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5.1.9 Placements in Foster Care and Residential Care

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all placements of children in foster care including placements with independent fostering agencies.

For placements of Looked After children with Connected Persons who are not approved foster carers at the start of the placement, see Family and Friends (Connected Persons) Procedure.

See Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure for procedures relating to the initial decision to look after a child, and the drafting and approval of the Care Plan and other essential documentation.

Children may also be placed in foster care having acquired Looked After status following a Remand to Local Authority Accommodation, see Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure.

STATUTORY GUIDANCE

Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015)

DfE and DHSC, Promoting the health and well-being of looked-after children – Statutory guidance for local authorities, clinical commissioning groups NHS England (2015)

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Delegated Authority to Foster Carers

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

Out of Area Placements Procedure

RELVANT GUIDANCE

The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Review (2015)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in November 2016 in line with Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Statutory Guidance 2015 and DfE and DHSC, Promoting the health and well-being of looked-after children – Statutory guidance for local authorities, clinical commissioning groups NHS England (2015). Links to these statutory guidance documents are provided. (See above).


Contents

  1. Consultation
  2. Placement Request
  3. Matching and Approval of Placement
  4. Placement Planning
  5. Notification of Placement
  6. Support and Monitoring of Placements
  7. Ending of Placements

    Appendix 1: How To Complete A Placement Referral Form Child Only

    Appendix 2: Emergency Placement Referral Form
    Appendix 3: How To Complete A Placement Referral Form – Parent(s) & Baby/Child


1. Consultation

At the point that it is determined that a placement may be required, and throughout the subsequent process of identification, planning and placement, the social worker must consult and take account of the views of the following people:

  1. The child;
  2. The child's parents or those with Parental Responsibility;
  3. Anyone who is not a parent but has been caring for or looking after the child;
  4. Other members of the child's family who are significant to the child or who have a Contact Order in their favour in relation to the child;
  5. The child's school or the education service;
  6. The Youth Offending Service, if the child is known to them;
  7. Any other relevant person, e.g. nursery, health care professional, Children's Guardian.

The views of these people should be given by them, in writing, or should be recorded by the social worker. If the child's wishes are not acted upon, the reason should be given.


2. Placement Request

Where it is considered that a child needs to become a Looked After Child, the child’s social worker must make a referral to the Children’s Care Planning Panel. The referral needs to reflect the current situation for the child and their family, strengths and difficulties, interventions and support that have been tried/offered, what has worked and what has not and detail any other action could be taken to avoid a child becoming Looked After. If the Panel is in agreement with the request to accommodate a child a Placement Referral will need to be completed and sent to the Children’s Placement Team.

In making this request, the social worker will be asked to provide information about the child, the type of placement sought, the Care Plan, the date by which the placement is required, the likely length of time for which the placement is required and the expected level of contact between the child and parents. The social worker should also outline any risks associated in making the placement. See Appendix 1: How To Complete A Placement Referral Form Child Only.

The referral itself is accessed via the child’s CareFirst record by accessing in the left hand menu; and clicking; see Appendix 2: Emergency Placement Referral Form.

A duty worker in the Children’s Placement Team will check the referral and may contact the social worker to ask you further questions to assist with finding a good placement match. The placement search will first be conducted with in-house carers to identify a suitable placement. If such a placement is available or if there is a possibility of a placement by the required date, the social worker will be advised accordingly. If there are no suitable in-house placements available, if the child requires a placement without delay or if it considered that the child requires a residential placement, the referral will be anonymised for any sensitive, third party or identifying information and sent out to independent providers.

When the referral is sent out to the independent sector it will be seen by Providers who form a Framework of Preferred and Approved Providers. These include both Independent Fostering Agencies and Residential providers.  Providers are invited to submit a Providers Response to the referral which will indicate exactly how they will meet the needs and outcomes for the chid as detailed in the referral. This response is evaluated independently by two members of the Children’s Placement team and the provider offering a placement with the highest evaluated score will be put forward as the favoured option to the social worker to consider. The Children’s Placement Team aim wherever possible, to provide at least two options of placement for any child referred. The social worker should visit the proposed options without delay in order to make the final decision.

Where there is a child already in the proposed foster placement, contact should be made with the social worker for that child and where the child is from a different local authority; the consent of that child's local authority should be sought by the duty social worker at the Fostering Service. This does not apply to children in residential placements where we do not need permission to place alongside other. In these cases the Children’s Placement Team will request that the provider submit an Impact Assessment, detailing how the child’s needs can be met alongside the other members of the household.

Emergency Placements:

Should a child’s circumstances mean that they need to be placed in an emergency or ‘same day’ placement, the social worker must request permission for this from the Assistant Director of Children’s Services or the appropriate Head of Service when the Assistant Director is unavailable. There is an alternative referral form to be used for same day placements. See Appendix 2: Emergency Placement Referral Form. When a child is placed with a foster carer in an emergency the social worker will need to make a referral to the Children’s Care Planning Panel for the child’s situation and needs to be discussed without delay, at the next available Panel. If the decision of the Panel is for the child to remain accommodated, the social worker will need to complete a full referral and a full placement search will ensue to ensure that the child is matched with the most appropriate placement. Emergency placements do not become full time placements by default and effective matching still needs to be demonstrated.

Parent(s) and child Placements

The process for gaining approval for and identifying Parent(s) and child placements is the same as that for a child. The form is accessed through the child’s CareFirst record by clicking in the left hand menu: reports menu – children’s services report – placement referral forms.

See Appendix 3: How To Complete A Placement Referral Form – Parent(s) & Baby/Child.

Placement Finding and the Court Process

Where social workers are in Court seeking an order in respect of a child it is important that sufficient time is given to identifying an appropriate placement, to be available at the conclusion of proceedings. Most Judges will refuse to grant an Order unless there is a viable and appropriate placement identified and that it can be demonstrated that this placement will enable the child to achieve better outcomes than if he were to remain with his family or current arrangements.

Social Workers should submit a referral to the Children’s Placement Team to coincide with the submission of final evidence or shortly thereafter. Good practice would see a referral being submitted no later than 6 weeks before date of the Final Hearing.

Where social workers are in Care Proceedings in resect of an unborn child, a referral for both the child on his own or one for the child and parent(s) should be submitted no later than 6 weeks before the date of the Final Hearing. It is imperative that both referrals are submitted as it is not possible to pre-empt the Courts judgement.  


3. Matching and Approval of Placement

The matching process should consider the child's needs especially regarding the following key areas:

  • The child's education;
  • The expectations around contact with relatives and friends;
  • The child's identity/race/culture;
  • The child's history;
  • The child's behaviour;
  • The child's health;
  • The focus of the placement.

The matching process should also consider the carer's availability and:

  • Their experience;
  • Their strengths;
  • The family composition;
  • The distance from the foster home to the child's school;
  • Other children in the placement;
  • The foster carer's children.

Once a potential placement has been identified, the child's social worker will liaise with the foster carer's supervising social worker, (who may be from an independent fostering agency), to agree arrangements for the placement. At this stage, the social worker will also discuss the child with the prospective foster carer in particular share/clarify any risks associated with the placement.  Wherever possible, the child's social worker should visit potential carers/placement and as required consult with other professionals, prior to a decision about the appropriateness of a placement being made.

In relation to the sharing of bedrooms, each child over 3 should have their own bedroom, or where this is not possible, the placing authority must agree to the sharing of the bedroom and this must therefore be addressed during the matching process.

Where the proposed placement is an in-house placement, it will then be presented to the social worker's manager for approval.

If the placement is outside the foster carer's terms of approval or an exemption is required, see Exemptions and Extensions/Variations to Foster Carer Approval Procedure.

If the proposed placement is with an independent fostering agency, the Agency Placements Team Manager must approve the placement and a written agreement must be drawn up with the fostering agency setting out the precise terms and conditions between the local authority and the agency in relation to the placement. Where the placement is with independent foster carers who live outside the local authority area, see also Out of Area Placements Procedure.

NB In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education,the Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency/ where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury - see Education of Looked After Children Procedure.

If the relevant manager approves the foster placement, the placement planning process can start - see Section 5, Placement Planning.

The social worker may then arrange an introductory visit to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate).


4. Identification and Approval of a Residential Placement

Where a residential unit is identified as the appropriate placement, senior manager agreement must be obtained, unless this has already been granted by the Care Planning Panel. Once a resource has been identified, the social worker should contact the relevant registered manager directly to discuss the available placement further.

Wherever possible, the child's social worker should visit potential homes and as required consult with other professionals, prior to a decision about the appropriateness of a placement being made. The placement provider should be able to provide evidence that supports the appropriateness and effectiveness of any therapeutic approach or model of care they intend to use.

Where the residential placement is outside the local authority area, see also Out of Area Placements Procedure.

NB In addition to the above approvals, in order to avoid placements that disrupt a child's education, the Nominated Officer must approve any change of placement affecting a child in Key Stage 4 except in an emergency/ where the placement is terminated because of an immediate risk of serious harm to the child or to protect others from serious injury - see Education of Looked After Children Procedure. Equally, any placement made outside the local authority area should be able to meet the child’s physical and mental health / emotional needs, particularly where ongoing treatment is being undertaken or is assessed as required, (see also Health Care Assessments and Health Care Plans, Out of Area Placements).

Once the relevant manager/s approves the placement, the placement planning process can start. An understanding of the provider’s therapeutic approach should inform the child’s Placement Plan.

The social worker may then arrange visits to the proposed placement, with the child (if old enough) and parents (if appropriate).


5. Placement Planning

Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will arrange a Placement Planning Meeting after liaising with the foster carer and the foster carer's supervising social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency). The meeting will usually be held in the new placement. See also Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure.

Participants will include:

  • The parent;
  • The child (if appropriate);
  • The foster carer;
  • The supervising social worker;
  • Any other relevant professionals, e.g. a representative from the child's school;
  • Anyone else considered appropriate or who will have a role in the placement.

The purpose of the first Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan (which will be recorded on the Placement Information Record). The Placement Plan provides clarity for the child and carer about; how day to day parenting tasks will be shared between the carer and the responsible authority – including clarity about financial arrangements, e.g. (contact); the circumstances leading to the child becoming looked after; what the long term plan is for the child and its timeframe and what the objectives are for the placement being offered and how those reflect the Care Plan.

This will involve a discussion of the child's needs to ensure careful matching, including the child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin, as well as the child's health and education needs and how these are to be met. It will also include the arrangements for registering the child with local health professionals (GP, dentist and optician). The Responsible Authority is required to draw up a Placement Plan before the child is placed, or if not practicable, within 5 working days from the start of the placement.

For children placed in residential care, the Placement Plan should cover the following issues in addition to those for all placements set out in the Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure:

  • The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
  • Where the authority has, or is notified of, Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the day to day arrangements put in place by the appropriate person (placement provider) to keep the child safe;
  • Any behaviours which have been of concern to previous carers and which may have contributed to previous breakdown of a placement and how the Placement Provider will seek to manage and respond to these;
  • The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
  • Where the child is Accommodated:
  • The respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility; any Delegated Authority of responsibility by parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority for the child's day-to-day care; the expected duration of the arrangements and the steps to bring the arrangements to an end, including arrangements for the child to return to live with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility; where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact;
  • Delegated Authority issues the circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain in advance the Local Authority's approval for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays etc.;
  • The Local Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
  • Information concerning the child’s health and education, contact arrangements, visits by the responsible authority and any arrangements for visits by an independent visitor. The content of the child’s Health Plan and PEP;
  • The child’s religion and culture and the manner in which these are reflected in their daily life and any help the child may need to keep these links;
  • Arrangements for contact between children, birth parents and siblings and specified other friends and relatives.

The meeting also provides an opportunity to ensure that the registered manager has a copy of any relevant court order and that full information is shared about any behaviour management issues.

In addition the placement planning meeting will consider the type of introduction process required, for example whether arrangements should be made for the child, parents and the social worker to visit the foster/residential home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. Children should be able to visit the foster/residential home and talk in private with the carer or Registered Manager. If this is not possible, arrangements may be made for the carers to visit the child and parents; or for information about the foster carers/residential home to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the foster/residential home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child's behaviour within the home.

For children placed in foster care, the Placement Plan should cover the following issues in addition to those for all placements set out in the Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure:

  • The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
  • Where the authority has, or is notified of, Child Protection concerns relating to the child, or the child has gone missing from the placement or from any previous placement, the day to day arrangements put in place by the appropriate person (placement provider) to keep the child safe;
  • The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
  • Where the child is Accommodated:
    • The respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility;
    • Delegated Authority of responsibility by parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority and /or the foster carer(s) in relation to the following matters (and identifying any of these matters on which the local authority/parents/persons with Parental Responsibility consider that the child may make a decision):
      • Medical and dental treatment;
      • Education;
      • Leisure and home life;
      • Faith and religious observance;
      • Use of social media;
      • Any other matters upon which the local authority/parents/others with parental responsibility consider appropriate.
  • The expected duration of the arrangements and the steps to bring the arrangements to an end, including arrangements for the child to return to live with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility;
  • Where the child is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact.
  • The circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain in advance the Local Authority's approval for the child to take part in school trips or overnight stays;
  • The Local Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
  • The obligation on the carers to comply with the terms of the foster care agreement.

The meeting also provides an opportunity to ensure that the foster carers have a copy of any relevant court order and that full information is shared with them about the child's needs and any behaviour management issues.

At the time of the placement, the foster carers/residential placement  should also be given any additional information about details of the child's day to day needs which are not covered by the Placement Plan/Placement Information Record but are important to ensure that the carers are in the best possible position to help the child settle in the new placement, for example any particular fears at night-time or the child's favourite toys.

The child's social worker must provide the child and the parent with written information about coming into care, including information on using the Complaints and Representations Procedure and information about how to access an Advocate.

In addition, as indicated above, the social worker should ensure that any other information about the placement that is available for the child is obtained and given to him/her. Children must understand house expectations before the placement is made.

In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in. Suitable luggage should be used and a child's belongings should never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers.

Placement Planning and Emergency Placements

If it is not possible to hold a Placement Planning Meeting before the placement, because of the urgency of the placement, it must take place in order that the Placement Plan is prepared within 5 working days of the start of the placement.

The child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan and Placement Plan/Placement Information Record to the child, parents and residential staff.


6. Notification of Placement

The Business Support Officer for the relevant POD will update the Child’s LAC episode on CareFirst and ensure that the placement address is updated. The Children’s Placement team will ensure that the Service Agreement and Financial Agreements are completed.

The child's social worker must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer. This notification will trigger the appointment of an Independent Reviewing Officer if it is the first placement, and the setting up of arrangements for a Looked After Review.

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.

The social worker or POD BSO will notify the education service, the relevant local Children's Services (if the placement is in the area of a different local authority) and the child's GP.

The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process 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 and any health professional or YOT worker actively involved with the child.

It will be necessary for the foster carer or 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 liaise with the Designated Nurse for LAC to arrange a Health Care Assessment - see Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure for further details. The social worker must also contact the relevant school of, where the child does not have a school place, the relevant education officer with a view to the completion of a Personal Education Plan (PEP) - see Education of Looked After Children Procedure.

For any new placement, 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.


7. Support and Monitoring of Placements

The child's social worker must visit the child in the placement within one week of the placement and then, at a minimum, every six weeks during the first year, thereafter every six weeks (three months if the placement is intended to last until the child is 18). For children in long-term foster placements there is provision in the guidance for visits to take place at a minimum of once every 6 months after the first year. This level of visiting is likely to be considered appropriate in exceptional cases only. Six monthly visiting must be agreed by the Head of Service with Practice Lead for Looked After Children following discussion between the social worker, young person, carers and IRO - see Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children Procedure.

The foster carer will also receive support and supervision from their supervising social worker (for in-house placements) - see Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure - and from the independent fostering agency (for external placements).

Where there are concerns in relation to the progress of the placement, consideration should be given to seeking additional resources to assist the carers.

Where there are any changes to the type of placement or to the child's legal status during the placement, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records.

The records should be monitored for quality, adequacy and retention.

A Looked After Review should be convened where:

  • The child is, or has been, persistently absent from the placement;
  • The placement provider, parents or area authority are concerned that the child is at risk of harm; or
  • The child so requests, unless the Independent Reviewing Officer considers that the review is not justified.

See also Looked After Reviews Procedure.


8. Ending of Placements

When a placement is going to end, the Children’s Placement Team must be notified of the expected end date in order to serve the correct amount of notice to the placement. If a young person leaves placement of their own accord, the Children’s Placement Team must be notified without delay, even in cases where the wish is for the young person to return to the placement.

When the placement ends, the relevant Information or Business Support Officer must update the child's electronic records. The Children’s Placement Team will notify the finance Section so that payments to the carer/provider will cease. The Children’s Placement Team will notify those who were notified when the placement was made via the Confirmation of Placement form.

All written information on the child, which the foster carer holds, should be transferred to the supervising social worker for transfer to the child's social worker.

In appropriate cases, the foster carer should be asked to complete an end of placement report.

Children must, when they leave the home, be helped to understand the reasons and be supported with the transition - including return home and independence.

Foster carers must be supported to maintain links with children who leave their care, where appropriate.

Where the placement ends in an unplanned way, consideration should be given to holding a Disruption Meeting - see Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure.

Where a former carer's records are requested by a new agency, these must be made available within one month of the request.


Appendices

Click here to view Appendix 1: How To Complete A Placement Referral Form Child Only

Click here to view Appendix 2: Emergency Placement Referral Form

Click here to view Appendix 3: How To Complete A Placement Referral Form – Parent(s) & Baby/Child

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