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6.1.1 Permanency Planning for Children in Care - Procedure


Permanency Planning for Children in Care - Guidance

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  1. Introduction
  2. Permanence Options
  3. Care Planning
  4. Looked After Review
  5. Contingency Planning
  6. Permanence Planning Procedure

1. Introduction

Permanence is a framework of emotional, physical and legal conditions that gives a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment and identity. Children require consistency and continuity of care in order to provide them with a foundation from which their physical, emotional and developmental needs can be fully met, allowing them to reach their full potential.

2. Permanence Options

  1. The child's need for permanence will best be met by being brought up within a secure, stable and loving family, who can support them through childhood and beyond. The objective of planning for permanence is to ensure that this is achieved for every looked after child as soon as possible. Various options exist, all potentially able to deliver high quality outcomes for children. These include:
    • Returning home to birth parents;
    • Care within the child's wider family or with friends;
    • Adoption;
    • Long-term Fostering;
    • Residential placement until independence;
    • Fostering for adoption / Early Permanence Placements.
  2. Permanency planning aims to identify which option is most likely to meets the needs of an individual child, taking into account their wishes and feelings;
  3. For most looked after children returning home to birth parents will be the preferred option. It is the duty of the local authority to make all reasonable effort to rehabilitate looked after children with their family whenever possible. The local authority's first consideration, therefore, must be to support the family to enable the child to be cared for safely and appropriately. Family support services are an integral part of permanence planning which should be used to enable children to remain with their birth parents;
  4. However, the local authority's duty to rehabilitate looked after children must be balanced against the need to achieve permanence for the child within a realistic time scale which takes account of the age of the child. When it is clear that a child can no longer live with their birth parents and there is evidence that further attempts at reunification would jeopardise the safety and welfare of the child or would be unlikely to succeed, a decision to make alternative arrangements to achieve permanency must be made as a matter of priority.

3. Care Planning

  1. Early and effective long-term planning is crucial in preventing looked after children from "drifting" indefinitely in the care system. This is damaging to children, as it leads to placement instability and disruption, and ultimately causes significant emotional harm. A clearly articulated plan to achieve permanence for the child must be prepared by the 2nd statutory LAC review, which is held within 4 months of the child becoming looked after. The plan to achieve permanence forms part of the Care Plan for the child, and the following details should be clearly recorded in the Care Plan:
  2. In formulating the permanence plan, the consultation process should include the child, his/her parents or guardian. Unless there is a clearly achievable plan of reunification, the consultation should also include extended family members, the child's current carers, and any other person who has a significant relationship with the child, e.g. previous carers. It is important to identify all possible options, including permanent placement within the extended family or with friends, as early as possible, in order to make the best plans for the child at the outset and avoid delay occurring at a later stage;
  3. When the plan for permanence involves placing the child for adoption, the adoption team must also be consulted at the initial stages of formulating the permanence plan, and a representative of the team must be invited to attend the statutory review that endorses the plan. An adoption plan must also be prepared, which will form an addendum to the Care Plan. The plan will then be presented to the Adoption Panel/Agency Decision Maker. (See Planning for Adoption and Preparation of the Adoption Plan and Permanence Report Procedure);
  4. When the plan for permanence involves placement in an alternative family, but adoption is not considered appropriate, consideration should be given to whether the local authority should support an application by the carer for a Child Arrangements Order or special guardianship order. Both orders will give the carer Parental Responsibility for the child or young person, provide a degree of legal security for the placement, and enable the child or young person to cease to be looked after by the local authority. Any such plan will then be presented to the permanency panel. (See Permanency Panel Procedure).

4. Looked After Review

  1. The plan for permanence must be discussed and endorsed at the 2nd statutory LAC review. In respect of the permanence plan the review record should record:
    • Details of those attending the review and participating in the discussion;
    • Details of anyone who has been consulted about the plan but was not present at the review, and a summary of their views;
    • The options for permanence which have been considered;
    • The reasons for reaching a decision about the chosen option;
    • What weight has been given to the views of the child concerned and other significant persons in coming to the decision;
    • Details of any disagreement or dissenting views.
  2. The permanence plan will be reviewed, in conjunction with the overall Care Plan for the child at each statutory LAC review. Progress in achieving permanence within the agreed timescales will be closely monitored and discussed at LAC reviews, which are usually held at 6 monthly interviews following the 2nd review. However difficulties in implementing permanence plans need to be addressed at the earliest opportunity, and in some cases a review may need to be brought forward. An early review must be held if it becomes apparent that the permanence plan is not achievable and new objectives need to be set.

5. Contingency Planning

If, during or following the Child in Need assessment, it becomes apparent that the child's parents are unlikely to make and sustain the necessary changes in their parenting to achieve reunification, a contingency plan should be made to avoid delay in securing a permanent family for the child. In some cases it may be appropriate to pursue parallel or twin track planning. This involves having a rehabilitation plan, with timescales, in place whilst at the same time putting in place elements of a plan for seeking an alternative permanent placement. The birth parents will need to be informed that two plans are being made to meet the child's needs so that unnecessary delay is avoided. However it will be important to stress to birth parents the primacy of the rehabilitation plan.

6. Permanence Planning Procedure

  1. Social Worker completes or updates the Child in Need Single Assessment within 35 working days of the child/young person becoming Looked After;
  2. Social Worker discusses the need to plan for permanence with the child/young person's parents and any other person with Parental Responsibility (PR). The various options for achieving permanence should be explained, and the parent/person with PR's view sought, and recorded;
  3. Social Worker consults with the child or young person to ascertain their wishes and feelings in respect of arrangements to achieve permanence for them;

    Consideration should be given to the best method and timescales for carrying out this consultation taking account of the age and development of the child. The child/young person's views must be clearly recorded on the case file;
  4. When reunification is not possible, or is unlikely to be achieved, the Social Worker should also consult with any other relevant individual as appropriate. This could include extended family members or other significant adults in the child's life such as family friends, or current and previous carers, particularly those who may wish to put themselves forward as a potential permanent carer for the child;
  5. When adoption is being considered as a means of achieving permanence, an adoption referral form must be completed (which is obtained from the Adoption Panel clerk) and sent to the adoption team; and an invitation to send a representative to the statutory review which is to endorse the plan must be sent to the Adoption Team Manager;
  6. Social Worker formulates a detailed plan for achieving permanence, including contingency plans and parallel/twin tracking options. When the plan involves an alternative permanent placement to living with parents, details of the plan should include proposed arrangements for contact between the child and significant family members, and details of any legal orders, e.g. adoption, special guardianship, Child Arrangements  that will be needed to support the placement. The plan(s) must be discussed and endorsed by the Team Manager;
  7. The social worker notifies all those consulted of the proposed permanence plan, and invites feedback and comments. Any feedback or comments received should be recorded on the child's/young person's file;
  8. Social Worker presents an amended Care Plan to include the permanence plan at the 2nd statutory review, which should be held no later than 4 months after the child/young person becomes looked after. The record of the review should record the information specified in key point 6;
  9. When the permanence plan involves adoption, the Social Worker, assisted by the adoption link-worker, draws up an adoption plan within 2 weeks of the first meeting of the adoption implementation core group meeting, and circulates this to all members of the adoption core group and the Children’s Independent Safeguarding and Reviewing Officer (CISRO);

    The child's case must be presented to the Adoption Panel/Agency Decision Maker within 2 months of the review. (See Planning for Adoption and Preparation of the Adoption Plan and Permanence Report Procedure and The Presentation of Children's Cases to the Adoption Panel/Agency Decision Maker Procedure);
  10. When the permanence plan involves an application by the carer for a Child Arrangements Order or special guardianship order, the child's case must be presented to the permanency panel. (See Permanency Panel Procedure);
  11. The Children's Independent and Safeguarding Reviewing Officer is responsible for monitoring progress in achieving permanence. The permanence plan forms part of the child's Care Plan, and this and the adoption plan, where relevant, will be formally reviewed at each statutory LAC review. However the social worker must keep the Children's Independent and Safeguarding Reviewing Officer informed of any significant event or set back in achieving permanence, so that consideration can be given to calling an early review. Any decision to change the permanence plan must be discussed and endorsed at a statutory review.