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5.1.13 Placements with Parents

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to any placement of a child, on a Care Order or an Interim Care Order, with a parent for more than 24 hours. These procedures do not apply to the placement of children with relatives and friends (See Family and Friends (Connected Persons) Procedure), or where children are subject to Interim Care Orders and are placed by the court under Section 38(6) for the purposes of assessment.

Note: Children may also be placed with parents having acquired Looked After Status following Remand to Local Authority Accommodation (see Remands to local Authority Accommodation or to Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure).

AMENDMENT

In November 2017, Section 3.2, Assessment and Checks before Placement was updated to reflect that the DBS has no eligibility for a standard or enhanced check for birth parents or other adults living in the household. However, the Local Authority has a requirement under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England Regulations) 2010 to obtain information about unspent convictions and cautions before placing a child back with parents, and so a police PNC check should be undertaken. Additionally, Section 3.2, Assessment and Checks before Placement was updated to include consideration should be given as to whether the home environment is safe for the child including where relevant, the need for a risk assessment of any pets and the environment in which they are kept.


Contents

1. Introduction and Overview
2. Approval of Decision to Place Child with Parents
3. Planned Placements
3.1 Consultation before placement
3.2 Assessment and Checks before Placement
3.3 Recommending the Plan
3.4 Approval of the Plan
3.5 What to Include in the Written Reports/Plans
3.6 Short Term Placements
3.7 Post Placement Arrangements
3.8 Ending of Placement
4. Unplanned Placements
5. Placements during Proceedings
6. Support to Placements
7. Social Work Visits
8. Review Process


1. Introduction and Overview

This procedure applies to any placement of a child, on a Care Order or an Interim Care Order, with either:

  • Their parents;

    or
  • Any other person with parental responsibility, or who had parental responsibility immediately before the care order came into force.

Provided that the placement is longer than 24 hours. If the placement is for less than 24 hours regulations relating to contact apply (see Section 5.3, Contact and Overnight Stays).

Such children may not be placed unless the requirements of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 are met. The Regulations require:

  • An assessment of the suitability of the placement;
  • A written agreement with those who are to have care of the child;
  • A decision by a "nominated officer" (Head of Service).

A child must not be placed with parents if that would be incompatible with an order as to contact under Section 34 of the Children Act 1989.

When considering a placement with parent(s) consideration must also be given as to whether the Care Order is still required. Where appropriate an agreement may be reached with the parents that an application to discharge the Care Order may be made. Any such agreement must include details of the level of support and supervision to be provided by the Local Authority, and co-operation by the parents.

These procedures do not apply to the placement of children with Connected Persons (See Family and Friends (Connected Persons) Procedure).


2. Approval of Decision to Place Child with Parents

A decision to place the child with the parents must not be put into effect until it has been approved by the Nominated Officer and the Placement Plan prepared.

The Nominated Officer must be satisfied that:

  • The child’s wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
  • The assessment of parents’ suitability to care for the child has been completed;
  • The placement will safeguard and promote the child’s welfare;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted.


3. Planned Placements

In exceptional circumstances a child may be placed without the immediate need for the following procedures; please see Section 4, Unplanned Placements.

3.1 Consultation before Placement

Before a child is placed, the following people must be consulted and their views accounted for (The views of these people should be given by them, in writing):

  1. The child;
  2. Both parents including a parent who is not the proposed carer of the child;
  3. Any other member of the family who is significant to the child;
  4. The Medical Advisor (Adoption and Fostering) who will seek the views of the parents’ GP and any other relevant health professional, in order to provide advice concerning any known health issues for the parents which may impact on their capacity to meet the needs of the child. The details of the parents, their GP and Medical Consent forms should be sent to the Medical Advisor with a covering letter;
  5. For children who are already looked after, refer to the comprehensive health report by the Nurse Consultant for Looked After Children, which provides information on the child’s health care needs. These must be taken into account in making a placement with parents;
  6. For children being placed with parents immediately after the making of an ICO, make a referral to the Nurse Consultant for Looked After Children, so a full health care plan for the child is developed;
  7. The Head Teacher of the child’s school and any other education professional as appropriate, e.g. Educational Welfare Officer, Educational Psychologist;
  8. If the child has a disability, is in the process of being assessed for Special Educational Needs (SEN) or has already a Education, Health and Care Plan, the Special Needs Section in Children’s Services;
  9. The Police Child Protection Team;
  10. Youth Offending Team, if it has contact with the family;
  11. The Probation Service, if it has contact with the family;
  12. The relevant Children’s Social Care Services if the child is placed in another local authority’s area;
  13. Existing Carers (foster carer, residential worker etc.);
  14. Manager of the Children’s Home currently caring for the child;
  15. The Independent Reviewing Officer;
  16. The Children’s Guardian (if the child is subject to care proceedings).

The consultation should be formal. The persons being consulted should be written to, requesting their views on the proposed placement. It is important that those who are consulted should reply in writing; their written replies should be placed on the case file.

If appropriate a letter should also be sent to the child, as part of the consultation process with the child.

3.2 Assessment and Checks before Placement

The Assessment of Persons Caring as Parent should include:

  1. The parents' capacity to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child:
    • To provide for the child 's physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care;
    • To protect the child adequately from harm or danger, including any person who presents a risk of harm to the child;
    • To ensure that the home environment is safe for the child including, where relevant, the need for a risk assessment of any pets and the environment in which they are kept;
    • To ensure that the child's emotional needs are met and he/she is provided with a positive sense of self, including any particular needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin, and cultural and linguistic background, and any disability the child has;
    • To promote the child's learning and intellectual development through encouragement, cognitive stimulation and the promotion of educational success and social opportunities;
    • To enable the child to regulate his/her emotions and behaviour, including by modelling appropriate behaviour and interactions with others;
    • To provide a stable family environment to enable the child to develop and maintain secure attachments to the parents and other persons who provide care for the child.
  2. The parents' state of health (physical, emotional and mental). This is now extended to include the parents' medical history, including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
  3. The parents' family relationships and the composition of the parents' household, including:
    • The identity of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of their relationship with parents and one another, including any sexual relationship; their relationship with any parent of the child;
    • Other adults who are not members of the household but are likely to have regular contact with the child;
    • Current/previous domestic violence between household members including the parents.
  4. The parents' family history, including:
    • The particulars of the parents' childhood and upbringing, including the strengths and difficulties of their parents/carers;
    • The parents' relationship with their parents and siblings, and their relationships with each other;
    • The parents' educational achievement, including any specific learning difficulty/disability;
    • A chronology of significant life events;
    • Other relatives and their relationships with the child and parents;
  5. Criminal offences of which the parents have been convicted or cautioned;
  6. Parents' past and present employment/sources of income;
  7. The nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and parents:
    • In relation to other members of the parents' household, the assessment must take account of the above considerations except (d), (f) and (g);
    • The assessment should include any available information about the parents' previous experiences of looking after children. Where a parent has other children subject to care/adoption orders, earlier case records should be explored to ascertain the circumstances which led to social work involvement, and any indication that the capacity of the parent to bring up children has changed.

The accommodation where the child will be living should be physically inspected and the place where the child will be sleeping should be seen.

The proposed carer and every person who is living in the household who is 18 years or over will undergo the following checks:

  • Police PNC check;
  • The list of Children subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • Their GP (all requests should be made via the Medical Advisor for Adoption and Fostering);
  • Children’s Social Care records.

Any positive Police or Basic Disclosure checks must be followed by a report to the Operational Management Group (OMG) before the assessment may proceed.

3.3 Recommending the Plan

A written report should be prepared recommending the plan. The areas to be covered are outlined in Section 3.5, What to include in the Written Report.

In some circumstances the proposal for Placement with Parents will come as a result of a Looked After Review.

3.4 Approval of the Plan

The written report, including a pro forma outlining with the views of other agencies, and a recommendation, should be forwarded to the Pod Team Manager to be endorsed and then sent to the Service Manager for approval. When a child is the subject of care proceedings, please see Section 5, Placements During Care Proceedings.

A Written Agreement covering expectations of the placement should be drawn up, including clarification of the circumstances under which agreement to the placement will be terminated.

3.5 What to include in the Written Report

The matters that must be covered in the written report to be considered by the Service Manager before authorising the placement are as follows:

  • Summary of child’s and family’s history;
  • Summary of how and why the child came to be in care;
  • Summary of plan for the child when he/she originally came into care;
  • Details of proposed placement with Parent; full name, family composition and placement timetable;
  • Outcome of the assessments, consultations and enquiries made as required by the assessments outlined above; including an assessment of the Parents ability to meet the identified needs of the child;
  • Aims and objectives of the proposed placement (there needs to be greater clarity about why this placement is being proposed) and long term plan for the child;
  • Any identified areas of risk involved in the placement;
  • Support and services to be provided to the family and child;
  • Details of supervision of placement;
  • Arrangements for education;
  • Contingency plans in case of breakdown.

The report will be agreed and signed by:

  • The child (subject to age and understanding);
  • Her/his parent(s);
  • Social Worker.

No placement may be made until this document has been drawn up and signed.

3.6 Short Term Placements

Where the relevant Plan or Plans provide for a series of short term placements of a child with a Parent, the requirements as to consultation, enquiries and checks may be carried out once only rather than every time a placement is made, provided that:

  • All placements occur within a period which does not exceed one year;
  • No single placement is for a period of more than four weeks; and
  • The total duration of the placements does not exceed 90 days.

If a series of short-term placements is part of a longer-term rehabilitation plan, further consultation and approval must be obtained before the rehabilitation plan is extended or the child is returned to the Parent’s full-time care.

3.7 Post Placement Arrangements

Once the child is placed, the Social Worker should undertake the notifications and other arrangements set out in Post Placement Arrangements Procedure. The Social Worker must ensure that all those consulted are notified of the placement, and in addition the GP and health visitor or school nurse for the child.

3.8 Ending of Placement

Wherever possible the decision to end a placement should be made at a Looked After Review and the ending should take place in a planned way. In Re DE (A Child) [2014], the High Court stated that not less than fourteen days notice of a removal of the child should be given to the parents, save in an emergency. 

The Court further stated that any removal of a child in circumstances where the child's welfare does not require immediate removal, or without proper consideration and consultation, is likely to be an unlawful interference with the rights of the parent and child under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

In emergencies, the Social Worker must discuss the case with his/her Pod Team Manager, who will make the decision taking account of legal advice, which must always be sought.

All those notified of the placement starting should be notified, in writing, when it ends; preferably notifications should be made prior to the ending, or as soon as practicable thereafter.


4. Unplanned Placements

In exceptional circumstances it may be in the child's best interest to be placed with her/his parent(s) on an urgent basis and before the Assessment of Parents Suitability to Care for the Child has been completed.

This can be approved by the Service Manager provided that:

  • Arrangements are made for the parents to be interviewed to obtain as much of the assessment information as can be readily ascertained at that interview;
  • The assessment and the review of the child’s case are completed within 10 working days of the child being placed; 
  • The decision on placement is made and approved within 10 working days of the assessment being completed, and
    • If the decision is to confirm the placement, the Placement Plan is reviewed (and if appropriate amended);
    • If the decision is not to confirm the placement, the placement is terminated.

Practitioners should also seek to meet with all other members of the household before placing the child. This is particularly relevant to identifying issues such as domestic abuse and substance misuse that may impact on the child’s safety.

The accommodation where the child will be living should be physically inspected and the place where the child will be sleeping should be seen.

Information should be obtained as to the other people in the household, as follows: checks with the local police; checks with the list of children subject to a Child Protection Plan; and checks of local social care records.

A Written Agreement must be drawn up, to include weekly visiting for the first 6 weeks unless agreement has been obtained from the Nominated Officer that this is not necessary (the formal visiting requirements are the same as for a new LAC placement but additional visits are likely to be necessary).

The reasons for a decision to place a child on this basis must be fully recorded, signed by the designated Manager and placed on the child’s file.

For unplanned placements the Placement with Parents Procedure must be undertaken and the report presented to the Nominated Officer within six weeks.


5. Placements during Care Proceedings

Assessments during care proceedings may result in plans for a child subject to an Interim Care Order being rehabilitated Home prior to the conclusion of the proceedings. In this case, the same enquiries should be made of other agencies as outlined in Section 3.1, Consultation before Placement and Section 3.2, Assessment and Checks before Placement.

The Service Manager should decide what supporting documentation is required for approval, e.g. social work statement, expert assessment report, and whether a further report from the Social Worker is required.

Any positive Police checks must be followed by a report to the Operational Management Group (OMG) before the assessment may proceed.


6. Support to Placements

When placing with parents Local Authorities are required to provide such services and support to the parents as appear to be necessary to safeguard and promote the child's welfare, and record details in the Care Plan and Placement Plan.


7. Social Work Visits

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010 set out new requirements regarding visits to Children Looked After placed with parents as outlined below:

Where a child is placed with parents pending assessment (Regulation 19)

Social work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.

Where a child is placed with parents under an Interim Care Order

Social Work visits must take place at least once a week until the first Looked After Review, thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks.

Where a child is placed with parents under a Care Order

Social Work visits must be made within one week of the Care Order, thereafter at intervals of not more than 6 weeks.

In all instances where a child is placed with parents a visit must also take place when reasonably requested by the child or the person with whom the child is placed.

At each visit the Social Worker must discuss the child's welfare and progress with the caregivers and, in so far as is practicable, see the child alone.

Other than as outlined above Children Looked After placed with parents/persons with parental responsibility are subject to the same general social work visiting requirements as other looked after children which can be viewed here (see the Social Worker Visits Procedure). 

A record of each visit must be made on the ICS Statutory Visit to Looked After Child Form.


8. Review Process

Children placed with parents under Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 are subject to the LAC Review process. An additional review process involving  the Nominated Officer, and the Pod Team Manager is also required. The Nominated Officer / Pod Team Manager need to agree the frequency of these reviews; such reviews must be recorded and the reasons why the placement should continue and how it meets the needs of the child, having regard to other possible placement options, should be made clear.

End