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6.11.3 Child Arrangements Orders and Foster Carers

Please note: 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:

  • With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact; and
  • 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.

Child Arrangements Orders are private law orders. Where a child is the subject of a Care Order, there is a general duty on the local authority to promote contact between the child and the parents. A Contact Order can be made under section 34 of the Children Act 1989 requiring the local authority to allow the child to have contact with a named person.


Contents

  1. Applications by Foster Carers
  2. Situations in which Child Arrangements Orders may be Appropriate for Looked After Children
  3. The Decision Making Process


1. Applications by Foster Carers

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1.1

Foster carers have no automatic right to apply for a Child Arrangements Order unless:

  1. The child has lived with them for at least one year; or
  2. They have the consent of the Local Authority where the child is the subject of a  Care Order; or
  3. They have the consent of all those who have Parental Responsibility for the child in all other cases
1.2 Foster carers who can meet a) or c) of the above criteria can apply for a Child Arrangements Order whether or not the local authority agrees to the application. The role of the local authority in these situations will be to determine whether or not to support the application and to consider any application for continued financial support and/or payment of legal fees.


2. Situations in which Child Arrangements Orders may be Appropriate for Looked After Children

Caption: situations in which residence orders may be appropriate
   
2.1 In some circumstances the future welfare of a child will be best served by a long-term placement within a foster home. These circumstances will be those where a return home or an adoptive placement is unsuitable given the individual circumstances of the child. See Permanency Planning for Children in Care - Guidance for further information about the circumstances in which a Child Arrangements Order may be appropriate as part of a permanence plan for a child.
2.2

In order for the Department to support an application by foster carers for a Child Arrangements Order in respect of a looked after child, the following procedure must have been adopted:

  1. The matter must have been fully considered at a LAC statutory review and the Permanency Panel (see section 4, Decision Making Process).
  2. Where of sufficient understanding, the child must consent to the application in   order for the Department to support it;
  3. The applicants should meet similar criteria regarding health and suitability as if they were applying to adopt the child.
  4. The issue of financial support to the foster carers should also have been considered.


3. The Decision Making Process

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3.1 The decision whether or not to support an application by a Foster Carer for a Child Arrangements Order must initially be taken at a LAC statutory review.
3.2 Consideration should be given to the need to invite a legal adviser and/or a member of the Family Placement or Adoption Team to attend the statutory review.
3.3 If after full consideration it is decided that it is in the child's best interests to support the application, the parents or anyone else with parental responsibility for the child (if not involved in the Review) should be notified by the Social Worker as soon as possible. The full implications should be discussed with them and they should be advised to seek legal advice.
3.4 The Social Worker should discuss the implications of a Child Arrangements Order with the child (where of sufficient understanding), to ensure they understand fully the reasons for the proposed plans for the future.
3.5 The matter should also be referred to the Permanency Panel who will consider whether to recommend approval of the plan (see Permanency Panel Procedure)
3.6 Consideration should be given to whether a Child Arrangements Order Allowances should be payable and whether the foster carer's legal fees should be paid (see Child Arrangements Order Allowances Procedure).
3.7 If references have not been taken up within the last two years, the Social Worker should obtain up to date Disclosure and Barring Service and personal references of the applicants and other adult members of the household. The Social Worker should also arrange for current details of the applicant's and the child's current health to be made available to the Panel. Completed references and medical reports should be forwarded to the Panel Administrator three weeks before the Panel meeting.

End