Manual of Policies and Procedures General. Connected Person (Family and Friends) Foster Care (August 2012)

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1 Manual of Policies and Procedures General Connected Person (Family and Friends) Foster Care (August 2012) Children s Safeguarding & Specialist Services Manual Head of Service: Christine Smart Date of Issue: November 2013 Date of Review: November

2 Document name and Connected Person (Family and Friends) Foster Care file location: Document Owner: Chris Hogan Assistant Director, Specialist Services Review Date: This document is to be reviewed a minimum of every 3 years, the next review to occur no later than July The policy needs to be reviewed if there are any change in regulations and legislation. Incremental reviews may take place as necessitated by departmental requirements. Accessibility This document can be made available in hard and electronic copies. Circulation Restrictions: Version: 1.3 2

3 S. No. Contents Page No. 1. Introduction Overall Aim Purpose of the Policy Scope and Limitations Related Policies Key Principles Underpinning the Policy Management and Accountability 9 2. Legal Framework, Regulations and Guidance Legislations, Regulations and Guidance Children Looked After by the Local Authority Parental Responsibility Immediate Placements with a Connected Person Suitability 11 Assessment and Temporary Approval as Foster Carer (Regulation 24) 3.1 Suitability Assessment Temporary Approval Extending Temporary Approval Right to Review Planned Placements with a Connected Person Fostering Assessment and Approval under Fostering Service 17 Regulations Key Responsibility Planning and Consultation Fostering Assessment Statutory checks References and other Interviews Health Information Health and Safety and Pet Assessments Smoking Completion of the assessment Fostering Panel Paper Work for the Panel Attendance to the Panel Agency Decision Maker Assistant Director, Specialist Services Training to National Standards Annual Reviews Procedures for Carer s Annual Review Fostering Allowance and Support Services Fostering Allowance Support Services Visits by the allocated Social Worker Permanency Planning Consultation and involvement in Decision Making Complaints Procedures Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) 32 Annex Caring for Somebody Else s Child Options A Annex Carer s Declaration and Consent 3

4 B Annex Connected Person (Family and Friends) Suitability Assessment C Annex Connected Person - Care Agreement and Arrangements D Annex E Application for Extension Temporary Fostering Approval Annex F Regulation 24 and 25 4

5 1. Introduction 1.1 Overall Aim: London Borough of Hounslow s Connected Person (Family and Friends) Foster Care Policies and Procedures aim to set out the Local Authority s approach to promoting and supporting the needs of Looked After Children living with the connected person (family and friend) foster carer. 1.2 Purpose of the Policy The Purpose of this policy is: To establish guidelines for all in the department concerning the assessment & approval of the Connected Person (Family and Friends carer) as foster carers. To outline the nature of services and financial support available to the connected person /family and friends foster carers. To ensure that adequate measures and actions are taken to promote the interests of the children who are or may be subject to Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster care; the birth parents and families of these children and a person who becomes a Connected Person (Family & Friends) foster carer or applies to become a Connected Person (Family & Friends) foster carer. 1.3 Scope and Limitation Broadly Family and Friends Care is defined as the full time care, nurturing and protection of children/young people by a person other than the birth parent. Such care can be provided by a close or a distant relative, a friend or any other person connected with the child (such as a child minder, teacher, youth worker etc). The children who live with a family member or friend/ connected person do not fall into a single legal category. 5

6 The different types of placements that arise under the range of legislation(s) can be usefully sub-divided into two categories; private and public care. The broad distinction between the two is as follows: Private family and friends care arrangements are placements made by a parent with or without a level of departmental support or assistance. Children placed under this category are not looked after children. Public family and friends care arrangements are placements made with respect of children looked after by the local authority. The scope of this policy is limited to public family and friends care arrangement i.e. placement of children Looked After by the Local Authority either as a result of an interim or full care order (Section 38 or 31 of the Children s Act 1989), or under a voluntary agreement with the child s parent (Section 20 of the Children s Act 1989). Please refer to Annex A: Caring for Somebody Else s Child Option to review various options and associated legal framework in relation to Family and Friends care. 1.4 Related Policies London Borough of Hounslow also has other policies and procedures in operation which have relevance for the Connected Person (Family and Friends) Foster Care Polices and Procedures. These policies should be cross-referred as per the needs of the case. The policies are as follows - London Borough of Hounslow Fostering Policies and Procedures December London Borough of Hounslow Fostering Panel Procedures, June Hounslow Adoption Procedure Manual, June 2012 Hounslow Special Guardianship Manual, June 2012 London Borough of Hounslow Private Fostering Policies and Procedure (Updated June 2011) London Borough of Hounslow Kinship Allowance Scheme

7 This document does not repeat the information already contained in the above mentioned policies and procedures save where necessary. 1.5 Key Principles underpinning the Policy A child s welfare is of paramount consideration. The needs and wishes, welfare and safety of the child will be at the centre of all work in relation to family and friends care. For most children, the best prospect of achieving permanence will be living with their birth parents without the need for a legal order. The child s parents / others with parental responsibility should be empowered in the decision making about where the child lives. The local authority will only seek to interfere with a parent s authority to make decisions about where the child lives when it is necessary to safeguard the welfare of the child. When a child cannot remain with, or return to, their birth parents, the preferred option is for the child to live with a member of their family and friends network occasionally without the need for a legal order. Where a legal order is required to secure a connected person/ family and friend care living arrangement, this can be achieved through a residence order, special guardianship order, or an adoption order. Children living with a connected person /family and friends carer should only be looked after if it is in their best interest. When the child is looked after by the Local Authority this should be seen as a temporary measure until full permanence can be achieved. Not all connected person/family and friends care living arrangements need the intervention of the local authority. Some are established independently between 7

8 the child s parent(s) and the connected person/family and friend carer. The local authority would not ordinarily become involved with these arrangements unless it is deemed necessary to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. When the local authority does become involved in the arrangements for a child living with, or going to live with, a connected person/family and friends carer this should be based on a thorough assessment of the child and the connected person/family and friend carer. Achieving stability in placements for children will be a key consideration of the authority where it considers the relative merits of connected person/family and friends placement for a child. Every effort will be made to support carers to provide a stable and permanent home for a child through provision of support services, which take into account the individual needs of children and the adults of the family. Anti-discriminatory practices and equal opportunity practice will be considered in relation to both the assessment and the provision of support. Issues of race, culture, language, religion, disability, sexuality, and gender will be taken into account in all decision making processes. Working in partnership with families and other agencies will be vital to achieving successful outcomes for the children cared for by family and friends carers. Service users will be provided with appropriate information to ensure that they understand the way London Borough of Hounslow s services operate. Service users will also be advised of other agencies that they may wish to contact. Children, connected person (family and friends) foster carers and parents who are in receipt of services will be consulted about processes and decisionmaking that will affect them. 8

9 Service users will be informed about how they can make use of the formal complaints procedures. 1.6 Management and Accountability Chris Hogan, Assistant Director, Children Specialist Services will have the overall responsibility for implementation and ongoing review of the Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster care policies and procedures. 2. Legal Framework, Regulations and Guidance 2.1 Legislations, Regulations and Guidance The following legislation, regulations and guidance are directly applicable to connected person (family and friends) foster care: The Children Act, The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Vol. 2 Care Planning, Placement & Case Review, SF Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities, The Fostering Services (England) Regulations Fostering Service National Minimum Standard DFE

10 2.2 Children Looked After by the Local Authority The policies and procedures outlined in this document are applicable to placement of children looked after by the Local Authority, with a family member, friend or any another other person connected with the child. A child may be looked after as the result of an interim or full care order in place (Section 38 or 31 of the Children Act 1989), or under voluntary agreement with the child s parent (Section 20 of the Children s Act 1989). When a child is looked after, the local authority must safeguard and promote child s welfare. It is also under a duty to accommodate and maintain the child. At the time of the placement the social worker would discuss the child s situation and clarify to all concerned if the child is being placed under looked after arrangements or family arrangements If the child(ren) is looked after by the Local Authority, then prior to any placement, the carer (even if a close relative) must be approved as the Local Authority s foster carer, through the usual fostering assessment and approval process (Refer to Section 5) Regulation 24 1 allows for emergency placements of a looked after child(ren) with a family and friend carer (or any other Connected Person) following the successful completion of the suitability assessment and temporary approval of the carer as the local authority s foster carer (for a period not exceeding 16 weeks) (Refer to Section 3). 2.3 Parental Responsibility Where the child is looked after by the local authority (under a care order or interim care order or voluntary accommodation) and placed with a connected person, family member or friends approved as a connected person (family and friends) foster carer, parental responsibility is shared between the child s parents and the local authority the connected person (family and friends) foster carer will not have parental responsibility for the child. 1 Regulation 24 of The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2 Care Planning, Placement and Case Review 10

11 Where the child is looked after by the local authority under a voluntary agreement with the child s parent and placed with a connected person (family and friends) foster carer, parental responsibility is held by the child s parent. The connected person (family and friends) carer will not have parental responsibility for the child. 3. Immediate Placements with a Connected Person Suitability Assessment and Temporary Approval as a Foster Carer (Regulation 24) As already mentioned to enable connected person/ family and friend care arrangement for a looked after child, the proposed carer must be approved as a foster carer under Fostering Regulation (2011). However there will be circumstances when the most appropriate placement for a looked after child is with a family member, family friends or a connected person and the need for such placement is urgent, but it is not possible to fulfil all the requirements under The Fostering Services (England) Regulations (2011) in approving the person as a local authority foster carer before placing the child. For such a scenario, Regulation 24 and 25 (of the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Vol. 2 Care Planning, Placement and Case Review) set out arrangements for temporary approval of a connected person as a foster carer to allow an immediate placement. (See Annex F for Regulation 24 and 25) The sub sections below outline London Borough of Hounslow s procedures in relation to suitability assessment and temporary approval. 3.1 Suitability Assessment Children looked after by London Borough of Hounslow shall only be placed with a connected person, family or friends carer following a positive suitability assessment and their temporal approval as London Borough of Hounslow s connected person (family and friends) foster carer by the agency decision maker i.e. Assistant Director, 11

12 Specialist Services. Note: Placement without such an assessment and temporary approval shall be deemed unlawful. Within London Borough of Hounslow it shall be the responsibility of the social work team making the placement decision to undertake the suitability assessment of the prospective carer and seek temporary approval from the agency decision maker. The assessment should ideally be undertaken by the child s allocated social worker (who is likely to best know the child s needs and family dynamics), in exceptional circumstances the assessment can be undertaken by the line manager or duty social worker or any other qualified social worker. In undertaking the assessment the assessing social worker should make contact with duty social worker in Adoption and Permanency Team in order to a) alert them to ongoing suitability assessment and prospect of full connected person (family and friends) fostering assessment b) seek advice and guidance. The suitability assessment should be undertaken using Connected Person (Family and Friends ) Suitability Assessment template (See Annex C Connected Person(Family and Friends) Suitability Assessment). A working template is available on the U: Drive. The assessing social worker must ascertain as much information set out by the questions on the suitability assessment template, as is possible in the circumstances of the case. This will include conversations with the family members about any criminal conviction; health and lifestyle issues; practicalities surrounding care of the child; assessing accommodation and sleeping arrangement; safety planning; role of the local authority and expectations from the carer. The child s wishes and feelings about the proposed arrangement must be ascertained. 12

13 Every effort must be made to maximise the level of information and quality of information available to support the decision as to whether the person should be temporarily approved. In particular, the assessment must assess the quality of any existing relationship between the child and the prospective carer. The intention of this provision is that the connected person has an existing relationship with the child. There may be some circumstances where the connected person is known to the child s parents or other person with parental responsibility but is not known to the child. In such circumstances the child must be introduced to the connected person and the proposed accommodation in order for the child s wishes and feelings to be appropriately ascertained. The assessing social worker must undertake necessary checks i.e. Police National Computer Check (through CAIT), current and previous Local Authority check including but not limited to social care database and checks with NSPCC. It is not a requirement that CRB disclosure is received prior to temporary approval as a foster carer. If the prospective carer has an existing CRB check the assessing social worker shall view the same and note it as such. CRB checks on behalf of London Borough of Hounslow shall be applied by Adoption and Permanency Team as part of full fostering assessment. The assessing social worker should however liaise with the Adoption and Permanency team to obtain CRB forms and give these to the prospective carer to complete in order to speed up the process. Checks should also be undertaken with the GP regarding proposed carer s health. Prior to obtaining any of the above checks and undertaking the assessment the social worker should obtain carer s consent and make them sign a declaration in relation to the assessment. (See Annex B Carer s Declaration and Consent Form). The Declaration and Consent Form are available on the U: Drive. 13

14 The proposed carer and the London Borough of Hounslow shall enter into a written agreement reflecting terms and conditions outlined in Annxe D Care Agreement and Arrangements. The agreement is available on the U: Drive. Overall, the assessing social worker and those granting approval must be satisfied that the proposed placement is the most suitable means of safeguarding and promoting the child s welfare and placement cannot wait until full approval process is complete. The completed assessment shall to be authorised by the line manager and respective head of service before being presented to the Assistant Director, Specialist Services (Agency Decision Maker). 3.2 Temporary Approval Within London Borough of Hounslow it shall be the agency decision maker i.e. Assistant Director, Specialist Service who will have the final authority to grant or refuse the prospective carer(s) time limited (temporary) approval as London Borough of Hounslow s foster carer. The approval is only for a limited period and cannot exceed 16 weeks (counted from the start of placement of the child with the connected person - under looked after arrangement). If it is anticipated that the placement is required for longer than 16 weeks immediate arrangements shall be made to commence full fostering assessment with a view to present the case before the fostering panel (See section 5). 3.3 Extending Temporary Approval Regulation 25 (Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations-2010) sets out the circumstances in which, exceptionally, the period of temporary approval may be extended. These circumstances are either: 14

15 a) where the full approval process has taken longer than anticipated (and in these circumstances the temporary approval may be extended for a further 8 weeks); OR b) where the connected person has not been approved following the full fostering assessment process (under Fostering Regulations 2011) and seeks a review of the decision through the Independent Review Mechanism (and in those circumstances the temporary approval will continue until the outcome of the review is known) The regulation states that if these time periods expire and the connected person has not been approved as a foster care in accordance with The Fostering Services (England) Regulation 2011, the local authority must arrange for an alternative placement and remove the child from the care of the connected person in accordance with regulation 25(6). Notwithstanding the above there can be occasions where extension period is exhausted and the authority still find itself in a position where full approval is held up due to minor technicalities or procedural delays and on balance continuation of the placement is in the best interest of the child. In such circumstances the fostering panel and agency decision maker shall take legal advice and act in child s best interest. There may also be circumstances where appropriate legal advice and approval from court may be required before the child can be moved to an alternative placement. The allocated social worker and assessing social worker should anticipate any such difficulties and start planning accordingly in order to avoid continuation of an unlawful placement. 3.4 Right to Review There is no right to review under the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) for the person who is temporarily approved under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (2010) if the local authority decides not to undertake a full assessment under the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 and the child s placement is ended. 15

16 The carer and other affected parties shall have the usual rights under local authority s complains procedures, access to independent reviewing officer and child s guardians (in case of court proceeding) to make any representations against the decision made by the local authority. 4. Planned Placements with a Connected Person Where possible, placements with Connected Person/Family and Friends should be planned to enable a thorough and full assessment of the proposed carer under Fostering Service Regulation prior to the placement. In such a scenario child s allocated social worker is required to undertake a suitability assessment of the proposed carer using Family and Friends Carer s Suitability Assessment template (See Annex C) and send it to Adoption and Permanence Team for, Fostering Assessment (under the Fostering Service Regulations). The placement (under Looked after Arrangements) is likely to be made following carer s approval as London Borough of Hounslow s Connected Person(Family and Friends foster carer. This sort of planning is of particular importance in children s cases under Public Law Outline (PLO)/ long standing Child Protection where care proceeding may be imminent and alternative carers may have been identified following PLO meeting / family group conference. There may be circumstances where despite planning and preparation immediate placement with the proposed carer may become necessary whilst fostering assessment is underway. In such a scenario all aspects of temporary approval Regulation 24 and 25 (outlined in Section 3) will apply. 16

17 When undertaking suitability assessment for planned placement, the social work team should also give careful consideration to relative merits of other legal options for securing child s placement with the proposed carer such as Special Guardianship and Residence Order. The carer should be provided with information regarding various legal options, their implications, and encouraged to seek independent legal advice. 5. Fostering Assessment and Approval under Fostering Service Regulations Key Responsibility In London Borough of Hounslow the responsibility for undertaking assessment of Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster carers, under Fostering Service Regulation 2011, is assigned to the Adoption and Permanency team. This team is also responsible for SGO and Adoption assessment plus overall permanency planning including long term fostering. The child s allocated social worker is responsible for promptly sending the completed Connected Person (Family and Friends) Suitability Assessment to Adoption Duty in order for the Fostering Assessment to commence. The Adoption and Permanency Team Manager/Practice Consultant has the responsibility for allocating the case to a social worker for assessment and on going supervision. The allocated social worker from the Adoption and Permanency team will be the carer s assessing and supervising social worker (in cases where the carer has been granted temporary approval). The carer will be sent an application pack containing the introductory letter, application forms, CRBs forms (if not given already), medical assessment form. Where required 17

18 the assessing/supervising social worker shall be responsible for supporting the carer in completing the application form and associated documentation. The assessing/supervising social worker shall be responsible for booking a date for the case to be presented at the fostering panel prior to end of 16 week approval period. 5.2 Planning and Consultation It is important that there is forward planning and ongoing communication between the allocated social worker and the assessing/supervising social worker. This will lead to a robust & an informed assessment and prevent delays. As part of planning for the assessment, there shall be a planning meeting between the allocated social worker, assessing/supervising social worker and their respective line managers no later than 4 weeks from the receipt of the suitability assessment. The purpose of the initial meeting will be to a) discuss the child s care plan b) share information about the child, carer and the family c) divide assessment responsibility between the two workers and set target completion date d) set information sharing protocols including invites to various meetings/hearings associated with the case e) prepare for the fostering panel f) set date for review planning meeting. There can be as many review meetings as necessitated by the needs of the case. Subsequently these meetings will get linked to the process of Permanency Planning Meetings for the child. The responsibility of co-ordinating, chairing and keeping records of these meetings shall rest with the Adoption and Permanency Team. 5.3 Fostering Assessment It is the role of the assessing/supervising social worker to explain to Connected Person (Family and Friends) carers the fostering task, its requirements and expectation and their role in supervising and supporting the placement. 18

19 All carers should be given informative material regarding Connected Person/Family and Friends Care such as those produced by BAAF and Family Rights Group. They should also be provided information about local support groups/ voluntary organisations specialising in supporting connected person (family and friends) carers and invited to any relevant induction training offered by the West London Adoption Consortium (WLAC). Connected Person (Family and Friends) fostering assessment is currently undertaken using BAAF Form C. The child s allocated social worker completes section A1, A2, B1; B2 (which relate to the child and the birth family) and the assessing social worker complete rest of the sections. (Please note: London Borough of Hounslow is currently reviewing the use of Form C with a view to introduce a different format. Connected Person (Family and Friends) Foster Care polices and procedures will be updated to reflect the change.) Whilst for the purposes of writing up the assessment the two social workers may focus on their specific sections in Form C, in practice however they should contribute to each others understanding on all aspects of the assessment and contribute to the entire assessment. This can only be possible by maintaining open communication and information sharing throughout the assessment process. The completed Form C needs to be reviewed and authorised by the line managers of both the social workers. The assessment needs to cover all matters detailed in Regulation 26 and Schedule 3 of the Fostering Services (England) Regulation The assessing social worker should also refer to the National Minimum Standard for Foster Care and in particular Standard 30, which relates specifically to Connected Person(Family and Friends) Foster Carer. 2 The Fostering Services (England) Regulation National Minimum Standard For Foster Care

20 For related information please refer to London Borough of Hounslow Fostering Policies and Procedures. Connected persons/ family and friends Carers often regard the assessment process as intrusive and for many the process can be very challenging. Carers should be given full details of the assessment process and what the assessment will cover and the reasons for this. Assessment should look at the capacity of the carer to meet the needs of the particular child, highlighting strengths and how any risk or concerns might be reduced by the provision of support, provided the safety of the child is not compromised. The assessment should also look carefully at what support might be needed to help the family support contact arrangement and assist their assuming different roles with the child. Further guidance on completing Form C assessment is provided with the assessment form. Social Workers should ensure that they include in their assessment observations of the child with the family that are separate from the interviewing process. Assessments should include consultation with other professionals involved with the child and family and consideration should be given to interviewing birth parents in order to help understand family relationships and dynamics. 5.4 Statutory checks Applicants must undergo statutory checks as follows CRB, medical, Local Authority, housing, environmental health, NSPCC. Applicants should be asked to give their written consent to these checks. Every household member over the age of 16 must complete a CRB check. They should be asked to give their written consent to these checks. Employment checks also need to be undertaken. 20

21 During the assessment all applicants should identify the significant people in their networks who will either regularly stay overnight in the home or who may offer them direct support in terms of childcare. The assessing/supervising social worker in consultation with the line manager shall determine which of these people require CRB check. The assessing/supervising social worker will ensure that CRB and medical forms are completed as soon as possible and no later than the second visit. They will also ensure that the relevant ID has been seen and obtained in order to process CRB checks. This is detailed in the CRB pack. The assessing/supervising social worker will ask carers to book an appointment with their GP to complete their medical at the earliest possible date and ensure that this takes place. The administrator will write to the carer s GP and ask them to complete the medical and invoice the department for payment. S/he will also process the CRB and complete the Local Authority, housing, environmental health, NSPCC checks. The administrator will notify the assessing/supervising social worker of the outcome of these checks and record them appropriately. 5.5 References and other Interviews The prospective connected person (family and friends) foster carers are required to provide details of 4 personal referees, who are adults and have known the prospective carer for at least five years. Referees should know the prospective carer in a personal capacity rather than just being work colleagues. If a couple has applied, then at least two referees should know them as a couple. Referees should reflect the different stages of the prospective carer s life. A written reference will be obtained from the prospective connected person (family and friends) foster carer s employer where the applicant is or has been employed to work with children in any capacity. 21

22 The Adoption Administrator will send a letter to request references (along with a proforma for the referee to complete. The reference request letter will explain: the confidentiality of the reference; with whom the information may be shared; how the information may be used in the assessment. When each written reference is received, the assessing social worker will arrange to meet the referees and interview them in person to explore their views about the prospective carer s capacity to care for the specific child and where appropriate the impact of the placement on family relationships. The assessing social worker will talk through the reference with the referee and come to a view on the weight to be attached to the reference in the light of: how well the referee knows the prospective carer; how the referee understands the challenges involved in the placement of the specific child with the prospective carer. If a referee appears not to have a good knowledge of the prospective carer, or not to have any understanding of what is involved in family and friends care, the assessing social worker will invite prospective carer to nominate another referee. If a referee raises serious concerns, the Team Manager for Adoption and Permanency Team will make a decision whether or not to complete the assessment. In such a case the assessing social worker must not disclose the source of the information to the prospective carer. The assessing social worker will also ascertain whether: the prospective carer has been married previously and is divorced or separated; or 22

23 the prospective carer has been in a long-term relationship with partner of the same or different gender (other than the current partner). If this is the case, the assessing social worker will contact the former partner(s) to seek their views on the ability of the prospective carer to provide a safe home for the child and offering the opportunity to raise any concerns about issues such as child abuse or domestic violence. The assessing social worker will exercise the greatest sensitivity in any discussions about this as the current partner may not be aware of previous relationships and this information cannot be shared without the prospective carer s express permission. The supervising manager of the Adoption and Permanency Team will decide how far back these enquiries with former partners should go, depending on the prospective carer s history. Prospective carers may be unwilling for enquiries to be made with ex-partners, e.g. because they fear this will provoke a violent or hostile response. In this situation, the supervising manager will consider whether seeking this information may cause harm to the prospective carer and/or their family. London Borough of Hounslow will use its discretion, in exceptional circumstances, not to undertake this exercise. If the prospective carer has adult children (i.e. over the age of 18 years) living outside the household, the assessing social worker will ensure that they are sent a standard letter seeking their views about whether the prospective carer can provide safe care for the child and offering the opportunity to raise any concerns about issues such as child abuse or domestic violence. If the information received from former partners or adult children raises concerns the assessing social worker will discuss these concerns with the supervising manager. All or some of the following actions may be taken: conduct further investigation and obtain supporting evidence (e.g. court papers); interview additional referees who knew the couple at the time; 23

24 decide whether the assessing social worker should re-interview the person concerned to clarify what is being said before raising the issue with the prospective carer. Where the prospective carer has nursery or school age children, the assessing social worker will telephone the relevant nurseries or schools (with the written permission of the prospective carer) for information regarding the welfare of the child and the prospective carer s ability to promote the child s education. As references are provided to the London Borough of Hounslow in confidence, the assessing social worker will not include the reports on them in the BAAF Form C which will be seen by the prospective carer but will submit them separately to the Fostering Panel for Approval 5.6 Health Information All prospective connected person foster carers must have a full medical examination and agree to a written report being obtained from their General Practitioner on their health and any other relevant medical issues. 5.7 Health and Safety A full health and safety assessment will be undertaken of the applicant/s home, looking at all issues related to safety and potential hazards. Applicants will be fully informed of the outcome and will receive advice in relation to any alterations required around the home. 5.8 Pet Assessments A Pet assessment must be completed on all applicants who have pets in the household. 24

25 5.9 Smoking It is the department s policy that children under the age of two should not be placed with carers who smoke. However, in the case of Connected Person (Family and Friends) placements these risks will need to be balanced against the benefits of the placement for the child. The prospective carers should be informed of the health implications for the child if they continue to smoke, actively encouraged to quit smoking and in the interim advised to smoke outside the house Completion of the assessment The assessing social worker should give the carer a copy of their assessment (Form C) and give them the opportunity to make any comments, which they can record on the assessment format Fostering Panel The completed assessment (BAAF Form C) needs to be presented before the fostering panel for recommendation of carer s approval as London Borough of Hounslow s Connected Person (Family and Friends) Foster Carer for the named child(ren) Paper Work for the Panel When seeking recommendation in relation to Connected Person (Family and Friends) carers the following documents need to be presented before the fostering panel BAAF Form C along with references Named Child(ren) s up to date Looked After Care Plan The fostering panel administrator shall be responsible for requesting relevant paperwork from the child s allocated social worker and the carer s assessing social worker. 25

26 Attendance at the Panel The panel should be attended by the assessing social worker, child(ren) s allocated social worker and their respective line managers. All applicants should be invited by the fostering Panel Administrator Agency Decision Maker Assistant Director, Specialist Services The agency decision maker- Assistant Director, Specialist Services is responsible for making the decision to approve the carers as London Borough of Hounslow s Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster carer for the named looked after child, following the recommendation by the Fostering Panel. For more information in relation to the roles and duties of the agency decision maker please refer to London Borough of Hounslow Fostering Panel Policies and Procedures, June Delegated Authority: Head of Safeguarding, Review & Quality Assurance and Head of Placement & Leaving Care Service have been nominated to discharge the functions of agency decision maker (Fostering Service), in absence of the Assistant Director. 6. Training to National Standards Once approved as Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster Carers, the carers need to meet the relevant Training, Support and Development Standards of Children Work Force Development Council (CWDC). The Connected Person (Family and Friends) Carer will be required to evidence that these standards have been fulfilled within 18 months of their approval. 26

27 The supervising social worker and others within the Adoption and Permanence Team will ensure that the carer has access to training offered by the West London Adoption Continuum (WLAC) and encourage them to attend the training. The supervising social worker will be responsible for ensuring that the carers complete their portfolio within timescales and offer them practical support for the same. 7. Annual Reviews In accordance with The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, Regulation 28(1) all carers are required to have their approval reviewed at least annually. The aim of the review is to establish the continuing suitability of the carer(s) to carry out the fostering task and as such this includes the suitability of both the carer(s) concerned and members of their household. In addition to an annual review, a review may be held following any significant incidents complaints or allegations of abuse or neglect. It is important to point out that the reviewing process allows for full consultation with the carers concerned. The reviews, which are required to be presented back to the Fostering Panel, are: First Review following the approval Significant change of circumstances (including request for change of approval terms) Complaints, allegation of abuse or standards of care issue Recommendation of termination Any other contentious issues that the Head of Service feels require independent decision making Serious health issues identified 27

28 7.1 Procedures for Carer s Annual Review Please refer to London Borough of Hounslow Fostering Panel Policies and Procedures, June 2011 for specific procedures and pro formas related to Carer s Annual Review (Point E 1.11 and E 1.12 Page 47-62). 8. Fostering Allowance and Support Services 8.1 Fostering Allowance Connected Person (Family and Friends) carers who are approved by the local authority as foster carers for the named Looked after Child(ren) are entitled to receive a fostering allowance. The allowance is payable from the day of the child s placement with the carer under looked after child arrangements. The Connected Person (Family and Friends) carers fostering allowance is not meanstested. The Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster carers receive the equivalent of Hounslow s basic fostering allowance. In special circumstances, additional payments can be made to assist children with special needs by payment of the enhanced allowance. These fostering payments are governed by London Borough of Hounslow s Kinship Allowance Scheme. Please refer to Kinship Allowance scheme 2011/12 for details in relation to the rates and categories of spend. 28

29 Subject to assessment, Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster carers may also receive special discretionary payments by the area team responsible for named Looked After Child(ren) s case management for the following- Initial clothing grant Initial furniture grant for items such as beds, cots, chest of drawers Possible assistance with travelling cost when travelling significant distance to meet child s appointment. These discretionary payments are made by the area team(s) and require the approval of the child s allocated social worker s team manager 8.2 Support Services The local authority recognises that most children who are looked after may have suffered or be suffering from the effects of neglect, physical or emotional abuse. They may be at risk of further harm as a result of past experiences unless specific support is provided both to the child and the carer. A child in Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster care remains looked after by the Local Authority and will have a Looked After Child Care Plan outlining the provision to meet the child s needs. So long as the child remains looked after he/she will be subject to statutory reviews (usually at least every six months) at which the care plan will be reviewed. The Care Plan will also identify what assistance the carer will require to meet the child s needs. In addition to the Care Plan the child will also have a Health Action Plan and Personal Education Plan. The connected person (family and friends) carer will also have access to various support services which include: The carer having an assessing/ supervising social worker (from the Adoption and Permanence Team) who will be responsible for assessing, supervising and supporting the carer. (For details in relation to the Role and Responsibility of the 29

30 supervising social worker please refer to London Borough of Hounslow- Fostering Policies and Procedures Jan 2012, Section E.1.2 Pg. 3-6) The carer will be offered the option to attend regular support groups for foster carers A post-approval induction programme will be implemented for the Connected Person (Family and Friends) carers through WLAC. As outline in point 6 the carer will be provided with access to training programmes around meeting the needs of the looked after children, general fostering tasks and/or management of challenging behaviour (in line with Fostering Service Regulations 2011, National Minimum Standards and CWDC) The carer will be advised about access to other professional support services and agencies. These services and agencies will be made available as appropriate to the carers e.g. health, education and psychological advise. The carer will be advised and supported in relation to managing contact between the child and the birth parent including managing family dynamics. 9. Visits by the allocated Social Worker The child placed under Regulation 24 should be visited at least weekly until the time of the first Looked after Review. Subsequently, visits must take place at intervals of not more that four weeks until the carer is approved under Fostering Service Regulation, Thereafter the child must be visited at interval of no more that six weeks for the first year of the placement. If the Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster carer is subsequently granted Special Guardianship or Residence Order then social work visits should continue to be at the interval of no more than six week, until the case is formally closed to children services If the Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster carer is approved as long term foster carer for the named Looked After Child(ren); in those circumstances, the interval between visit in the second and subsequent years of placement must not be longer than three months. 30

31 However, as good practice, the frequency of visits should be determined by the circumstances of the case and the arrangements must be made to visit whenever reasonably requested by a child or the carer regardless of the status of the placement. 10. Permanency Planning Permanency planning should be prioritised for all looked after children and process should ideally commence as soon as the child becomes looked after. The social work team with case management responsibility shall endeavour to send a Referral for Permanency Planning to the Adoption and Permanence team within 10 working days of the child becoming looked after. Adoption and Permanence team shall endeavour to set the first Permanency Planning Meeting within 4 weeks of the child becoming looked after. There shall be regularly review meetings till such time that a permanency option is identified and endorsed. In case of child(ren) placed with Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster carer(s) the permanency planning meeting can help explore permanency options with the current carer under orders such as Special Guardianship or Residence Order. 11. Consultation and involvement in Decision Making The Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster carer(s), children and young people and their parents should be consulted and involved in all matters relating to the child and young person s day to day and overall care planning. They should be invited to key meetings related to the child and young person such as Looked after Review, Personal Education Planning Meeting, and Placement Planning Meeting etc. They should also be provided copies of the documents such as the Looked after Care plan, Placement plan, Health Action Plan and personal education Plan. 31

32 12. Complaints Procedures A copy of London Borough of Hounslow s Complaints Procedures should be given to the carer, children and young people and their parents. The Children and Young people may need to be facilitated in accessing and using the complaints procedures. The carer, children and young people and their parents can also make representation against Local Authority s decisions at the Looked After Review, through court appointed Guardian (in case of ongoing care proceeding) or their own legal representatives. 13. Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) The Connected Person (Family and Friends) foster carer(s) also have rights under Interdependent Review Mechanism (IRM) to seek a review of fostering services provider s qualification determination 4 made in relation to them. As mentioned previously, there is no right to review by the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) of a person who is temporarily approved under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (2010) if the authority decides not to undertake a full assessment under the Fostering Regulations 2011 and the child s placement is ended. 4 A "qualifying determination" is a determination made by an fostering service provider that it considers a prospective or existing foster carer is not suitable to foster a child, and does not propose to approve him/her as suitable to foster a child. A qualifying determination will be issued after either an assessment report or a review report has been prepared and considered by the agency decision maker. 32

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