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4.10.3 Overnight Stays with Friends


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Agreeing Overnight Stays
  3. Criteria for Agreement
  4. Sharing Information
  5. Contact Details of Friends
  6. Overnight Stays with Friends Procedure


1. Introduction

Looked after children should, as far as possible, be granted the same permissions to take part in normal and acceptable age appropriate peer activities, such as staying with friends, as would reasonably be granted by the parents of their peers. Parents make judgements on whether or not there are known risks to staying in a particular household or in staying overnight in particular circumstances, and similar judgements should normally be made for children in foster or residential care by their responsible carers. Judgements should be based on a reasonable assessment of risks.


2. Agreeing Overnight Stays

It should be normal practice for the day to day decision making about agreeing to a looked after child staying overnight with friends to be delegated to the child's foster carer or residential staff, and to state this in the Placement Information Record. See also Delegation of Authority to Foster Carers and Residential Workers Procedure.

Where there are exceptional reasons to do otherwise, either to require foster carers or residential staff to seek the permission of the child's social worker or person with Parental Responsibility for the child, or place specific restrictions on permitting a child to stay overnight with friends, this should be based on clear and stated reasons that are necessary to safeguard and promote the child's safety or welfare in that child's particular circumstances.

In such cases, the restriction should be clearly stated in the child's Care Plan and reflected in the child's Placement Plan. Wherever practicable the child should be consulted over the issue and their views and feelings taken into account in reaching the decision. The restriction and the reasons for it should be fully explained to the child concerned, unless exceptionally this would be consistent with the child's welfare. Restrictions should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they remain relevant.


3. Criteria for Agreement

Foster carers and residential staff considering a request from a child to stay overnight with a friend or friends should base their decision on the following factors:

  • Are there any relevant restrictions contained for exceptional reasons in the child’s Care Plan, Placement Information Record or any court orders, which restrict the child from making particular overnight stays?
  • Are there any factors in the child’s past experiences or behaviour, which would preclude overnight stays?
  • Are there any grounds for concern that the child may be at significant risk in the household concerned or from the activities proposed?
  • Is the child staying in the household with another child or children, rather than staying solely with an adult or adults?
  • The age and level of understanding of the child concerned.
  • What is known about the purpose of the overnight stay?
  • The length of the stay.

The child and their carers should always be told of the criteria that will be used to make decisions about overnight stays. In all cases foster carers and residential care staff should be made aware of any individuals, addresses or areas which may place a child at risk.


4. Sharing Information

Confidential information regarding the child should not be shared with the family where overnight stays are proposed unless there is a need for them to know in order that they can provide adequate care, e.g. the need to keep a light on at night, as this could stigmatise the child and might breach data protection principles. If there were any factors in the child's past experiences or behaviour that would preclude overnight stays because it would place the child, or the family where overnight stays are proposed, at risk then this would be an appropriate reason for refusing to allow overnight stays. In these circumstances, it would be appropriate for decision-making not to be delegated to the carer.


5. Contact Details of Friends

It is strongly recommended, as good practice, that foster carers and residential staff ensure that they have contact details for the household in which the child is staying. They should also make contact with the household beforehand as a parent might, to assist in assessing the request for an overnight stay and to confirm arrangements, and ensure that a child staying overnight elsewhere has their (the foster carer's or residential care home's) contact details.


6. Overnight Stays with Friends Procedure

On placing a child or young person in a foster home or a children's home, the social worker shall complete the Placement Plan, in conjunction with the foster carer, or residential staff, the child or young person (where appropriate) and their parent or person with Parental Responsibility for the child or young person.

In recording the delegation of authority for making day to day decisions to the foster carer/residential staff, the social worker should specify that the foster carer or residential staff is authorised to make decisions about overnight stays with friends, unless there are exceptional reasons under which restrictions apply.

Where there are exceptional circumstances and restrictions are placed on the delegated authority of the foster carer or residential staff, these reasons must be clearly stated in the Placement Information Record and these reasons must be clearly explained to the child or young person in accordance with their level of understanding.

When considering a request from a child or young person to stay overnight with a friend, the foster carer or residential staff shall give consideration to the following, on which they should base their decision:

  • Are there any restrictions on the child having particular overnight stays?
  • Are there any factors in the child or young person's past experiences or behaviour, which would indicate that overnight stays are not appropriate?
  • Would the child or young person be at significant risk of harm in the household concerned or from the activities proposed?
  • Is the child or young person staying with another child or children, rather than staying solely with an adult or adults, and are these arrangements appropriate?
  • What is the age and level of understanding of the child?
  • What is the purpose of the overnight stay?
  • How long is the proposed overnight stay for?

Before agreeing to an overnight stay, the foster carer or residential staff should make contact with the household where the child or young person is proposing to stay, to assist in assessing the request for an overnight stay and to confirm contact details.

Any agreement regarding delegated decision-making responsibility regarding overnight stays, or any restrictions on overnight stays, should be reviewed regularly whenever the Care Plan or Placement Plan is reviewed.

DBS checks should not normally be sought as a precondition to the child or young person having overnight stays, unless there is to be an arrangement for regular or prolonged stays, or there are exceptional reasons for these checks to be carried out.

End