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5.2.2 Family and Friends (Connected Persons)

Connected Carers are formally approved foster carers who are family or friends of the child or are known to them in some other way. Therefore, all such carers need to have undergone an Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers.

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter details some differences in the requirements for assessing Connected Carers whilst also reminding that children placed in this way are Accommodated and require all the duties and responsibilities of Looked After Children.

RELEVANT LOCAL GUIDANCE

Brighton & Hove Fostering & Adoption Service Practice notes on checks and references required for the assessment of adopters, fosterers for adoption, concurrency carers, Brighton and Hove and Barnardo’s foster carers, and family and friends foster carers.

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Family and Friends Care Policy

Smoking and Looked After Children (including e-cigarettes) Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in November 2017 to reflect that when placing a child with a Connected Person an initial risk assessment of any pets, together with the environment in which the pet is kept, should be taken into account, (see Section 2, Assessing the Suitability of a Connected Person).


Contents

  1. Approvals / Placements
  2. Assessing the Suitability of a Connected Person
  3. After the Placement has Commenced
  4. Forms


1. Approvals / Placements

See Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

When approval of a family and friends foster carer is being requested, the assessing social worker must refer to the guidelines which details the assessment requirements. Family and Friends foster carers (Connected Carers) have to be approved to the same standard as all other foster carers in order to comply with Fostering Services Regulations 2011, with one local variation – only 3 references are required, two of whom should be non-related, and one should be a family member. All checks carried out during the assessment process must be kept up to date throughout the duration of the placement. Family and Friends foster carers are subject to the same annual fostering review process as all foster carers.

1.1 Basic Requirements

  • Enhanced DBS for each person over 18 in the household (see additional notes/guidance below);
  • List of Children with a Child Protection Plan check (which incorporates Local Authority check) on all adult household members under all names and addresses used over past 10 years;
  • Location and file digest of all social services records held in connection with applicants;
  • Full medical on each applicant;
  • Three personal references and others as required, (where there are two applicants the referees have knowledge of both);
  • List of Children with a Child Protection Plan checks on all referees;

See also Brighton & Hove Fostering & Adoption Service Practice notes on checks and references required for the assessment of adopters, fosterers for adoption, concurrency carers, Brighton and Hove and Barnardo’s foster carers, and family and friends foster carers.

Forms/Standard Letters: (see below).

Re DBS Checks: An enhanced DBS check must be carried out on every adult in the applicants’ household over the age of 18, and on any other adult who will have significant unsupervised care of a child in care on a regular basis. This check is valid for 3 years and must be renewed in good time so that there is continuous cover. If applicants have lived overseas for a period you should refer to the DBS web pages of the Home Office, for guidance on how to get an appropriate certificate from the overseas police authorities regarding any criminal record. If any DBS checks come back with offences or cautions showing, a report in a standard format must be sent to Assistant Director, Children’s Services seeking written approval to continue with the assessment. If the offences or cautions have been shared by the applicants at the outset, this is helpful. If undisclosed offences or cautions appear on a DBS this must be taken as a warning that the applicants have not been fully honest with the assessing social worker, and must be fully explored with the applicants. Any ‘soft’ information disclosed by the DBS or local police must be explored in the assessment.

Re Checks on List of Children with a Protection Plan: these checks must be carried out on all referees, as well as on all members of the applicants’ household. The List of CP Plans check incorporates a local authority check which is organised by the administrator for child protection enquiries. It is a requirement that the local authority check covers the previous 10 years so if the applicants have lived outside Brighton and Hove within the last 10 years the child protection administrator will make contact with the relevant local authority and report on the result of that enquiry as part of the child protection register check. This check is valid for 3 years.

Re Medicals: Full medical checks must have been carried out on all foster carers before they can be approved. These should take place at least eight weeks before panel so that the Medical Advisor has time to collate information, write her report and arrange for any follow up work to be done before panel. Medical updates must be completed every 3 years, and any medical issues should be addressed as they arise, or at the annual review of the carers, as appropriate. If a carer’s health deteriorates significantly it is advisable to ask for a new full medical to be carried out.

References: See the following forms:

Standard Letter Format.

Reference Interview Report.

Various Standard Reference Letters.

Three written references should be requested and received for each single applicant or pair of applicants. Of these three, no more than one can be a family member and it will be important to ensure that referees include people who have some longstanding knowledge of the applicant/s. The interviews should be written up and presented to panel with the letters of reference provided by the referees. The assessing social worker should send a copy of the write up of the visit to the referee to ask them to confirm that it is an accurate account of the meeting. The written account of the visit can be signed by the referee or an email confirmation appended to the report of the visit. A typed version of any handwritten references must also be presented to panel. Applicants should be advised not to nominate referees where there could be a potential conflict of interest i.e. people that are employed or managed by the applicant or clients of the applicant in terms of their professional role.

1.2 Other references

Various Standard Reference Letters.

  • Reference from previous partner

    Any previous partners with whom child raising has been shared must be asked for a written reference and should be interviewed, unless there are compelling arguments against this which can be corroborated by an external source such as through a solicitor’s letter or court judgement e.g. if there has been domestic violence which could place an applicant at risk. Where a divorce has taken place a certified document showing the grounds for divorce must be seen. A decision not to take up any particular reference must be agreed in discussion between the social worker and their Pod Team manager, and the reasons recorded;
  • Reference from adult children of previous or existing relationship including adult children of previous partner that applicant involved in caring for:

    Any children (minors or adult) of previous relationships should be considered for interview, and their views incorporated into the report;
  • Reference from employer or previous employer:

    Written references must be sought from any employer or previous employer of either applicant if this employment has involved working with children or Adults at Risk over the last ten years. An employer reference seeking confirmation of employment status will always be sought for employed applicants, and should always ask for any issues of a disciplinary or health nature, although employers will sometimes be reluctant to share this sort of information. Self-employed applicants must get a letter of reference from their accountant verifying the nature of their employment and the level of their income from it;
  • Reference from school, nursery or health visitor:

    Where applicants have pre-school children, the health visitor should always be asked for a reference. For applicants with school aged children, the school may be asked (with the permission of the applicants), for a report on their view about how the child is doing at school, the school’s relationship with the applicants and what the school considers might be the impact on the child of fostering;
  • Other family members or friends:

    Other family members or friends may be approached if it is felt they have significant comments to make, or if they are needed to ensure that the references cover a broad span of the life of the applicants and if they are a couple are able to comment on their relationship together.

Re Checks: Other mandatory checks for all applicants include seeing and noting details of:

  • Birth certificates & passports & NI numbers;
  • Marriage and divorce absolute certificates, civil partnership and termination of civil partnership certificates;
  • Evidence that each applicant has a right of residence/ is domiciled in the UK (if appropriate – legal advice may be needed);
  • Verification of household finances to include all income, expenditure and debts;
  • Health and safety checks using the updated Brighton and Hove form. Hazardous plants must also be identified and where possible removed before a child is placed;
  • Checks on pets must also be completed and be updated when necessary so that they are valid up to the point of an adoption order being made. Potentially dangerous pets, including all dogs, venomous snakes, and so on, must be thoroughly considered before a child is placed.

Before deciding whether to extend or confirm the approval, the Local Authority must consider if the placement is still the most appropriate placement available to meet the child’s needs, (particularly taking into account  where there have been child protection concerns or where the child has gone missing) and it must be considered by the Fostering Panel.


2. Assessing the Suitability of a Connected Person on a Temporary Basis

A Local Authority may approve a Connected Person as a local authority foster carer for a temporary period not exceeding 16 weeks. However, this must only be in exceptional circumstances, and is completed under Regulation 24 of the Children Act 1989 Care Planning, Placement and Review Regulations 2010.

In respect of the Connected Person, the home must be visited by the social worker as part of the assessment of the suitability of arrangements 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 addition note:

Schedule 4 of these Regulations: Matters to be taken into consideration when assessing the suitability of a Connected Person to care for the child must include the following.

  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, 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; 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 particulars 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;
  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;
  9. The child’s wishes and feelings (subject to age and understanding) must also be ascertained and recorded;
  10. The views of parents /those with Parental Responsibility must be obtained.

A Health and Safety Checklist should also be completed.

Additionally, The Children’s Homes and Looked After Children (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013, also require that consideration is made to ensure that the placement will also safeguard the child – as with any other Foster Placement – if there have been child protection concerns or the child has gone missing.

Wherever possible, an opportunity must be provided for the child to visit the home before the decision.

When this Assessment has been completed, it must be agreed by the Head of Service. A record of this decision will need to detail reasons for agreeing.

If the child is at Key stage 4 of their education (14 – 16 yrs), then careful consideration should be undertaken if making the placement is likely to also require a change of school.

Before the Placement is made, the child should have a Care Plan, and this should include Education and Health Plans. This should be in place at the time the placement is made, or within 5 days of it being made.


3. After the Placement has Commenced

Once the temporary agreement has been approved, arrangements should be urgently made to refer for full approval of the carer(s) as foster carers (See Section 1, Approvals/ Placements).

Arrangements for a PEP to be completed should also be made if this is a first or new episode of care.

If the placement is to continue and this should be presented to Panel within 6 weeks of the placement, for Interim Approval.

Temporary approval can be made for up to total of 16 weeks, (interim approval by the Panel is a part of this overall timescale) or until the outcome of the Statutory Review, (if the outcome of the assessment is that the connected person is not approved and seeks a review). A further (single) period of 8 weeks only can be granted in exceptional circumstances, e.g. if the Placement has not been formally approved and there is an appeal under the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM).


4. Forms

Please find links to relevant information and forms related to the assessment of Connected Carers:

End