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5.1.6 Placements in Foster 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 Placements with Connected Persons – Emergency and Non-Emergency Placements: Procedure and Practice Guidance.

See Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure for procedures relating to the initial decision to looked 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.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was refreshed in December 2022.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Consultation
  3. Placement Request
  4. Matching and Approval of Placement
  5. Placement Planning and Placement Agreement Meetings
  6. Introductions to Placement and Pre-Placement Visits
  7. Placements
  8. Notification of Placement
  9. Support and Monitoring of Placements
  10. Ending of Placements
  11. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
  12. Long-Term Foster Placement

    Appendix 1: Matching Checklist

    Appendix 2: Request Form for a Family Placement and Risk Assessment

    Appendix 3: Placement Agreement Meeting Agenda


1. Introduction

When a child comes into care they will probably be under considerable stress. It is very important that this early stage is well planned and handled carefully and that the child has opportunity to express their wishes and feelings.

Each child will be different and will need to be treated differently. Quite often a child may be rude or aggressive or totally silent. Foster carers need to have a good understanding that the child may react in this way. Foster carers need to offer a welcoming, warm environment. The first few days may be very difficult for the child and carers need to gradually persuade the child to take part in the life of the foster care household. Carers will need to explain to the child what is going on, why they are staying there, who is responsible for them and who to go to for any help needed. Dependent on the age and the understanding of the child carers need to give as much information as possible.


2. 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;
  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 Child Arrangements 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.


3. Placement Request

Where a decision has been made that a child requires a foster placement, the child's social worker should request a placement by contacting the Fostering Service.

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 with the placement.

3.1 Planned Placements

All referrals for planned placements are taken to the Resource Panel and if it is agreed that a foster placement is required, a referral is made to the Family Placement Team.

The Social Worker must complete the Request Form (see Appendix 2: Request Form for a Family Placement and Risk Assessment) for a Family Placement and Risk Assessment. This should include the following:

  • Accurate details of the reason for the referral and what are seen as the aims of the placement;
  • Information regarding the child’s previous history;
  • Clear understanding of future plans for the child;
  • Placement Information Record.

The Fostering Service will check whether an in-house placement is available that appears to be appropriate to meet the child's needs. 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 no appropriate in-house placements are available and the child requires a placement without delay, the Fostering Service will obtain the agreement of the Fostering Service Manager to make enquiries with independent fostering agencies to identify a suitable placement.

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 Fostering Service.

3.2 Emergency Placements

In an emergency a child will be taken to a foster carer, often from a distressing situation. The child, social worker and carer will not have time to make preparations and will need to consider carefully what will help the child.

During Office Hours, a decision about the need for accommodation should be taken by the Social Worker and the Team Manager. When a placement is needed the referral and risk assessment should be made to the Family Placement Team.

  • If Out of Hours all admissions must go through EDT (Emergency Duty Team). EDT are to contact the On Call Manager prior to any placement;
  • The family placement team must be informed as soon as possible of any emergency placements and arrangements made to contact the foster carer;
  • In all cases the Social Worker is to arrange to visit the child the next working day;
  • The Social Worker and FPT must arrange and plan a 72 hour Planning Meeting;
  • Any emergency placements with an approved carer outside of their terms of approval can be made for up to 6 working days with the agreement of the family placement team manager and the approval of the Head of Service (Children in Care) (See Exemptions and Variations Procedure).


4. Matching and Approval of Placement

Careful matching contributes to the stability of placements and the retention of foster carers.

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. In Trafford, this will include a supervising social worker reading the placement request to the prospective foster carer. At this stage, the social worker will also discuss the child with the prospective foster carer and, in particular, share/clarify any risks associated with the placement with the foster carers and the supervising social worker. Wherever possible, the child's social worker should visit potential carers 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 Variations Procedure.

If the proposed placement is with an independent fostering agency, the Designated Manager (External Placements) 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 Children with a Social Worker, Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure.

If the relevant manager approves the foster placement, the placement planning process can start - see Section 4, 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).


5. Placement Planning and Placement Agreement Meetings

Children who are new in placement are welcomed sensitively and with careful and considered planning.

Placements of children should be planned whenever possible, giving opportunity for the child and their parent to meet and visit the carers and talk about routines, likes and dislikes, friends, school, health, who lives at the home and visiting arrangements. (See Section 6, Introductions to Placement and Pre-Placement Visits below).

Placement Agreement meetings should be held for all new foster placements, including agency foster placements.

Placement Agreement Meetings should be held prior to placement. In the case of unplanned or emergency placements, they should be held within 72 hours of placement.

See also Placement Planning and End of Placement Review Meetings Procedure.

Placement Agreement meetings should be convened by the child’s allocated social worker and chaired by a Supervising Social Worker.

Participants will include:

  • The parent/s where appropriate;
  • The child (if appropriate);
  • The foster carer;
  • Representative from Family Placement Team (normally the carer's supervising social worker);
  • Current carers of the child if appropriate;
  • 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 minute taker should be identified at the outset of the meeting, (this will normally be the Supervising Social Worker or Family Placement Duty Worker), they will take responsibility to distribute minutes of the meeting to all in attendance. Minutes should document each area on the agenda and identify gaps, with any plans to address them.

The meeting should follow the Agenda set out at Appendix 3 - Placement Agreement Meeting Agenda.

The purpose of the first Placement Agreement Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan (which will be recorded on the Placement Information Record). 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). Placement Plan Part 1 is to be completed and signed by all parties. The written risk assessment is to be considered and agreed, formulating part of Placement Plan Part 1.

In addition the placement agreement 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 home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. Children should be able to visit the foster home and talk in private with the carer. 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 to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the foster home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child's behaviour within the home. See also Section 6, Introductions to Placement and Pre-Placement Visits.

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:

  1. The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
  2. 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;
  3. The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
  4. Where the child  is Accommodated:
    • The respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility;
    • Any delegation 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.
  5. 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;
  6. Where the child  is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact;
  7. 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;
  8. The Local Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
  9. 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.

The child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan and Placement Plan to the child, parents and foster carers before or at the latest, within 5 working days of the placement.

Caption: checklist for all placements table
   

Checklist for All Placements

  • Have all relevant people been informed about the (potential) placement? (e.g. school)
  • Do foster carers have all the information they require to support the child and their family effectively during introductions and placement?
  • Have other children in the household been prepared for the placement as far in advance as possible?
  • Pre-placement visits – ensure the child and, if appropriate, their family are invited to at least one pre-admission visit.


6. Introductions to Placement and Pre-placement Visits

A sensitive, caring approach at these times is crucial to the development of good relationships.

  • Admission to a foster home can be a very anxious time for a child and their family. Make them feel welcome, offer refreshments. Make sure the home is welcoming warm, clean and tidy;
  • Introduce the child to all members of the foster household including any pets;
  • Efforts should be made to ensure that privacy for a child and their family is upheld from other children placed;
  • The child should have some understanding, appropriate to their age and level of development, of the aims of the placement and the future plans for them. Every effort should be made to communicate with the child to assess their wishes and feelings about the placement, their future and any other significant matters;
  • Information will need to be given, including ‘house rules’, health and safety procedures, but do not assume these are understood or remembered. It will need to be repeated later. Give information in manageable amounts;
  • Try to find out what the child’s interests are, what they like to do and enjoy. Leisure activities offer positive experience to children;
  • Personal belongings are important, any items of value must be recorded and security of valuables discussed. Young people and children should be encouraged to bring favourite and cherished possessions with them.


7. Placements

At the time of the placement, the foster carers 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 Procedure.

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 (see NYAS, My Things Matter Report).

The social worker should ensure the following, at the time of placement:

  • All relevant documentation and information has been forwarded to the foster carer prior to the placement. Foster carers should keep the information safe in the lockable container.  The foster carer must check the Child’s Risk Assessment and be satisfied that they are able to meet any control measures to reduce risk;
  • Young people and their families should receive a copy of the Fostering Service Statement of Purpose, and the Fostering Services Children’s Guide;
  • Show the young person and their family around the home pointing out different rooms and what they are used for;
  • Personal belongings are important and the child’s belongings must be respected;
  • Ensure any medication is accurately recorded and stored correctly (see also Storage and Administration of Medicines (Foster Care));
  • Make arrangements for the social worker or family to bring any forgotten items that the child requests.


8. Notification of Placement

The child's social worker will update the child's electronic records with the details of the placement and ensure that notification is sent to the finance section so as to trigger payments to the foster carer.

The notifications should be before the start of the placement, wherever possible, or within 5 working days.

Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the Designated Nurse for Looked After Children, 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 must also notify the allocated Independent Reviewing Officer or, if it is the first placement, the Independent Review Unit of the placement. 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 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 Looked After Children 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 – see Education of Children with a Social Worker, Looked After and Previously 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.


9. 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 visits after the first year should not be less frequent than six monthly - 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.


10. Ending of Placements

When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic records and notify the finance section so that payments to the carer/provider will cease. The social worker will also send copies to those notified when the placement was made.

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.


11. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters

A person who is approved as a prospective adopter may be given temporary approval as a local authority foster carer for a named Looked After child, where the local authority consider that this is in the child’s best interests.

Before giving such approval,  the responsible authority must:

  • Assess the suitability of that person to care for the child as a foster carer; and
  • Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the responsible authority, the proposed arrangements will safeguard and promote the child’s welfare and meet the child’s needs as set out in the Care Plan.

The temporary approval period expires when:

  • The  placement is terminated by the local authority;
  • The approval as a prospective adopter is terminated;
  • The prospective adopter is approved as a foster carer;
  • The prospective adopter gives 28 days’ written notice that they no longer wish to be temporarily approved as a foster parent in relation to the child; or
  • The child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopter.


Appendix 1: Matching Checklist

Click here to view Appendix 1: Matching Checklist.


Appendix 2: Request Form for a Family Placement and Risk Assessment

Click here to view Appendix 2: Request Form for a Family Placement and Risk Assessment.


Appendix 3: Placement Agreement Meeting Agenda

Record who has attended:

  1. Details of child and all relevant background information (including legal status);
  2. Reason for being in care and reason for a subsequent change of placement;
  3. Child’s views;
  4. Summary of child/young person’s current needs:
    1. Care routines – e.g. sleep patterns, nighttime routines (e.g. comfort toys), and eating habits;
    2. Education/Employment - nursery/school/college place, details of contact person and any difficulties/issues;
    3. Health – doctors, dentist, opticians, medication, administration of medication, health appointments pending. Any allergies?

      Copy of latest health action plan to be provided to the carer if child has already had their initial health assessment;

      Health Assessments explain purpose of the health assessment and the importance of attending. Discuss that the health assessment must not be cancelled;

      Who has agreed to accompany the child/young person to the Health Assessment?
    4. Clothing, belongings, equipment needed;
    5. Contact with family/friends;

      Plans should address:
      • Frequency;
      • Length;
      • Venue;
      • Type of contact (direct/indirect, supervised/unsupervised);
      • Roles/responsibilities of those involved in promoting contact i.e. extended family, peers, family friend, and foster carer/s;
      • Any risk involved and action to be taken to address this;
      • Details of any person not allowed to have contact with the child/young person.
    6. Cultural, racial, religious needs/issues;
    7. Existing commitments of carers that may affect placement (e.g. employment or family commitments) and arrangements to address any implications of these commitments.
  5. Risk assessment – social worker to supply a written risk assessment (i.e. does the child/young person present any risk type behaviours (e.g. absconding etcetera) and whether a child /young person has or may have been abused or may be an abuser themselves);

    Does the child’s family present a risk? If so, the written risk assessment should address this;
  6. Any other relevant information - including contact details of social worker and their team manager, Supervising Social Worker, and all other relevant professionals (including education);
  7. Support required for placement and plans to address these requirements;
  8. Any outstanding training needed for carers to meet the child/young person’s needs (e.g. health);
  9. Has all relevant Looking After Children documentation been provided to the carer? If not, when will it be provided?
  10. Which decisions are to be delegated to the foster carer? (For this the delegated authority tool should be gone through where possible. Where it is not possible to go through this completely, the first 2 sections should be gone through at this point, with the remainder being discussed at the next LAC review);
  11. Does the carer have the correct children’s guide for the child and can the child access this?
  12. Date for child/young person’s Statutory Review (the social worker should seek provisional dates from the IRO prior to the Placement Agreement Meeting);
  13. Confirm date of first review with the IRO ASAP;
  14. Ensure minutes are signed and distributed.


12. Long Term Foster Placement

Where it is the case that the most appropriate route to permanence is long-term foster care, the regulations set out the arrangements for making such a placement, including:

  • That foster care is the plan for permanence and is recorded in the child’s care plan, (Reg 5(a));
  • That the foster carer has agreed to act as the child’s foster carer until the child ceases to be looked after; 
  • That the responsible authority has confirmed the nature of the arrangement with the foster carer(s), the birth parent and the child; and
  • The child and foster carer have a clear understanding of the support services they will receive to promote the placement.

The assessment and planning process for long-term foster care should address the child’s current needs and likely future needs, and the capacity of the foster carer to meet these needs now and in the future. The length of placement will vary according to the child’s age and the long-term plan for the child, including the transition to adulthood. These factors must all be taken into account in planning for support and services where long - term foster care has been identified as the plan for permanence for a child.

Before deciding to place a child in a long-term foster placement, (whether or not this means moving to a new carer) the ability of the identified long-term foster carer to care for the child both now and in the future should be assessed. The support and services which will be needed to ensure that the placement is stable, secure and meets the child’s needs should be identified taking into account the carer’s previous fostering or other childcare experience, family configuration (including placement of other children under fostering arrangements), existing relationship (if any) with the child, knowledge and skills and capacity to care for the child long term under a fostering arrangement.

It is imperative that the foster carer fully understands and explicitly agrees to the long term commitment they are making to the child [regulation 22B (2)(f)]. A record of the discussion of these matters including the outcome should be made as part of the assessment process.

The decision to place a child in a long-term foster placement with a particular foster carer should be discussed and recorded as part of the review process. This decision should then be recorded in the placement plan  and agreed and signed by the foster carer [regulation 9(3)].

Where it is agreed that the child will be placed in a long-term foster placement, this should be communicated clearly to the foster carer, the child’s parents or any other person who is not a parent but has parental responsibility and the child. (Reg 2(1)).

Where the decision has been taken that the plan for permanence is long-term foster care and the child is in an existing foster care placement, it may be that the carer and (where appropriate) the child want the existing foster placement to be the long-term foster placement. Such a proposal should be considered in a reasonable timescale taking into account the existing relationship between the child and the foster carer, the length of time in placement, the child’s relationships with the foster carer’s wider family and community. Consideration should also be given to the progress the child has made in the placement, recorded through the case review process.

There may be circumstances where it is not considered appropriate to assess the ability of the current foster carer as the long-term carer for the child. In these instances, the reasons for this decision should be clearly set out in writing to the foster carer. This decision should also be communicated to the child  where it is appropriate to their age and understanding.

End