long- term foster placement, when all of the following conditions are met:
Before making a long-term foster placement, the responsible authority must assess the ability of the foster carer to meet the child’s needs now and in the future, and identify any support services that will be needed to achieve this. The child’s wishes and feelings must be taken into consideration. The authority must consider if the placement will safeguard and promote the child’s welfare and the IRO must be consulted, as well as the child’s relatives (where appropriate). A new Placement Plan must be prepared and signed by the foster carer.
Local authorities are expected to have an agreed process for this matching consideration. To ensure that the necessary requirements have been met, the decision to make a particular long-term foster placement must be discussed and recorded as part of the child’s review process. The same process must be followed for assessing the suitability of all potential long-term placements, whether this involves remaining with an existing foster carer or moving to a new family.If the child’s plan for permanence is long-term foster care, and their existing foster carer wishes to be considered to provide this, the child’s responsible authority is expected to consider this in a reasonable timescale, taking account of the existing relationship between the child and the foster carer, the length of time in placement, the child’s relationship with the foster carer’s wider family and community, and the progress of the child in placement, recorded through the review process. If the authority does not consider it appropriate to assess the ability of the current foster carer to become the long-term foster carer, it should provide the carer with clear reasons in writing, and also communicate the decision to the child as appropriate to their age and understanding.
The guidance makes no reference to Staying Put, but in considering the suitability of the proposed placement to meet the child’s long term needs, it would be appropriate to discuss whether or not such an arrangement might be possible and appropriate when the child becomes 18.
The frequency of visits to the child by their social worker should always be determined by individual needs and circumstances, and a visit must be made whenever reasonably requested by the child or the foster carer.
Notwithstanding this, there is a reduced legal minimum frequency of visits to a child in a long-term foster placement (as defined by the regulations.) The child must visited within a week of the start of the placement, then at least 6 weekly during the first year of the placement, and subsequently at least 6 monthly providing the child (being of sufficient age and understanding) agrees to these less frequent visits.
A Looked After Review must take place at least every 6 months, whatever the child’s placement. However, once the child has been in a long-term placement for more than a year, there is no requirement to hold a meeting as part of the review process every 6 months, and the social worker should consult the IRO and the child (as appropriate to their age and understanding) in reaching a decision about whether or not to hold a meeting as part of each review. There must, however, be a meeting a least once a year.
Any decision not to hold meetings every 6 months should be recorded in the child’s Care Plan and the IRO must ensure that there is full consultation with the child and all relevant individuals.
The revised Care Planning Regulations, state explicitly that the IRO has a duty to ensure that the wishes and feelings of the child’s current carer are taken into account as part of the child’s care review process. In the event that it is decided that the carers should not be involved in all or part of the review meeting, the reasons should be recorded and alternative arrangements made to ensure that they are still able to contribute to the decision making process.
The revised Regulations also require that every Looked After Review must include consideration as to whether arrangements for delegation of authority to the child’s carer remain appropriate and in the child’s best interests. This applies in respect of all placements but may be particularly important when a long-term placement is being made.
All children who are not returning home will be directed by the statutory review process to begin long term planning. For younger children this may involve adoption planning.
Some children may require a long term fostering plan for the following reasons:
Any prospective foster carer, who at the initial visit stage of the recruitment process indicates a preference for long term fostering will have their assessment undertaken by the Fostering Recruitment Team.
The assessment will follow the normal fostering assessment process outlined in the fostering procedures. The CoramBAAF Form F and associated documentation will be presented to the fostering panel with a recommendation for long term approval as foster carers.
The assessment should reflect the particular issues a long term carer may face that are different from other mainstream carers.
Towards the end of the assessment consideration may be given to a potential match with a child post approval but no identifying information should be shared with the carers until their approval has been agreed.
Where Derbyshire approved Foster Carers seek to change their approval to offer a long term placement to unidentified children a full review should be presented to Central Panel to consider change of approval.
This should include:
Where Derbyshire approved Foster Carers wish to offer long term fostering to a child who is already in their care a full review should be presented to Central Panel to consider change of approval.
This should include:
Sometimes the agreed plan for a child is that they should live with family or friends. Under Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010, a 16 week temporary approval period is allowed during which a fostering assessment will be completed by the Fostering Recruitment Team. At the end of the temporary approval period, the Central Fostering Panel should consider the approval of the carers as long term foster carers for the specific child/ren concerned.
This pathway should only be considered if it is the agreed Care Plan for the child and has been ratified by a statutory review and all other option such as Special Guardianship Orders and Child Arrangements Orders have been considered.
If a plan is proposed that a Derbyshire child remains with Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) carers on a long term basis, this is a matter which involves the Head of Service (Localities) and senior managers agreeing the funding.
There needs to be clear expectations for the carers in respect of other foster placements and the impact on the child needing long term fostering.
Additionally, the Head of Service (Localities) will need to consider and agree the budget implications of agreeing a long-term IFA placement.
A meeting will be held to formally sign the plan and agree the funding.
These carers should not be presented to Derbyshire Fostering Panel as their approval will be dealt with by their agency's own panel.
In these circumstances an assessment of the carers will be carried out by the fostering recruitment team and presented to Central Fostering Panel for long term approval for the specific child(ren).
The paperwork presented to panel should include:
Immediately following approval a supervising social worker from the appropriate local fostering support team should be allocated.
If there is a clearly identified child for newly approved long term foster carers then the assessing worker will remain involved during the introduction process.
For newly approved long term foster carers and existing foster carers wishing to be considered for a previously unknown child, careful matching is paramount.
There will be a social worker within the Fostering Recruitment Team with responsibility for ensuring the upkeep of a regularly updated list of all children with a long term fostering plan. These plans must have been agreed at a child's statutory review, or a court.
The designated recruitment social worker will meet with Looked After Children managers and fostering support managers on a quarterly basis within the areas to identify children needing long term foster placements.
The child's social worker will be responsible for producing a profile of the child for use by the designated recruitment social worker. Children will only be considered for long term foster placements if the profile has been received.
Where children do not have a plan for adoption but long term fostering is to be considered a Child's Permanence Report should be completed by the social worker. This is to ensure that written information can be given to prospective carers.
The designated recruitment social worker is responsible for liaising with the area social workers about potential matches and progressing these matches via meetings and information sharing.
The designated recruitment social worker is responsible for ensuring that children's profiles are put on fostering focus if this is what the child's social worker is requesting.
The designated recruitment worker will start to look at possible matches during the assessment process. No identifying details should be shared with applicants until they are approved. The child's social worker may be introduced to the carers.
The long term foster carers should produce a profile of themselves which can be shared with children during the matching process.
Once a match has been identified a matching meeting should be arranged and involve if possible the designated recruitment worker and the assessing social worker (if these are not the same people). The child's social worker and the fostering support worker. A matching matrix should be completed and minutes of the meeting and actions produced and uploaded on the carers and child's file. This must be shared with the Independent Reviewing Officer.
The meeting should consider:
Once a match has been agreed full information on the child should be provided to the prospective foster carers prior to any introductions. This should include:
Once foster carers are satisfied with the level of information introductions can commence. Introductions must be set at an appropriate pace for the child. A short review should be held half way through the introductions to look at how they are going and address any issues.
Only valid for 48hrs