Overnight Stay and Back-up Care SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

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1 Overnight Stay and Back-up Care SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER To provide guidance for the arrangements and practice in decision making in respect of Looked After Children, to have overnight stays socially or for the purpose of back-up and relief care away from their main carer / place of residence Appendix1 Foster Care checklist for proposed overnight stays 1. Introduction This document provides policy and practice guidance to explain how decisions about children Looked After staying overnight with their friends, or with the friends or relatives of foster carers can properly be delegated to foster carers and residential social workers. It also includes arrangements for back up or relief care arranged by the foster carer with their approved nominated carer. 2. Legislation and Guidance The Children Act 1989 and accompanying Regulations made no provision for the possibility of children Looked After staying overnight with friends, or for being cared for temporarily by the friends or relatives of foster carers without the range of checks outlined in Schedule 1 (Regulation 5, 7, 20) of the Foster Placement Regulations 2002 being undertaken. However, it should be noted that Section 22(2) of the Children Act 1989 applies in that: "It shall be the duty of the local authority looking after any child to safeguard and promote his/her welfare". Department of Health Circular LAC(2004) 4, issued under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, provides guidance to clarify the position in relation to the legal basis for the delegation of decisions about overnight stays for looked after children, living both in residential accommodation and in foster care. The Circular also sets out guiding principles and good practice for making decisions about overnight stays. 13 July 2009, Ofsted wrote to all Directors of Children s Services to re-affirm the expectations for overnight stays as part of normal life, choices and delegated responsibilities. In September 2010, Children's Minister Tim Loughton wrote to all local authorities expressing concern about foster carers facing..." unnecessary obstacles when trying to make every day decisions about the lives of the children they look after". This guidance does not amend or relax the requirements in relation to decision making, planning, approvals and checks for any other changes in accommodation such as a temporary change of placement or relief care arrangements. The policy and guidance for arrangements for back up carers appointed by foster carers to provide overnight and relief care are incorporated in this policy.

2 3. Principles The overarching principle is that 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, overnight school trips or holidays 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, based on a reasonable assessment of risks. This means that: Decisions on overnight stays should in most circumstances be delegated to foster carers and residential care staff, and details of how this will operate in practice should be written into the Placement Plan and the Foster Placement Agreement. There is no statutory requirement for CRB checks to be carried out on adults in a private household where a child may stay overnight. CRB checks should not normally be sought as a precondition of an overnight stay. The wishes and views of the young people themselves must always be considered. Only where there are exceptional reasons should the permission of the responsible authority be required or restrictions placed on overnight stays. The statutory a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child is paramount Children Act 1989 Section 17; Foster carers and all adults involved in decision making must act as a reasonable parent who takes account of the child s needs, abilities and understanding; Those who hold Parental Responsibility should be advised by the child s social worker that children aged seven years upwards are permitted to stay for up to two nights with school and leisure friends without seeking the social worker s specific consent, subject to appropriate safeguards being maintained by the foster carer or residential worker. This consent should be included under Contact Issues in the Placement Information Record which the parent is asked to sign. If the parent or person with Parental Responsibility objects to this policy being applied to their child s situation, the matter must be subject to careful discussion, and, where necessary, referred to line management and legal section for advice on resolution. Back-up / Nominated carers A Back-up carer or nominated carer is a person or persons identified by the foster carer who may care for a child/ren who has been placed with them, for periods ranging from a weekend (one or two overnight stays) or under certain more exceptional circumstances for longer periods of one up to four weeks. The back-up / relief care can take place either within the main foster carer s home or the back-up carer s home. Back-up / nominated carers are identified as part of the foster carer s assessment process, where they are referred to as and will themselves be subject to an appropriate assessment, or they may themselves be an approved foster carer. Practice Guidance Children under the age of seven years No child under the age of seven years should normally be allowed to stay overnight with a friend or previously non approved relative without the agreement of the responsible social worker and their team manager.

3 Children over the age of seven years Children over seven years are permitted to stay overnight or for a weekend (two nights) at the home of a friend with the agreement of the foster carer or residential care home manager subject to the following: The carer / residential home manager being satisfied that the friend is known to the child; Contact being made with the parent / carer of the child to establish that the invitation has been made and that a responsible adult will be available at all times; The address and telephone number of the friend being made available and a mobile telephone number if appropriate; Sleeping arrangement being confirmed which should never involve the child sharing a room with an adult or teenage child of the opposite sex; The child being taken and collected from the friend by the foster / residential carer or the parent of the friend. If it is the child s first visit to the friend s house then he / she must be taken by the carer; Agreement being reached on the activities the child will be undertaking. If the child is a bed wetter, this should be handled sensitively and discreetly and the child provided with any pads / alarms used at home. The family should be asked to protect the bed if necessary, to ensure the child knows where the bathroom is but not to make a big deal out of any accident. It is important that children experiencing nocturnal enuresis are not prevented from having the fun of overnight stays and that they are protected from any stress associated with the condition. It is the responsibility of the foster carer / residential worker to ensure that the request to stay at a friend s house is reasonable and that they have checked this out in the manner of a responsible parent. If a carer / residential worker is unsure about whether to give consent, based on valid reservations, then this should be discussed with the Supervising Social Worker. The parent of the friend with whom the Looked After Child is staying should be provided with the following information: Name, address and telephone number of foster carer / social worker / residential unit; Emergency Duty Team contact number; Information about any religious or cultural observances or dietary requirements; Any relevant medical information; Any important bedtime or related routines; Any essential safeguarding information (i.e. if a named person is banned from contact etc). It is not necessary or appropriate to discuss a child s full care history with a friend s family. Any information should be provided only on a need to know basis linked to safeguarding issues and to ensuring that a child s stay is successful for her / him and the family.

4 The foster carer / residential worker should check that the responsible adult has; Their name, address and contact numbers including in an emergency any essential safeguarding and / or medical information. Young People aged thirteen years and over In general teenagers are able to negotiate their own requirements concerning bedtime routine / diet / religious observance etc. Personal information about a young person and/or her/his family should not be provided that will be embarrassing for her/him and where this is not required in order to ensure a young person s safety or protection. All other provisions of this policy apply as stated above. For children and young people of all ages, carers should contact the friend s family after a visit to ensure that all was well and enable the young person to share information about their stay as appropriate. Any concerns regarding activities undertaken and/or the post visit behaviour of young person should be discussed with the social worker. Foster carers / residential workers must report immediately to the Supervising Social Worker / safeguarding duty team, any allegations of abuse, ill treatment or illegal activity made by a child or young person so that it can be investigated in accordance with Local Safeguarding Board Inter-agency Safeguarding Procedures. Back-up / Relief care The provision of back-up or relief care must be discussed and agreed with the Supervising Social Worker prior to the commencement of any relief care. The Supervising Social Worker will consult the child s social worker to agree any plans for relief care, their frequency and duration. Such arrangements will only be agreed with back-up carers who have completed the nominated carer assessment unless the local authority has sourced a third partie approved respite placement. In the event of an emergency situation, approval for arrangements should be agreed with the Supervising Social Worker and the child s Social Worker at the earliest opportunity. Criminal Records Bureau Checks Overnight Stays There is no statutory requirement for CRB checks to be made of adults in the household where a child will have an overnight stay. The responsibility for determining the suitability of a family with whom a looked after child wants to stay overnight is delegated to the child's foster carers or residential staff. (See Actions by foster carers and residential workers below). CRB checks should not normally be sought as a precondition of a looked after child staying overnight with a friend or friends. Such checks would not be part of the arrangements or conditions for a child living with their own parents in the community to stay overnight with friends. Regular, Frequent or Prolonged Stays CRB checks should be carried out on adults in a household where a child is to stay with an adult or adults if there is to be an arrangement for the child to stay in the household on a frequent or regular basis, or if the child is to stay for a prolonged period. For the purpose of

5 this policy frequently is defined as weekly or more often. Regular means more than 2 planned visits per month. A prolonged period is more than 3 consecutive nights. Back-up / Nominated Carers These carers are subject to an assessment and a range of safeguarding checks including ECRB. Brent uses the BAAF Nominated Carer assessment process and guidance to assess and approve back-up / nominated carers. Households which may present a risk In exceptional circumstances, where there is a reason to consider a child at specific risk in staying in a particular household, a CRB check or checks should be carried out before the child stays, so any concerns can be properly assessed. Where the results of the CRB check cause concern, a more detailed risk assessment should also be carried out, including local authority checks. N.B. This guidance does not amend or relax the requirements in relation to decision making, planning, approvals and checks for any other changes in accommodation such as a temporary change of placement or respite care arrangements. Dealing with Potential Risks Where the proposed arrangements are thought to pose a possible risk to the child this must always be discussed fully between the social worker for the child and the family placement social worker and the child's foster carers, or with the residential staff concerned. All involved in safeguarding the child should be mindful of the increased vulnerability children who are looked after have to the risk of exploitation. Any concerns should be carefully followed up and explored. In all cases the social worker should make foster carers and residential care staff aware of any known individuals, addresses or areas which may place a child at risk. If it is considered that there are factors in the child's past experiences, behaviour or disposition which preclude overnight stays this should be discussed with the child's carers and reviewed regularly. Likewise the child's carers must always inform the social worker of any concerns which arise in relation to overnight stays. Actions to safeguard the child in these circumstances may include seeking the permission of the placing authority or person with parental responsibility for the child, and placing specific restrictions on permitting a child to stay overnight in another household. Any action should be based on clear and stated reasons which are necessary to safeguard and promote the child's safety or welfare. In such cases, the restriction should be proportionate. Any restrictions must be clearly explained to the child / young person, recorded in the child's Care Plan and in the child's foster placement agreement or residential establishment Placement Plan. The child should always be consulted over the issue and their views and feelings taken into account in reaching the decision unless this is for some exceptional reason detrimental to their welfare. This should be explained to the child / young person. Any restrictions should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they remain relevant and necessary.

6 Actions by Foster Carers and Residential Carers Subject to the authorities that have been delegated to the carer in the Foster Placement Agreement and LAC Care / Placement Plan. Foster carers and residential staff who are planning to make any arrangements for a child to stay overnight with a friend or friends should always take the following actions: Inform the child's social worker of the arrangements and always consult them if there is any doubt regarding the safety of the arrangements. Ensure that they know clearly the views of the child or young person about the proposed stay. If the child or young person expresses any doubt or concern this should always be resolved first. If the child's doubts or concerns remain unresolved it is best to postpone or cancel the visit. Ensure that they have a reasonable knowledge and understanding of the circumstances of the family with whom the child will be staying. If this knowledge raises any concerns these must be dealt with. Make direct personal contact with the adults in the family the child is to be staying with before agreeing to the stay, ensuring that the arrangements are as described by the young person, and that the stay is convenient for the adults involved. Visit the family home prior to the stay. This may be informal, by dropping the young person off for the stay and making suitable enquiries about the arrangements. In many cases a foster carer will already know the home, having visited previously. Confirm to their full satisfaction that the arrangements and level of supervision of the child will be sufficient. The age, maturity and possible vulnerability of the child will need to be considered. Always ensure that they have the contact details for the household in which the child is staying. They must also always ensure that the child staying overnight elsewhere has their contact details and that the child carries these with them. Ensure that any arrangements for a child receiving medication are agreed prior to the child staying overnight. (See Medication administration policy). Circumstances where the consent of the social worker for an overnight visit is required: Where the child has a medical condition that requires a degree of nursing care and / or specialist knowledge; Where restrictions apply in respect of specific named friends / family members; Where the child is requesting to stay with the same friend on a regular basis, establishing a pattern (and where it would be appropriate to instigate safeguarding checks on the family); Where a child / young person is requesting an overnight stay more than once a fortnight or one weekend a month (even if with different friends); Where it has been agreed, at a review, that the special needs or background of the child make the care of the child especially challenging, requiring a degree of expertise / supervision in excess of that which could be expected of a non fostering family.

7 All stays for a period of more than 2 consecutive nights including stays with back-up / nominated carers.

8 Appendix1 Foster Care checklist for proposed overnight stays Overnight Stay Name of child Date of proposed visit: Arrangements for decisions are included in Foster Placement Agreement and child s Care/Placement Plan? Yes/No See Foster Placement agreement and Care Plan Are there any relevant restrictions contained for exceptional reasons in the child s Care Plan, Foster Placement Agreement, or Residential Placement Plan, or any court orders, which restrict the child from making particular overnight stays? Yes/No See Foster Placement Agreement and Care Plan Are there any factors in the child s past experiences or behaviour, which would preclude overnight stays? Has this changed since the Foster Placement Agreement was made? Yes/No Are there any grounds for concern that the child may be at significant risk in the household concerned or from the activities proposed? Yes/No Is the child staying in the household with another child or children, rather than staying solely with an adult or adults? Yes/No 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

9 Name of child being visited: Names of family: Address: Contact details: Evidence on which this decision is made suitability of this family. What arrangements have been confirmed with the family? Confirmed by whom? Contact details for the family where the child is staying - Record here Have you given the host family your contact details? CRB checks should however be carried out on adults in a household where a child is to stay with an adult or adults if there is to be an arrangement for the child to stay in the household frequently or regularly, or if the child is to stay for a prolonged period. In exceptional circumstances, where there is a good reason to consider that a child may be at a specific risk in staying in a particular household, the child s Social Worker should be consulted and may decide that a CRB check or checks should be carried out before the child stays.

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