1. Understand how to place children and young people at the centre of assessment and planning.
Current evidence that stands assured regarding effective methods of ensuring participation and engagement of children and young people of all ages and levels of understanding in assessment are:
Baseline assessment (source 1) – month review of each young person and how they are progressing within school and their lives. The baseline that we use in my setting formulates progress charts on the following aspect of the young person’s life: Overviews.
(for a full description of each aspect, please refer to page 2 of the baseline).
Key worker session records (source 2) – A Key Worker is a named member of staff who has a central role in respect of a particular Child. This will include the overseeing of the Placement Planning and recording systems. The Key Worker should become the main co-ordinator of services for a particular Child in the home. They should help other staff follow the agreed approaches and care strategies set out in the Placement Plan. They should also help to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the services. The Key Worker should be appointed by the Manager preferably before a place has been offered to the Child. Where this is not possible, it should be done on the date of admission. Wherever possible, the Key Worker should be involved in visits prior to admission. During this period, they should strive to become a familiar face who will be present at the time of admission. During the early stages of placement, the Key Worker should spend sufficient time with the new Child to assist with settling in. The Key Worker should ensure that all the Child’s records are adequately set up and recording is taking place. The Key Worker’s main tasks are as follows: –
To build and maintain rapport and a mutually respectful professional relationship with the Child/Young Person and to ensure that their physical, emotional and other needs are addressed; To develop and ensure agreement of the Placement Plan as part of the Care Plan. The Key Worker is responsible for collating information required for Child’s Placement Planning Meetings and Looked After Reviews; see the following relevant Chapters: Placement Planning Meetings Procedure;
Looked After Reviews Procedure.
To oversee daily/weekly report on the young person, to ensure that his/her file and all other paperwork is up to date and that they include all matters concerning the Child/Young Person’s stay at the home. To present progress in relation to the Placement Plan at Staff Meetings as appropriate; To identify the Child/Young Person’s needs and monitor them as they change and to ensure that they are thoughtfully addressed; In consultation with supervisor and other members of staff to make significant decisions relating to the Child/Young Person’s stay e.g. starting a part-time job, changes to education placement; To build and maintain a working relationship with significant family members; To meet with the Young Person to discuss all issues of the care plan and record the findings at a Key Worker session. Not all tasks relating to the Child/Young Person have to be undertaken by the Key Worker, for example the Key Worker may arrange for the Child/Young Person to see a doctor but someone else will support him/her to the appointment.
If the Key Worker is absent as they are not on shift or are on leave, the whole team assumes temporary Key Worker responsibility. Other staff will also have relationships of varying levels with Children/Young People. All staff should keep each of the Key Workers informed of their relationships so that the Key Worker has a rounded picture of the Child/Young Person. Weekly summaries (source 3)– These are produced by the home that I work with so that information regarding young people’s weekly activities, rotas, behaviours etc. can be documented and provided to their Social Worker, Guardian, family member etc. They also confirm how the young person has done in Education or whether there have been any incidents that week
Placement plans (source 4) -A placement plan should be drawn up before a child is placed; and within 5 working days wherever this is not possible. The purpose of the placement plan is to set out in detail how the placement is intended to contribute to meeting the child’s needs as set out in the care plan. The Placement Plan will document how on a day to day basis the child will be cared for and how the child’s welfare will be safeguarded and promoted by the appropriate person. The placement plan replaces the placement agreement. The placement plan provides the framework for ensuring that: There is clarity for the child and carer about roles and responsibilities in carrying out the day to day parenting tasks and for the child’s upbringing and financial arrangements;
The carer receives essential information about the child’s strengths and difficulties, including health and education needs and any emotional and behavioural difficulties the child may have; The child is going to an appropriate carer able to meet those particular needs; The child is not put in a situation in which they can be harmed or cause harm to others; The child and carer receive appropriate help and treatment, if necessary for the child; The placement is not likely to break down due to lack of clarity about who is doing what; Clarity and specificity in the placement plan will ensure that the carer understands the child’s likes, dislikes and routines and reduce the disagreements which may arise in situations where decision making on behalf of children may be the responsibility of different people at different levels in the organisation such as the foster carer, the social worker, or resources panels.
The carer will need to know about the child’s family, their race, religion and culture, the language spoken at home and any disabilities or other special needs. They require a full understanding of the background and history of the child on whose behalf they are undertaking an exacting and responsible role and who will need their help in coping with living away from home. They will generally need to know the circumstances leading to the child becoming looked after, and the child’s previous experiences both before and during the care episode. In particular, they need to know what the long term plan is for the child and its time frame, what the objectives are for the specific placement that they are offering and how these fit within the care plan. Carers should be given a copy of the care plan and be clear about their role in implementing it.
Within the context of the care plan they need a realistic estimate of how long the placement is expected to last. Where a child is in a placement which is intended to be permanent, as reflected in the care plan, it is likely that the placement plan will reflect greater levels of delegated responsibility to the carers. The social worker should discuss with the parents and any other previous carers, and with children and young people (having regard to their age and understanding), the information which is to be given to a carer and why. Where there is a special reason for withholding significant information, the reason should be recorded. In some circumstances less information, about the child’s history for example, may be needed in connection with placements made within a planned series of short term breaks. There is no requirement for written information to be issued when a child is placed under the emergency or immediate placement provisions, but authorities should make sure that the emergency or immediate foster parent has sufficient information, including health information, to keep the child and other people in the household safe.
All parties should be aware that if carers are to work in partnership both with parents and practitioners, they need to feel that they are sufficiently trusted with sensitive information and regarded as valued members of the team around the child. Schedule 2 (paragraphs 1-8) of the Care Planning Regs (2010) sets out the detailed information required concerning the child or young person’s health and education, contact arrangements including changes to contact arrangements, visits by the responsible authority and any arrangements for visits by an independent visitor. The carer needs to know what their role will be in safeguarding and promoting the child’s welfare across each of the seven dimensions of development.
Incident reports (source 5) – These are completed by my unit should any of the following occur/arise: Child protection concern.
Absence over 24 hours;
Absence under 24 hours;
Threat of physical violence;
Actual physical violence;
Significant damage to property;
Self harm – ligatures;
Self harm – excess medication;
Self harm – cutting;
LAC review – A LAC review is a meeting which is held to get people together to share information and to make plans about a child’s placement. The purpose of the LAC review is to make sure that the care plan for each child continues to be appropriate and that the child’s needs are being met.
The importance of permanency planning and the main objective of planning for permanence, is to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond. The question “how are the child’s permanence needs being met?” must be at the core of everything we do. Where it is necessary for a child to leave his or her family: This should be for as short a time as needed to secure a safe, supported return home; or If a child cannot return home, plans must be made for alternate permanent care. Family members and friends should always be considered in the first instance with the permanence secured through the appropriate legal order to meet the child’s needs; Where it is not in the child’s best interests to live within the family network, it will usually be in the interests of the child for alternative permanent carers to be identified and the placement secured through adoption, long term foster care, Residence Orders or Special Guardianship Orders; Residential group living is provided only when a need for this is identified within the Care Planand when substitute family care is not appropriate; For older children arranging for their independent living must be considered.
Where it is clear that families and children are unable to live together, planning must be swift and clear to identify permanent alternative settings. Wherever possible, care should be provided locally unless clearly identified as inappropriate. Contact with the family, connected person and extended family should be facilitated and built on (unless clearly identified as inappropriate). The professionals involved will work in partnership with parents/families to meet the above objectives. The wishes and feelings of the child will be taken into account. The older and more mature the child, the greater the weight should be given to his or her wishes. When undertaking permanence planning, all workers have a duty to promote the child’s links with his or her racial, cultural and religious heritage by Wherever possible promoting placements enabling the child to be brought up within the same racial, cultural and religious environment as his birth family; Identifying a placement which will promote links for the child’s race, culture and religion, if the above is not possible. Practice promoting race equality according to the child’s assessed needs must therefore be evidenced within the child’s Permanence Plan. The options for permanence are:
1) Staying at home.
The first stage within permanence planning is work with families and children in need to support them staying together. Staying at home offers the best chance of stability. Research shows that family preservation has a higher success rate than reunification. This of course has to be balanced against the risk of harm to the child. 2) Placement with family or friends/connected persons
If the assessment concludes that the child cannot safely remain at home, every effort must be made to secure a placement with a family member or friend/connected person as their carer. This will be either as part of the plan to work towards a return home or – if a return home is clearly not in the child’s best interests – as the preferred permanence option. It is very important to establish at an early stage which relatives or friends might be available to care for the child, to avoid the kind of delays that can happen during court proceedings where this work has not been done. 3) Adoption.
Adoption transfers Parental Responsibility for the child from the birth parents and others who had Parental Responsibility, including the local authority, permanently and solely to the adopter(s).
The child is deemed to be the child of the adopter(s) as if he or she had been born to them. The child’s birth certificate is changed to an adoption certificate showing the adopter(s) to be the child’s parent(s). A child who is not already a citizen of the UK acquires British citizenship if adopted in the UK by a citizen of the UK.
Research strongly supports adoption as a primary consideration and as a main factor contributing to the stability of children, especially for those under four years of age who cannot be reunified with their birth or extended family.
Adopters may be supported, including financially, by the local authority and will have the right to request an assessment for support services at any time after the Order is made.
Adoption has the following advantages as a Permanence Plan: a. Parental Responsibility is held exclusively by the carers; b. The child is no longer ‘Looked After’;
c. No future legal challenge to overturn the Adoption Order is possible; d. Decisions about continuing contact will usually be made by the new parents (on the child’s behalf) who are most in touch with the child’s needs, although this will be subject to any Contact Order made by the Court at the time of the Adoption Order; e. The child is a permanent family member into adulthood.
Adoption has the following disadvantages as a Permanence Plan: a. It involves a complete and permanent legal separation from the family of origin; b. There is no review process.
4) Fostering for adoption.
A child for whom adoption is thought to be a likely outcome may be placed with prospective adopters who have been given temporary approval as foster carers. This can be where the child’s plan is likely to become adoption, but other options have not yet been ruled out for that child.
Approved prospective adopters can be given temporary approval as foster carers under 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. This temporary foster carer approval process can be carried out at the same time as the adopter approval process 5) Long term fostering.
This option has proved to be particularly useful for older children who retain strong links to their birth families and do not want or need the formality of adoption and where the carers wish for the continued involvement of the local authority.
Long-term fostering has the following advantages as a Permanence Plan: a. The local authority retains a role in negotiating between the foster carers and the birth family over issues such as contact; b. There is continuing social work support to the child and foster family in a placement that is regularly reviewed to ensure that the child’s needs are met; c. It maintains legal links to the birth family who can still play a part in the decision making for the child.
Long-term fostering has the following disadvantages as a Permanence Plan:
a. Lack of Parental Responsibility for the carers;
b. Continuing social work involvement;
c. Regular Looked After Reviews, which may be regarded as destabilising to the placement;
d. Stigma attached to the child due to being in care;
e. The child is not a legal member of the family. If difficulties arise there may be less willingness to persevere and seek resolution.
6) Special Guardianship.
Special Guardianship addresses the needs of a significant group of children, who need a sense of stability and security within a placement away from their parents but not the absolute legal break with their birth family that is associated with adoption. It will also provide an alternative for achieving permanence in families where adoption, for cultural or religious reasons, is not an option.
The following persons may apply:
a. Any guardian of the child;
b. A local authority foster carer with whom the child has lived for one year immediately preceding the application; c. Anyone who holds a Residence Order with respect to the child or who has the consent of all those in whose favour a Residence Order is in force; d. Anyone with whom the child has lived for 3 out of the last 5 years; e. Where the child is subject of a Care Order, any person who has the consent of the local authority; f. Anyone who has the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility for the child e.g. Anyone, including the child, who has the leave of the court to apply.
The parents of a child may not become the child’s special guardians.
Special Guardianship Orders offer greater stability and security to a placement than Residence Orders in that – whilst they are revocable, there are restrictions on those who may apply to discharge the Order and the leave of the Court, if required, will only be granted where circumstances have changed since the Special Guardianship Order was made.
Special guardians will have Parental Responsibility for the child and although this will be shared with the child’s parents, the special guardian will have the legal right to make all day to day arrangements for the child. The parents will still have to be consulted and their consent required to the child’s change of name, adoption, placement abroad for more than 3 months and any other such fundamental issues.
A Special Guardianship Order made in relation to a child who is the subject of a Care Order will automatically discharge the Care Order and the local authority will no longer have Parental Responsibility.
Special guardians may be supported financially or otherwise by the local authority and, as with adoptive parents, will have the right to request an assessment for support services at any time after the Order is made.
Special Guardianship has the following advantages as a Permanence Plan: a. The carers have Parental Responsibility and clear authority to make decisions on day to day issues regarding the child’s care; b. There is added legal security to the Order in that leave is required for parents to apply to discharge the Order and will only be granted if a change of circumstances can be established since the original Order was made; c. It maintains legal links to the birth family;
d. The child will no longer be in care and there need be no social worker involvement unless this is identified as necessary, in which case an assessment of the need for support must be made by the relevant local authority.
Special Guardianship has the following disadvantages as a Permanence Plan: a. The Order only lasts until the child is 18 and does not necessarily bring with it the sense of belonging to the special guardian’s family as an Adoption Order does; b. As the child is not a legal member of the family, if difficulties arise there may be less willingness to persevere and seek resolution; c. Although there are restrictions on applications to discharge the Order, such an application is possible and may be perceived as a threat to the child’s stability; d. Although a parent requires leave to apply for a Residence Order, they can apply for any other Section 8 Order (i.e. Contact Order, Prohibited Steps Order or Specific Issues Order) as of right. 7) Residence orders.
A Residence Order may be used to increase the degree of legal permanence in a placement with family or friends/Connected Persons, or a long-term fostering placement, where this would be in the child’s best interests.
Where a child would otherwise have to be placed with strangers, a placement with family or friends/Connected Persons may be identified as a preferred option and the carers may be encouraged and supported to apply for a Residence Order where this will be in the best interests of the child.
A Residence Order confers Parental Responsibility, to be shared more equally with the parents than with Special Guardianship, which in some cases may be a more appropriate arrangement. The holder of a Residence Order does not have the right to consent to the child’s adoption nor to appoint a guardian; in addition, he/she may not change the child’s name nor arrange for the child’s emigration without the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility or the leave of the court.
Whilst support may continue for as long as the Residence Order remains in force, the aim will be to make arrangements which are self-sustaining in the long run.
The making of a Residence Order can now be made until the child is 18 and will have the effect of discharging a Care Order.
The following people may apply for a Residence Order:
A parent or guardian;
A party to a marriage (whether the marriage is subsisting or not) where the child was brought up as a child of the family; A person with whom the child has lived for 3 years. (This need not be continuous but must not have started more than 5 years before or ended more than 3 months before the making of the application); A local authority foster carer with whom the child has lived for 1 year; Where a Residence Order is already in force, a person who has the consent of those in whose favour the Residence Order was made; Where the child is Looked After, a person with the consent of the relevant local authority; In any other case, a person who has the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility.
Anyone else who wishes to apply, including the child, must apply to the court for leave to make the application for a Residence Order.
A Residence Order has the following advantages:
a. It gives Parental Responsibility to the carer whilst maintaining the parents’ Parental Responsibility; b. The child will no longer be Looked After and there need be no social work involvement, therefore, unless this is identified as necessary; c. There is no review process;
d. The child will not be Looked After and so less stigma is attached to the placement; e. Any contact is likely to be agreed and if considered necessary by the Court, set out in a Contact Order.
A Residence Order has the following disadvantages:
a. It is less secure than Adoption or Special Guardianship in that an application can be made to revoke the Residence Order. However, the Court making the order can be asked to attach a condition refusing a parent’s right to seek revocation without leave of the court; b. There is no formal continuing support to the family after the Order is made although in some instances, a Residence Order Allowance may be payable by the local authority; c. There is no professional reviewing of the arrangements after the Order unless a new application to court is made, for example by the parents for contact or revocation. (NB New applications to court may be expensive to defend, and the carers would have to bear the cost if not entitled to assistance with legal costs).