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5.1.3 Permanence Stability and Security

RELATED CHAPTER

Fostering for Adoption and Concurrent Planning Placements Procedure

AMENDMENT

In July 2015, this chapter was updated to reflect the amendments to the Care Planning, Placement and Review Regulations and the new Statutory Guidance on Permanence, long term Fostering and Ceasing to look after a Child.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Principles
  3. Options for Permanence and Stability
  4. Assessing for Permanence and Stability
  5. Planning for Permanence and Stability (Looked After Children)
  6. Planning for Permanence and Stability (Children in Need)
  7. Multi-Track Planning


1. Introduction

Permanence is the framework of emotional permanence (attachment), physical permanence (stability) and legal permanence (the carer has Parental Responsibility for the child) which gives a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment and identity.

The objective of planning for permanence is to seek to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond.

Achieving Permanence for every child must be a key consideration from the day the child becomes Looked After (Care Planning Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010).

All Children in Need and Children in our Care will have Care Plans which reflect the Authority's commitment to securing their permanence.


2. Principles

Blackburn with Darwen will ensure that a permanence philosophy is embedded in the authority and that children are at the centre of the planning process. The need to secure permanence for a child without undue delay will be considered from the day the child becomes Looked After.

Children will be sensitively and age appropriately consulted in the care planning process but will be assured that the burden of decision making does not fall upon them.

Blackburn with Darwen will ensure that systems for assessment, planning intervention and review are robust, legally compliant and informed by best practice, and research.

Permanency planning will be child focused and where conflict arises between the wishes of the parent and the needs of the child, the child's needs will be paramount.

Every child will have an agreed permanence plan recorded at the second Looked After Review in accordance with the Care Planning Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 and the Adoption and Children Act 2002.


3. Options for Permanence and Stability

Most children will have their need for stability and nurturing met by their birth parents and will not require support from, or come to the attention of, Local Authority Children's Services Departments.

Where families do require support the Local Authority will aim to support families to maintain care of their children wherever it is in their child's best interests.

Where children become Looked After by the Local Authority the following three options for legal permanence must be fully considered:

  • Remain with or return to birth parent(s) without a legal order;
  • Live with a relative or person close to the child by virtue of a Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order;
  • Adoption into an alternative family (it may be appropriate to consider fostering for adoption or concurrent placement at the outset of a child becoming Looked After if it is known at that stage that a child has a significant possibility of NOT returning to birth family).

For a variety of reasons it may not be possible for some Looked After children to secure any of the above three legal outcomes. The specific reasons for this may be complex and varied and should only be agreed following careful assessment, management endorsement and rigorous review all of which must place the child's best interests at the centre. In such circumstances case planning will be driven by the pursuit of achieving enduring stability through one of the following two options:

  • Live with permanent foster carers as a Looked After child;
  • Live in a long term placement in a children's home.

A Permanent fostering placement is defined as one where the child has a clear sense of stability and belonging and the carers expect the child to be part of their family into adulthood. The child's primary attachments will be within the foster family, despite the potential for ongoing contact with birth family members. A permanent fostering arrangement will be formally matched at Panel and agreed by all parties. The child, the carers, the birth family and the authority will share an expectation about the permanence of the situation. In many cases it may be possible for such placements to be made legally secure by virtue of a Special Guardianship Order but in some cases it will not.

Whilst it is important, when undertaking permanence planning, to promote the child's links with his or her racial, cultural and religious heritage, this should not be allowed to introduce delay in achieving permanence for the child. Note that due consideration no longer has to be given to a child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background when matching a child and prospective adopters.


4. Assessing for Permanence and Stability

Referrals accepted by Children's Services will receive a Child and Family Assessment.

As such the assessment will provide a clear evidential basis for addressing the health, educational, ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic needs of each child.

Children have the right to participate in discussions about their future as far as they are able. Their wishes and feelings must be obtained and taken into account, appropriate to their age and understanding. This does not mean that their wishes will always be granted, but the reasons for not doing so must be recorded clearly in writing and explained to the child. An advocacy service may be provided where it is believed that the child is of an age and understanding to benefit.

Parental involvement and participation will be an integral part of the assessment process to ensure full information and that their wishes and feelings are secured. Again, the outcome of the assessment must be fully shared and explained.

The involvement of extended family members and significant others, where relevant, is also an essential element of an effective assessment process. Every effort should be made to identify any relatives or significant people who may be able and willing to provide the child with an appropriate permanent home. The outcome of any such contacts should also be shared in writing.

The completed assessment, which will always be kept under review, will assist in the process of determining the level of security for the child within its current setting. Whilst this theme is integral to the theoretical basis of the Assessment Framework Model, some of the dimensions will particularly inform this conclusion e.g. Identity and Family and Social Relationships (child's Developmental Needs domain), Stability (Parenting Capacity domain) and Family History and Functioning (Family and Environmental Factors domain).

Each completed assessment, indicating services are required, will form the basis of a plan designed to meet the assessed needs of the child.


5. Planning for Permanence and Stability (Looked After Children)

For all Looked After Children, it is a legal requirement to have an up-to-date Care Plan. The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 set down minimum requirements for the review of care planning for Looked After Children - see Looked After Reviews Procedure. In summary, the first review should take place within 20 working days of the child becoming Looked After. The second review should take place no later than three months after the first and then at intervals of no more than six months thereafter.

In addition the Care Planning Regulations and the Adoption Act 2002 requires there to be a permanence plan presented to the second statutory review (i.e. within 4 months of becoming Looked After). In Blackburn with Darwen the plan for permanence is recorded in the Care Plan (Part 1, Section 4) within the Integrated Children's System (Protocol).

The permanence plan will identify the appropriate option (or options depending upon the stage reached in any care proceedings) for the child (see Section 3, Options for Permanence and Stability) and will be formally endorsed at this second statutory review. Responsibilities will be clearly attributed with timescales for outcomes. There will be evidence of contingency planning.

The plan will be made available, and updated, at each subsequent review. The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) will be informed by the social worker of any changes to the Care Plan and any significant events in the child's life between reviews.

Particular attention will need to be paid at the first and second review to children Accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 given that the local authority will not hold Parental Responsibility. In these circumstances legal advice should be considered prior to the second review.

Where a permanence plan is not agreed at the second statutory review, the Independent Reviewing Officer will discuss the matter with the relevant Team Manager within 3 working days so that the matter can be addressed and a way forward agreed without unnecessary delay. If this process does not result in the identification of a permanence plan then it should be referred to the Service Leader/ Head of Service without delay.

Where a Looked After Child is placed with a birth parent under Part IV of the Children Act 1989 then every effort should be made to secure legal permanence though a clear exit plan which supports the discharge of the Care Order within a given timescale (usually a maximum of 12 months). In some cases, a Supervision Order may be appropriate.

In a small minority of cases, it may be appropriate to retain a Care Order in respect of a child placed with parents for longer than 12 months due to episodic lapses (e.g. recurring mental health issues or alcohol related relapses). This will mean that Parental Responsibility for the child will continue to be shared. In such cases, the Care Plan must be endorsed by the relevant Service Leader who will ensure that progress is kept under stringent review and with an open mind. See also Placements with Parents Procedure.

In cases where it is determined at the second statutory review that permanence cannot be achieved by the return of a Looked After Child to birth parents or friends or relatives then adoption must be considered. In these circumstances, adoption will be the usual placement choice for the majority of children under 9 but should not be ruled out for older children if this is in their best interests and consistent with their wishes. This may require multi track planning (see Section 7, Multi-Track Planning).

There may be some older Looked After children who are settled and placed with permanent foster carers who, for whatever reason, are reluctant to pursue legal permanence for the child(ren) through Special Guardianship or Adoption. In such cases, so long as such a plan is agreed as being in the child's best interests, such arrangements should be supported to achieve stability. This will require the approval of the Fostering Panel. However the possibility of securing legal permanence in the future must be kept under review.

Where young people are very settled in their long term foster placement, consideration can be given to having less formal reviewing arrangements in order to enable the young person to have a more normal family experience. A decision to meet only once per year with a paper review in between can be discussed at a review but this decision needs to be endorsed by a service leader for both Review and protection and children in our care. Additional reviews can be reinstated at any time if the placement becomes less stable or if new concerns arise.

Increased delegated authority could also be explored in reviews if this would be beneficial for the young person. 

For a small minority of looked after children, placement within a small children's home will be the appropriate setting to ensure their stability. Again any such arrangements will be kept under careful review.

Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters

The Children and Families Act 2014 imposes a duty to consider placements with carers who are approved as both adopters and foster carers - see Fostering for Adoption and Concurrent Planning Placements Procedure.


6. Planning for Permanence and Stability (Children in Need)

Whilst it is recognised that the local authority will not hold or share Parental Responsibility for Children in Need, plans for such children should be developed which reflect the commitment to legal permanence with the main carer, be this a birth parent, relative or Connected Person. That is to say that the identified outcomes should be based upon the pursuit of legal permanence or, where this is not achievable, enduring stability. This process should be supported through contingency planning and rigorous review in compliance with the requirements of the relevant children in need policy and in accordance with the Care Planning Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

The potential need for placements with family, friends and Connected Persons will generally be considered as part of contingency planning arrangements whilst the child remains in the care of parents. Where this is not possible before a placement takes place, family, friends and Connected Persons may be temporarily approved under Regulation 24 of the Care Planning Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 pending a full foster carer assessment (within 16 weeks). Where there is reasonable doubt at the onset that the carer may be approved under the Fostering Regulations 2002, preference will be given to an existing approved carer whilst the assessment takes place. See also Placements with Connected Persons (Regulation 24) Procedure.

Where it is the plan that children remain with a relative, friend or a Connected Person, to independence, their legal permanence will be achieved if and when the friend or relative secures a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order (Section 14A of the Children Act 1989 - as amended by Section 115 of the Adoption & Children Act 2002.) Plans should seek to actively discourage families 'placing' children for extended periods without consideration of these options for legal security.

Similarly in cases involving children who are privately fostered the assessment and planning process should also keep the issue of legal permanence at the centre of planning. Since, by definition, the arrangements are known to be of a temporary duration, then the plan must identify the reasons with details of the long term aims for legal permanence along with associated timescales.

Where informal arrangements have been agreed it is recognised that families may require Local Authority support in order for a child's permanence to be secured. This support may take the form of advice, guidance, or in exceptional circumstances provision of financial support as a single or recurring payment. (Section 17 monies)


7. Multi-Track Planning

According to the Children Act 1989, the local authority is required to make reasonable efforts to rehabilitate Looked After children with their families wherever possible. Where it is necessary to issue a Letter Before Proceedings letter it will clearly state the grounds for proceedings, the Authority's concerns and expectations and any support that will be offered. Outcomes will be measurable and to timescales, to support Permanence Planning.

Where care proceedings have been initiated, and there are concerns regarding the viability of the child being able to return to his/her birth family, contingency plans will be put in place to avoid delay and to provide the Court with a clear plan.

Multi track planning in this context refers to a situation where two or more plans run in parallel. In such cases the main focus will be upon rehabilitation home but, at the same time, a parallel plan or plans (e.g. placement with family/friends and/or adoption) will be established in order to achieve an alternative permanent placement if rehabilitation is unsuccessful.

Birth parents must be informed from the outset that two or more options are under consideration within a strictly controlled timescale and that the primacy of the rehabilitation plan must also be stressed. Only in exceptional circumstances would it not be appropriate to formulate multi track plans for children subject to Interim Care Orders or those Accommodated under Section 20.

Multi track planning does not pre-empt the Court decision but does prevent delay when reunification is not feasible.

Cases will be presented to the Agency Decision Maker for adoption for a 'should be placed for Adoption' recommendation where adoption has been identified as the local authority care plan. In these circumstances the child must be considered by the Agency Decision Maker prior to the final hearing. The recommendation must also be obtained for lodging an application for a Placement Order at this stage.

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