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1.1.6 Family and Friends Care Policy

RELATED GUIDANCE

FRG Initial Family and Friends Care – This resource outlines what a viability assessment for family and friend carers should look like, what social workers should consider and how to undertake international assessments.

AMENDMENT

In December 2017, the above link was added to FRG Initial Family and Friends Care.


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Principles
3. The Types of Family and Friends Foster Care
  3.1 Private Fostering
  3.2 Child Arrangements Orders
  3.3 Special Guardianship
  3.4 Family and Friends Foster Care
  Appendix A: Private Fostering Process
  Appendix B: Child Arrangements Order Process Flowchart
  Appendix C: Special Guardianship Process Flowchart
  Appendix D: Flowchart for Assessments Made Under Regulation 24
  Appendix E: Connected Persons Assessment (For Fostering, Special Guardianship and Child Arrangements Orders)


1. Introduction

This procedure is provided under the auspices of the Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities. It is intended to provide a sign post for both staff and carers in terms of the relevant legislation and assessment processes, but also the support that carers are entitled too.

The types of care covered in this document are family and friends foster care, Special Guardianship, placements made under Child Arrangements Orders and Private Fostering.


2. Principles

In all aspects covered by this procedure, it is held that the welfare of the child concerned is paramount. Decisions taken must seek to maximise this as the outcome for young people for whom placements are being considered that come under the remit of this policy.

In any decision the views of the child must be considered and taken into account.

It is also held that wherever possible, the best place for a child who is unable to live at home with their immediate family is with either members of their extended family or with other people with whom they are already familiar if this is in the child’s best interests.

Where children are unable to live with their immediate birth family, the birth family are still an important part of the young person's life and their views should be considered when deciding where the best place for a child to be placed is. The views of birth parents and they should be considered in the routine decisions about their child’s every day care where possible, but this should not take away from the ability of the actual carers to make the necessary decisions required to care for the child in question.

This policy supports the ‘no order’ principle of the Children Act 1989, 'the aim… of the Children Act 1989… is to ensure that an order is granted only where it will positively improve the child's welfare' (Children Act 1989 Guidance 1989 Guidance and Regulations volume 1).


3. The Types of Family and Friends Foster Care

There are several types of foster care and they each have a different legislative background, each designed for different situations.

3.1 Private Fostering

In some circumstances, a child's parents may make their own arrangements for care of their child and the Local Authority will not therefore be involved in the setting up of these arrangements.

Private Fostering is an arrangement made between the person with legal Parental Responsibility for a child and the Private Foster Carers: if the Local Authority is involved in making the placement, then the arrangement is not Private Fostering.

Relatives within the Children Act 1989 definition of relatives (parents, grandparent, aunts, uncles, siblings, step-parents (including civil partnerships), sister or brother) cannot become Private Foster Carers.

If the care arrangement for the child is to last for longer than 28 days, (in one continuous period, or accumulative over a year) the Private Foster Carer, or the person with legal Parental Responsibility for the child, has a duty to inform the Local Authority of the arrangements for the child.

Financial arrangements for the care of the child are made between the person with Parental Responsibility for the child and the carers. However, the child and his/her carers have the same right as any other family in the community to be assessed for help, including financial help, under Section 17 (Children Act 1989).

Once informed of the Private Fostering arrangements for the child, the Local Authority has a duty to satisfy itself that the welfare of the child is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. (Children Act '89 Part 1X Section 67 (1)).

There is a duty on the Local Authority to visit the Private Foster Carer’s home and assess the suitability of the placement: to ensure the home is safe: to obtain information on the Private Foster Carers to ensure they are not disqualified from fostering and to visit a child in a private foster home regularly and to make a record of each visit. Statutory checks on the Private Foster Carers and all adult members of their household need to be carried out. Regular reviews of the arrangements also need to be undertaken.

The Local Authority can prevent the placement if the person is disqualified under the terms of the Children Act 1989 or falls within the prohibitions of the Act (Part 1X, 'Private Fostering' Sections 68 and 69).

The regulations around Private Fostering were further strengthened in the Children Act 2004 and through the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 and through the National Minimum Standards For Private Fostering.

In Trafford, once notification of a Private Fostering Arrangement has been given, a social worker will be allocated to gather the necessary information about the child concerned and ensure that the proper consent to the arrangement has been given by either the child's birth family or whoever has Parental Responsibility for them.

Following this, a full assessment of the carers will be undertaken by a Supervising Social Worker from the Family Placement Team.

On completion, the full report will be presented to the Private Fostering panel for approval. The panel will accept, reject or give temporary approval to an arrangement that is presented to them. In each case, the carers must be written to and details given about the decision made. Where the decision made has been negative, reasons must be given in writing. The Private Fostering panel may also to choose to make a number of requirements of Private Foster Carers (in order to improve the care provided), notification of these should also be given in writing to the carers concerned.

On approval, Private Foster Carer arrangements will remain open to a child care team and be allocated to a social worker. These arrangements will also be subject to a 6 monthly review. Private Foster Carers are not entitled to additional support from the family placement team once they have been approved, but they could be entitled to support under section 17 if the child in care was deemed to be a  Child in Need under the 1989 Children Act.

More information about the assessment and approval process in Trafford can be viewed through the Private Fostering procedure which is available on the intranet and through the Appendix A: Private Fostering Process. Also see the Greater Manchester Safeguarding Children Procedures Manual, Privately Fostered Children Procedure.

3.2. Child Arrangements Orders

A relative or friend, who is considering offering to care for a child, or a Family and Friends Carer or Family and Friends Foster Carer already caring for a child, may want to apply to the Court to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order in respect of that child.

Child Arrangements Orders were introduced in April 2014 by the Children and Families Act 2014 (which amended section 8 Children Act 1989). They replace Contact Orders and Residence Orders.

A Child Arrangements Order means a court order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:

  1. With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact; and
  2. When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.

The 'residence' aspects of a Child Arrangements Order (i.e. with whom a child is to live/when a child is to live with any person) can last until the child reaches 18 years unless discharged earlier by the Court or by the making of a Care Order.

A person named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, will have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force. 

As was the case with Contact and Residence Orders, any person can apply for a Child Arrangements Order. There are two categories of people who can apply: those who are entitled to apply, and those who require leave of the court first in order to apply.

Those who may Apply as of Right

  • Any parent (whether or not they have Parental Responsibility for the child), guardian or special guardian of the child;
  • Any person named, in a Child Arrangements Order that is in force with respect to the child, as a person with whom the child is to live;
  • Any party to a marriage (whether or not subsisting) in relation to whom the child is a child of the family -this allows step-parents (including those in a civil partnership) and former step-parents who fulfil this criteria to apply as of right;
  • Any person with whom the child has lived for a period of at least three years - this period need not be continuous but must not have begun more than five years before, or ended more than three months before, the making of the application; or
  • Any person:
    • Who has the consent of each of the persons in named in a Child Arrangements Order as a person with whom the child is to live;
    • In any case where there is an existing order for care in force, has the consent of each person in who favour the order was made;
    • In any case where the child is in the care of a local authority, who has the consent of that authority;
    • In whose favour a Child Arrangements Order has been made in relation to the ‘contact’ aspects and who has been awarded Parental Responsibility by the court (i.e. they would be able to apply for a Child Arrangements Order in relation to the ‘residence’ aspects);
    • In any other case, has the consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child.
  • A local authority foster parent is entitled to apply for a child arrangements order relating to whom the child is to live, and/or when the child is to live any person, if the child has lived with him for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application;
  • A relative of a child is entitled to apply for a child arrangements order relating to whom the child is to live, and/or when the child is to live any person, if the child has lived with the relative for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application. (A relative is a child's grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (by full or half blood), or by marriage or civil partnership).

Those who Require the Leave of the Court to apply

Any person who is not automatically entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order may seek leave of the court to do so. The granting of leave does not raise any presumption that the application will succeed.

In deciding whether or not to grant leave, the court will have particular regard to:

  • The nature of the proposed application for the Order;
  • The applicant’s connection with the child;
  • Any risk there might be of that proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that he would be harmed by it; and
  • Where the child is being looked after by a local authority:
    • The authority’s plans for the child’s future; and
    • The wishes and feelings of the child’s parents.

A Child Arrangements Order may be varied or discharged by the court either in existing family proceedings, or on a free-standing application (with the applicant having sought leave to apply if necessary). On a variation application, the court has the full range of orders available to it, including the power to give directions or impose conditions.

A Child Arrangements Order may come to an end because:

  • It ceases to have effect due to the age of the child;
  • It ceases because the parents of the child live together for longer than six months;
  • It is discharged by an order of the court;
  • It is discharged automatically upon the making of a Care Order with respect to the child; or
  • For a Child Arrangements Order concerning the living arrangements of a child only, it ceases when a new such Child Arrangements Order is made.

Trafford's children and young people's service may assist a carer with the costs of applying for a Child Arrangements Order for a child if this was felt to be the best way to meet the needs of a child concerned.

In circumstances where a Family and Friends Carer is caring for a child on a long-term, or permanent basis, the optimum way of offering that child legal security would be for his/her carers to apply for a Child Arrangements or Special Guardianship Order (from 2005), so that the day-to-day parental responsibilities that the carers take on for the child would be legally protected and defined by the legal order.

In circumstances where a child is Looked After and is placed with Family and Friends Foster Carers the plan for the child to achieve permanence through his/her carers applying for a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order will be considered via the Looked After Review system

Where the decision is made that a Child Arrangements Order should be applied for a child, a Child Arrangements Order report should be completed. The completed report should be presented to the director of services for children, young people and families (social care) once it has been signed off by the team manager.

This report should consider what support is required in order for the placement to be viable. Support provided could entail financial support but this would be solely at the discretion of the local authority.

A financial assessment will be undertaken where required, this will be based on the completion of a financial assessment form by the applicants, this assessment and the amount paid will be reviewed annually.

Further details of the assessment and support provided to those providing care under a Child Arrangements Order are  available  from  the  procedure  Child Arrangements Orders and Child Arrangements Order Allowances available through the intranet. The process is also mapped out in Appendix B: Residence Order Process Flowchart.

3.3. Special Guardianship

Special Guardianship Orders were brought into being by the Adoption and Children Act 2002. The Order was designed to give courts and those working with families an option which provided children with a permanent placement but did not force them or their carers to have to choose an option which would involve them losing contact or deprive the children’s birth parents of their full legal Parental Responsibility. However, Special Guardians to hold a greater share of Parental Responsibility than carers do under Child Arrangements Orders.

In order for a Special Guardianship Order to be made, the child must be under the age of 18 and the criteria set out in the legislation as to who can apply must be met. Courts can make Special Guardianship Orders in any family proceedings concerning the welfare of a child.

Where a Special Guardianship Order is being considered for a child in care, the final decision to apply for this order should be taken by the relevant Head of Service. Applicants must give the Authority 3 months notice before they decide to apply for a Special Guardianship Order.

Once an application has been received a report by a social worker must be completed.

This should include an assessment of the support services that the proposed placement is likely to require. Once completed and signed off by the team manager, the report should be presented to the joint director of services for children, young people and families (social care) for approval (at the latest one week before it is required at court).

The local authority must make arrangements to support special guardianship arrangements. This support could include financial support, support groups, mediation services, therapeutic services, training, respite care, counselling, and advice.

The support needs special guardians and the children in their care may have are assessed under the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need. Where needs are identified a special guardianship support plan will be drafted by the assessing social worker. This must then be agreed by the Team manager and signed by the applicants.

Trafford will support Special Guardianship placements on a long term basis and those applying or where an application is being made have the right to be assessed for financial support. This assessment and the amount that will be paid will be reviewed annually

A settling in grant and costs to promote contact with birth families will be paid to Special Guardians as required and will not be means tested. Existing foster carers converting to Special Guardianship will continue to receive the equivalent of their fostering allowance for a period. Special Guardians will be expected to apply for all of the appropriate state benefits.

Children who were in the care of the local authority prior to the making of a Special Guardianship Order may also qualify for support under the Leaving Care provisions (see Leaving Care and Transition Procedure) and the Adoption Act 2002.

A more detailed explanation of Special Guardianship is available through the policy Applications for Special Guardianship Orders Procedure.

3.4. Family and Friends Foster Care

The provision for family and friends to become foster carers is set out in the Guidance to the Children Act 1989 (Care Planning legislation 2010 volume 2).

Where it is identified that a child is not able to live with their birth family and that the best place for a child to be placed is with a family or friend, if it has been necessary for the child concerned to be Accommodated by the local authority, the placement made is a foster placement and the carers become foster carers from that point.

Under Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 a child can be placed with someone who is considered a Connected Person before they have been fully assessed and approved as foster carers providing that an initial (termed a regulation 24) assessment has been completed and it is deemed likely that a full assessment will also be completed.

In these circumstances temporary approval of the family and friends foster carers can be given but a full assessment must be completed within 16 weeks. See Placements with Connected Persons – Emergency and Non-Emergency Placements: Procedure and Practice Guidance.

Completed assessments are presented to the fostering panel by the assessing social worker, carers who are being assessed will also be invited to attend the panel in order that they can share any additional information that they may have and to answer any questions panel members may have.

Once the panel have made a recommendation, the assessment and any additional papers including minutes from the panel are put to the Agency Decision Maker who makes the final decision as to whether or not the carers will be approved as foster carers.

Where a full assessment has not been completed within 16 weeks, temporary approval can be extended for another 8 weeks after which those placements not fully approved must end.

Family and Friends carers may also be fully assessed and approved before a child is placed with them.

On full approval Family and Friends carers are regarded the same as other foster carers in terms of the support they are provided with and the training they are expected to attend as well as the care they provide. Family and Friends carers receive the basic fostering allowance.

Family and Friends foster carers must sign a written agreement which sets out the expectations they will have to meet as well as the support they will receive. Family and Friends carers will be allocated a supervising social worker to support them as carers, a child placed with them will also continue to receive the support of an allocated social worker. A support group for family and friends carer will be established in September 2011 and all full approved family and friends foster carers will have membership of fostertalk which will be paid for them by Trafford.

All carers are subject to annual reviews, and must be visited on an unannounced basis at least once annually. All placements are subject to a health and safety check and there must be a ‘Safer Caring Policy’ which details the household rules and how the members of the household will care for the child placed in a safe way.


Appendices

Appendix A: Private Fostering Process

Appendix B: Residence Order Process Flowchart

Appendix C: Special Guardianship Process Flowchart

Appendix D: Flowchart for Assessments Made Under Regulation 24

Appendix E: Connected Persons Assessment (For Fostering, Special Guardianship and Child Arrangements Orders)

End