In September 2017, this chapter was extensively updated and should be read throughout.
- Placement Planning Meetings
- Stability Meetings
- Placement Disruption Meetings
Appendix 1: Stability Process Flowchart
1. Placement Planning Meetings
Placement Planning Meetings should be convened as part of the process of identifying and placing a child - as set out in the Placements in Foster Care Procedure and the Placements in Residential Care Procedure. The first Placement Planning Meeting in relation to a placement should be held before the placement. Where this is not possible because of the urgency of the situation, it should be held in order that the Placement Plan is prepared within 5 working days of the start of the placement.
Further Placement Planning Meetings should be held at intervals agreed with the manager of the residential home or the foster carers and their supervising social worker - or as required for example where there are issues to be resolved in relation to the day to day arrangements for the placement.
The social worker and home manager/foster carers supervising social worker will agree the best format and venue for the meeting and who will chair the meeting.
The people listed below should contribute to the meetings:
- The child's social worker and/or other professional associated with the child e.g. Personal Adviser or advocate;
- The child;
- The child's parents;
- For children in residential care, the child's link worker/keyworker and, where appropriate the home manager;
- For children in foster care, the foster carers and their supervising social worker.
- The child's Placement Plan (recorded on the Placement Information Record on ICS);
- Any work which has been undertaken in supporting the child's placement;
- If relevant: the child's Care Plan, Personal Education Plan and Pathway Plan.
Where the proposed placement has the effect of disrupting the arrangements made for the child's education and training - see Promoting the Education of Looked-After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure.
Where the proposed placement is out of area, see Out of Area Placements Procedure.
The chairperson should also ensure that the child, parent(s) and others who have been asked to contribute understand the purpose of the meeting, how it will be conducted and are given the opportunity to put their views and suggestions.
If there are concerns about the suitability of the placement, consideration should be given to the following:
- Whether it is possible to sustain the placement until the next Looked After Review by, for example, providing additional support to the placement;
- Bringing forward the date of the next Looked After Review;
- Ending the placement.
2. Placement Stability Meetings
A placement stability meeting is an early intervention mechanism designed to act on concerns of social workers before a placement breaks down in order to remedy the situation and resolve problems in the interests of the child. Social workers should follow the procedure if they identify any sign of difficulty affecting the child, carer or agency which could in the future lead to disruption.
A disruption meeting is a review meeting called after a placement has broken down to review the situation, learn and re-establish stability in the previous placement or identify the need for a new placement, see Section 3, Placement Disruption Meetings.
The first stage of the process aims to intervene early to prevent a disruption by instigating a stability meeting.
When to call a Placement Stability Meeting
A Placement Stability Meeting will be called when a Care Placement is considered to be at risk of disrupting. This could be if:
- Concern is raised through the child's, foster carer's or placement review process;
- Where an allegation or complaint has been made;
- The child or young person is absconding or being absent from placement on a regular basis;
- The relationship between the child and foster carer/residential provider gives cause for concern that the placement may breakdown;
- The child or young person has made it known that they want the placement to end;
- The carers have expressed concerns that they are experiencing difficulties or that they feel they can no longer care for the child or young person;
- The child or young person's social worker or other professionals raise cause for concern that the placement does not meet the needs of the child or young person;
- Where it appears that the placement is unstable every effort will be made to resolve the presenting difficulties. This will be in the form of added support to address the issues of concern. In many cases, this will be sufficient to resolve the concerns.
It will always be the aim of the "in house" fostering service, agency fostering providers and residential providers, in conjunction with the child's social work team, to make every effort to prevent the disruption of a placement.
Planning for a Placement Stability Meeting
This meeting will consider the influencing factors that could in the future result in the disruption of the placement. Social Workers are not responsible for solving all placement difficulties on their own, but are often the best source of information to assist their teams and managers to come to a team decision and course of action.
The child's Social Worker and the Supervising Social Worker should make any notes which may assist discussion at the meeting:
- To gain an understanding of the quality of the child/foster carer or child/residential relationship;
- To identify the areas of difficulty;
- How best to support the placement to prevent breakdown;
- To decide if continuing the placement is considered to be in the best interests of the child.
How to call a Placement Stability Meeting.
When a Social Worker has a stability concern they should request a stability meeting by email, copying in the fostering manager/residential manager and team manager. The Social Worker is responsible for organising the meeting.
The meeting should be arranged on the earliest available date and be chaired by the Social Worker's Team Service Manager or representative.
The placement stability meeting should be attended by some or all professionals closely associated with the care of the child/young person e.g. child/young person; child's social worker; Social work manager; Foster carer(s); Supervising Social Worker; Fostering Team Manager; CAMHS (where applicable); Advocate for the Young person where appropriate; IRO; Other relevant professionals.
Minutes should be taken so that an effective chronology can be formulated of the child's behaviour and responses to intervention. Details of planning, meeting minutes and decisions will be placed on the child's and the carer's files.
Outcomes of the Placement Stability Meeting
The meeting should result in a documented course of action detailing next steps and the persons responsible for undertaking actions.
If the responsibility for the placement instability is considered to lie with the carer:
- A structured plan of work to improve this situation will be formulated, along with an appropriate training programme. The issues of concern will be presented as part of the foster carer's annual review. The supervising social worker will write this plan and circulate it;
- In the case of serious concern about the foster carer's practice, further assessment will be undertaken and if indicated presented to the next available fostering panel. The supervising social worker will present the matters to panel.
Where further work for the child and foster carer is identified:
- Recommendations and decisions will be made. These will be carried out within agreed timescales to prevent delay for the young person and the carer(s). Actions will be appointed to members of the panel and these actions circulated in the minutes;
- In these circumstances a second Placement Stability or a follow up meeting will be arranged where continuing recommendations will be made about the future of the placement.
3. Placement Disruption Meetings
The purpose of the Placement Disruption Meeting is not to attribute blame, it is important that all participants are aware of this. The purpose of Placement Disruption Meetings are instead to provide all participants with an opportunity to share information, feelings and views about the causes of disruption; agree the factors that have led to the disruption and reassess the needs of Looked After Children and carers involved.
Information gained can be used to inform future levels of support and seek to identify learning opportunities, actions and areas of policy development for all agencies involved.
Within two days of a placement disruption, the Childcare and Supervising Social Workers must complete a referral form and send it to the Local Authority Fostering Team Manager (or nominated representative).
A Placement Disruption Meeting must take place:
- If a placement breakdown occurs after a Looked After Child has been in placement for at least three years.
A disruption meeting can take place if a placement breakdown occurs before 3 years:
- At the request of the foster carer, the placing authority, the IRO or the foster child / young person.
Placement Disruption meetings are not appropriate when dealing with:
- Bridging placements;
- Short-term placements, unless there as been a breakdown in more than one of these placements and a pattern is emerging.
Those invited, or asked to contribute, should be:
- The child;
- The parents;
- The child's social worker and manager;
- Relevant Fostering Support Team Managers and Service Manager;
- Fostering agency representative;
- The link worker/keyworker (for residential care) and home manager;
- The foster carer(s) and supervising social worker;
- Child's advocate / representative;
- Previous Childcare Social Workers, including child's social worker at the time of disruption;
- Fieldwork Team Manager of current and previous Childcare Social Workers, including child's social worker at the time of disruption;
- Fieldwork Service Manager of current and previous and childcare Social Workers, including child's social worker at the time of disruption;
- Designated Teacher from school currently attended, previously attended and at the point of disruption;
- Health representatives e.g. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, or Health Visitor;
- Birth parents / family.
- The child's Independent Reviewing Officer;
- The child's current carers;
- Other relevant staff/professionals.
The meeting will ensure the child (depending on his or her age and level of understanding) is given the opportunity to understand the reasons for and be supported with managing the transition.
If a Looked After Child has experienced a number of disruptions within a short space of time a request for a Placement Disruption Meeting in this instance will be at the discretion of the child's social worker and will be held once agreement to do so has been reached by the relevant Fostering Service Managers. If an agreement cannot be reached, the final decision will be made of the Head of Service.
The timing of the Placement Disruption Meeting may vary. It is important that the meeting is not held too soon after the placement breakdown when participants may be defensive, or too long after when participants may be less able to recall the contributing factors.
In order to allow sufficient time for analysis and reflection a Placement Disruption Meeting should be held no earlier than 28 days and no later than 42 days after the disruption, unless a complaint is in process. In this instance, a Placement Disruption Meeting should be held within 4-6 weeks of complaint resolution.
The precise agenda will depend on the child/circumstances, but the chairperson should ensure the circumstances leading to the disruption are properly reviewed, and that all concerned are provided with opportunities to express their views freely with a view to establishing:
- How and why the emergency/disruption occurred;
- To learn from what happened and avoid the same thing happening again - for the child or others in the placement;
- To contribute to the future planning for the child;
- To identify work to be done and to ensure it is completed;
- To ensure that appropriate notifications and other post placement arrangements have been undertaken.
In relation to the disruption of an external residential placement, consideration needs to be given to further use of the resource by the authority.
It is the responsibility of the Fostering Service Manager (Chair) to ensure that an accurate account of the Placement Disruption Meeting is recorded. Minutes of the meeting should include a clear summary of the future needs of child and carers involved, as well as recommendations and follow up actions for agencies involved. These must be circulated to all concerned.
Following the Placement Disruption Meeting, the Fostering Service Manager (or nominated representative) will ensure minutes are distributed to participants and relevant Managers of services concerned within fifteen days.
A review of the carers should be completed as soon as possible after the disruption and be presented to the appropriate panel. The Fostering IRO should be informed in order to decide whether an early annual review is appropriate. An annual audit of disrupted placements (where a Placement Disruption Meeting has been held) should be undertaken by an Officer in the Quality Assurance Service and presented for discussion. See Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.