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6.2.7 Intensive Foster Placements

Contents

  1. General Principles
  2. Guiding Principles of Intensive Foster Placements
  3. Features that Distinguish an Intensive Foster Placement
  4. What Support can IFP Carers and Children in Placement Expect?
  5. Essential Requirements and Expectations of IFP Carers
  6. Respite
  7. Conversion of Existing Foster Placements into IFP Placements
  8. Intensive Fostering Placements and Permanence


1. General Principles

As outlined in The Fostering Network's Foster Care Charter, children and young people whose Care Plan is to live permanently outside of their birth family have the right to continuity in their lives so that their identity can be maintained and developed, their physical and mental well-being promoted and their full potential achieved. However, some children and young people do have very complex needs and in order to maximise their opportunity to achieve a permanent and stable family lifestyle, their Foster Carers will require an enhanced package of support. The purpose of Intensive Foster Placements (IFP) is to provide lasting stability for these young people. An IFP may be seen as the child or young person's best opportunity for a stable, ongoing family placement.


2. Guiding Principles of Intensive Foster Placements

  • Intensive Foster Placements aim to provide stability and continuity ideally as a permanent placement but certainly beyond the short-term;
  • An intensity of professional support is needed to sustain the placement;
  • Foster Carers are expected to provide an intensity of care in order to sustain the placement;
  • It is not the child's needs or the capacities of the Foster Carers alone but a close fitting match between the two that defines an IFP.  It therefore follows that IFP status is dependant on the match and not the individual characteristics of either the young person or Foster Carer.


3. Features that Distinguish an Intensive Foster Placement

Children and young people:

  • With complex needs aged 7 -18 years;
  • Who are subject to a Care Order and the Care Plan is for them to live permanently outside of their birth family;
  • Whose challenging behaviours place extreme demands on their carers;
  • Who have experienced a number of placement disruptions and are consequently hard to place;
  • Who require an intensive package of support from a number of professionals to help maintain placement stability;
  • Who might otherwise be considered for either a specialist fostering placement or therapeutic residential resource;
  • Who have significant difficulties in forming and sustaining attachments.


4. What Support can IFP Carers and Children in Placement Expect?

  • Carers will receive an enhanced expenses element within the fostering allowance. Details of the current allowance can be found in the Foster Carer's Handbook and on the Fostering & Adoption website. The allowance includes periods when the young person is placed in respite;
  • Carers will receive up to 28 nights respite per year per placement. Carers are able to propose friends or family members from their own support networks to act as respite carers. It is necessary that all relevant checks and professional visits are undertaken prior to respite taking place. Once the Supervising Social Worker (SSW) has confirmed their agreement, respite carers will receive an IFP rate for periods of respite care provided. IFP Carers may request to use their respite provision flexibly, transferring their respite funds to support payments towards overnight educational trips for the young person or towards a family holiday for example. This must be discussed and agreed in advance with their supervising social worker;
  • An enhanced package of support is available. This may include:
    • Referrals for Intensive Placement Team (IPT) Support Workers will be given priority. This service will be subject to review.

      If it is determined that the Support Worker's allocation is no longer required, consideration may be given to the identification of a Sessional Worker;
    • Carers may receive sessional work support for the young person, provided on a weekly or fortnightly basis, where an IPT Support Worker is not allocated. (Due to the potential for conflict of interest, Sessional Workers drawn from the foster carer's family and who live within the placement household should not provide sessional support to young people looked after in that placement);
    • Supervising Social Workers for Intensive Foster Placements will visit at a minimum of a monthly basis but generally more frequently as a more intensive level of support is required. The Supervising Social Workers will always maintain at least weekly telephone contact with their carers. In the absence of the Supervising Social Worker and in the event of a crisis, an alternative worker from the IPT team will be identified to provide an immediate response;
    • Young people in Intensive Foster Placements will receive priority access to IPT activity programmes;
    • The IPT Morning Unit can be available to support carers for a limited period in the event that young people are excluded from school. The morning unit is offered to support the placement not provide an alternative education provision;
  • Carers will have the opportunity to meet with other IFP carers at a dedicated regular group, facilitated by Intensive Foster Placement Supervising Social Workers. It is hoped that these meetings will promote participation, shared identity and ownership of the scheme. IFP carers will also be encouraged to access the range of other support groups for carers facilitated by the Fostering & Adoption service;
  • Looked after children in IPT placements and their carers will have access to all the other services provided to LAC and Brighton and Hove foster carers.

    This includes access to the specialist team at CAMHS for LAC. Referrals to this team are via the Head of Service, Fostering & Adoption;
  • The Supervising Social Worker will promote regular network meetings involving IFP carers and key professionals involved with the young person. These meetings will be chaired by the Supervising Social Worker and should include the worker for the child, IPT worker or Sessional Worker, carers, respite carers and relevant school staff and young person as appropriate. The Supervising Social Worker will ensure notes of these meetings are circulated, including providing a copy to the Independent Reviewing Officer that has oversight of the care planning for that child;
  • The managers within the Fostering & Adoption service and fieldwork teams will endeavour to ensure that there is minimum disruption in terms of allocation of social work staff either as Supervising Social Workers to the carers or as key workers for the child in placement. It is important to ensure that all aspects of the network around the child are offering stability and continuity to promote resilience within the placement.


5. Essential Requirements and Expectations of IFP Carers

  • At least one carer must be available during the day to receive supervisory visits, attend professional meetings and training, and to provide care in the event that the young person is not in school. Flexibility does exist for foster carers to maintain other employment but this can only be agreed where fostering requirements can continue to be met;
  • The capacity to offer the young person stability and a commitment ideally as a permanent placement but certainly beyond the short term;
  • In the event that a placement is disrupting and all attempts to preserve it appear unsuccessful, it is expected that carers will continue to offer the placement where possible to enable a planned ending and positive transition for the young person;
  • Carers are required to be available for supervisory visits and attend professional meetings. They will at times need to work very closely with staff from the education service and work to promote the child's educational achievements;
  • Carers are required to attend all mandatory in-house training events and other relevant training identified by the carer or their supervising social worker;
  • Carers are required to attend the regular IFP Development Group facilitated by IFP Supervising Social Workers;
  • Carers are expected to be resilient and possess good communication skills;
  • Carers need to be able set clear and realistic boundaries in response to demanding and challenging behaviours while retaining a warm and empathetic approach.

If essential requirements cannot be met then IFP status may need to be reviewed.


6. Respite

  • Respite arrangements are an important part of the support package for Intensive Fostering Placements. The Supervising Social Worker will aim to ensure that respite arrangements meet the young person's needs and offer support to the main placement. Plans for respite need to be considered at the outset of the placement and carers identified either from current in-house approved foster care resources or from within the carer's wider family and friendship network;
  • If prospective respite carers are from the carers' family or friendship network then key checks need to take place before a placement can be made. These checks include DBS of carers and adult members of their household, child protection and a fostering health and safety inspection following a visit to the home;
  • Families or individuals providing respite support will also need to sign a formal agreement with Brighton and Hove City Council in line with the Fostering Services Regulations;
  • The Supervising Social Worker and/or young person's allocated Social Worker may carry out a visit to the home whilst the young person is in placement and regular respite carers should be part of network meetings and LAC reviews as appropriate. Respite carers who are not current approved Brighton and Hove foster carers should also be given details of the Brighton and Hove Foster Carers on-call and EDT service so they have access to out of hours support.


7. Conversion of Existing Foster Placements into IFP Placements

  • Existing foster placements may be considered for conversion to IFP status in response to a significantly increased level of demand placed by the young person. Assessment by an IFP supervising social worker in consultation with the Fostering Service Manager will need to determine that the carers are able to fulfil the requirements of IFP carers and that sufficient matching factors are present in order to approve conversion. Full discussion will take place with the social worker for the child and relevant fieldwork manager before such a decision is reached. The relevant IRO will need to be informed of the change of status of the placement.


8. Intensive Fostering Placements and Permanence

  • It is essential to consider the plan for an intensive fostering placement in the context of the child's needs for stability and the opportunity for a permanent family home. An Intensive Fostering Placement with a very high level of support may be the best opportunity for a young person that has perhaps had a very disruptive attachment history to achieve a stable family life;
  • A decision to convert a placement to IFP also has to therefore take account of the department's policy and practice guidance in relation to permanent foster care for looked after children. The Adoption & Permanence Panel will need to consider any plans for long term foster care for children under 9 years and matches with such carers for all children under 9 years or within 2 years of a such a plan having been agreed at Panel. For children between 9 years and 12 years permanent plans and matches can be endorsed at the Looked After Child review;
  • Special Guardianship or even adoption is a potential outcome for any Looked after child that is in a long-term foster placement, including Intensive Foster Placements. These orders provide for greater legal security for the child reinforcing the permanence of their place in their new family. If such a plan is agreed for a child at a LAC review, it is essential that this done with the foster carers having a full understanding of the support plan that would be in place to enable such an outcome to be achieved.

End