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4.2.1 Placements in Foster Care


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Placing a Child with Foster Carers
  3. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
  4. Long-Term Foster Placement
  5. Promoting Independence, Moves to Adulthood and Leaving Care


1. Introduction

  1. The placement with foster carers must be assessed to be the best way of meeting the needs of the child and that the specific placement chosen must be the most suitable having regard to all the circumstances, as required by the Children Act, Regulation 33 of the Fostering Services Regulations, 2002 and 2011, associated guidance and National Minimum Standards 2011;
  2. In addition to this procedure refer also to the procedure on the 'Number of Children in Foster Placements';
  3. When it is not possible to identify a suitable in house foster placement, the procedure for obtaining approval for a placement with an external agency is set out in Children's Commissioning Panel: Terms of Reference Procedure.


2. Placing a Child with Foster Carers

  1. Good matching of foster carers with children and the full exchange of information prior to the placement are both linked with placement stability;
  2. When choosing a foster placement, the Placement Plan for the child must include a recorded decision by the team manager, that a placement with a foster carer is the best way of meeting the needs of the child or young person;
  3. Children should have accessible information about the foster home as well as a visit, where they can talk to the carer in private. Children must understand the expectations of the house before the placement is made;
  4. A referral must be completed by the social worker to the duty worker in the fostering team. The referral should identify the type of placement required, when it is required for and how long, any specific needs of the child, any specific risks associated with the placement, and any school/health or location issues;
  5. The child or young person's social worker should consult with the Fostering Team to obtain a suitable placement. In the identification of a suitable placement the following considerations must be taken into account:
    • Accommodation should, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child's welfare, be near the child's home (Section 23 of the Children Act, 1989). Foster homes must provide appropriate and safe accommodation and space for the child, as well as safe transport. Each child over the age of three must have their own bedroom or, where this is not possible, the sharing of the bedroom has been agreed by the placing authority;
    • Priority should be given so that siblings are accommodated together, subject to the same premise as above;
    • Accommodation provided for a child with disabilities should, so far as is reasonably practicable, be suitable to the child's needs;
    • The placement decision will take account of the children/young person's views in light of her or his age, understanding and experience and where appropriate the views of the child or young person's family;
    • The placement decision will consider the child or young person's racial, ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic needs and match the ethnic origin, race, religion, culture and language of the foster family;
    • A child's need for continuity in life and care should be a constant factor in the choice of placement. The wishes and feelings of the child must be considered;
    • Placement decisions will consider the child's assessed developmental needs and needs relating to gender and sexuality, these should be matched as closely as possible with the skills, knowledge, family, social and personal circumstances of the carers;
    • The pre-school and post- school educational issues should be considered. Foster carers must encourage the child’s educational attainment through working with teachers and other education settings as appropriate. The fostering service is required to have an educational policy;
    • Matching should include consideration of inter-agency placements where resources are not available locally to meet the child or young person's needs;
    • Where trans-racial or cross-community placements are made, the foster family must be provided with additional training, support and information to enable the child to develop a positive understanding of her or his heritage.
  6. The views of the child and the foster carer will be canvassed as part of the placement planning process. The foster carer should have a copy of the Care Plan and they should help the child to understand it, contribute to their reviews and help to ensure the child gets access to advocacy services where appropriate. The fostering team should contact the child’s social worker to request a review or visit if these are overdue or if there has been a significant change which warrants an early review;
  7. The fostering team must also take steps to promote the child’s identity, self- esteem and confidence through a range of measures which respect the child’s individual identity. These should include:
    • Enabling children to develop emotional resilience and self esteem;
    • Allowing children to exercise choice about what they eat, preparing meals and snacks within the limits that a reasonable parent would set;
    • Enabling children to exercise choice about clothes and personal requisites;
    • Children receiving a personal allowance appropriate to their age and understanding.
  8. The fostering team should ensure that as far as possible, children in foster placements are protected from significant harm, including Child Sexual Exploitation. Foster carers are expected to create an atmosphere of openness and trust and to be alert to signs and symptoms that the child may indicate a risk of serious harm;
  9. A proportionate approach to risk assessment is encouraged. Foster carers should encourage children to take risks that are age-appropriate and teach them to stay safe including their use of social networking and the internet;
  10. Foster carers should be trained in appropriate safer-care practice, including skills to care for children who have been abused. For foster carers who offer placements to disabled children, this includes training specifically on issues affecting disabled children;
  11. The duty officer in the Fostering Team will identify and contact the foster carer and the carer's fostering social worker to discuss the possible placement. After due consideration by the foster carer, if s/he is in agreement, the duty officer will then contact the social worker to inform them of the availability of the placement;
  12. If the proposed placement with a foster carer is living in the area of another local authority, the view of that authority must be sought prior to the placement;
  13. The child's social worker should visit the foster carer(s) to assess the suitability of the placement to meet the child's needs;
  14. The social worker will have to confirm to the Fostering Team duty social worker and foster carer whether or not they wish to take up the placement for the child/young person. If so, the placement will be presented to the Fostering Team Manager for approval. If the placement is "out of approval", i.e. will require an extension of the foster carer's category of approval, this will be referred by the Fostering Team Manager to the Service Manager for approval. If the placement requires an exemption from the usual limit of children in the placement, see Numbers of Children in Foster Placements Procedure;
  15. If the placement is approved, prior to admission, a Planning Meeting should be held involving the child, parents, foster carers, fostering social worker and the child's social worker. If it is not possible to hold the Placement Planning Meeting before the placement, it should be held within 5 working days of the placement.

    Each child, where practicable, should have the opportunity for a period of introduction to a proposed foster carer so she or he can express an informed view about the placement and become familiar with the carer, the carer's family, any other children in placement and the home, neighbourhood and any family pets, before moving in. See also Introduction and Preparation for the Placement Procedure;
  16. A medical examination of the child should be arranged and completed if appropriate;
  17. Specific people should be notified of the placement including the Children's Independent Safeguarding and Reviewing Officer (CISRO). For further information, please see Decision to Look After Procedure;
  18. On placement, the Children’s social worker should inform the Performance Team, by phone or email, to enable the event to be recorded on Azeus. Please note that information about any significant change of circumstance, including change of address, legal status, care plan objective or allocated social worker, should also be passed to the Performance Team by phone or email;
  19. Once the placement occurs, the Social Worker is responsible for ensuring completion of a change of circumstances/ payments notification form. Delay in completing this form may result in delayed payment to foster carers;
  20. Notice of the placement will be sent to Health and Education by the Performance Team when they are notified of the child first becoming looked after. Thereafter, it is the responsibility of the social worker to inform the other agencies involved of significant changes;
  21. If the placement is in the area of another local authority, the Performance Team will notify that authority on receipt of the detail of information from the social worker;
  22. When it is not possible to identify a suitable in house foster placement, the procedure for obtaining approval for a placement with an external agency is set out in Children's Commissioning Panel: Terms of Reference Procedure.


3. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters

  1. 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;
  2. 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.


4. 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.


5. Promoting Independence, Moves to Adulthood and Leaving Care

  1. In order to prepare them for independence and adulthood, according to the child’s age and understanding, foster carers should support in their care to:
    • Establish positive and appropriate social and sexual relationships;
    • Develop positive self-esteem and emotional resilience;
    • Prepare for the world of work and or further or higher education;
    • Prepare for moving into their own accommodation;
    • Develop practical skills, including shopping, buying, cooking and keeping food, washing clothes, personal self-care, and understanding and taking responsibility for personal healthcare;
    • Develop financial capability, knowledge and skills;
    • Know about entitlements to financial and other support after leaving care, including benefits and support from social care services.
  2. Foster carers contribute to the development of each child’s care plan, in collaboration with the child, including the pathway plan for an “eligible” child, and work collaboratively with the young person’s social worker or personal adviser in implementing the plan;
  3. The fostering service ensures there are comprehensive arrangements for preparing and supporting young people to make the transition to independence. This includes appropriate training and support to foster carers caring for young people who are approaching adulthood. Arrangements are consistent with the young person’s care plan, including their placement plan, pathway plan and transition plan for children with disabilities and special educational needs;
  4. The fostering service has a policy and practical arrangements which enable children to remain with their foster carer(s) into legal adulthood, for example so that s/he may develop appropriate life skills before being required to move to more independent accommodation. Any such decisions are agreed with foster carers at a placement meeting and are detailed in a child’s placement plan.

    N.B. The above standards are not required for short breaks.

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