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Practice Guidance for Connected Persons

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Initial Family and Friends Care Assessment: A Good Practice Guide (Family Rights Group 2017) - This resource outlines what a viability assessment for family and friend carers should look like, what social workers should consider and how to undertake international assessments.

AMENDMENT

Section 6, Types of Connected Person Assessments was updated in August 2017 to include a reminder that one of the matters which should be considered when placing a child with a Connected Person is an initial risk assessment of any pets, together with the environment in which the pet is kept.

1. Definitions

Kinship Care Assessment/Family & Friends Assessment has changed under the most recent regulations. These categories of carers are now called Connected Persons

Family and Friends foster care is a formal arrangement where the child is looked after by the Local Authority and placed with a relative, friend or Connected Person.

'Relative of Friend' is defined as a: grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or by marriage), step-parent, or friend of the child.

'Connected Person' is anyone who has a pre-existing connection to a child through their extended network. This may be someone who knows the child in a more professional capacity such as a childminder, a teacher, a youth worker, although these are not exclusive categories.

Family & Friends/Connected Persons care can therefore be defined as an arrangement where:

Children are living with a relative, friend or Connected Person away from their parental home because they cannot live with their parents.

The placement has in some way been assisted or initiated and/or is supported by Children Services often with a view to securing permanency via a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order.

The child would otherwise be in 'stranger care.'

Under the new regulations, before a child who is subject either an Interim Care Order, Care Order, or is to be, or is currently Accommodated under Section 20, can be placed with a friend or relative, an assessment must be completed under Regulation 24 - Schedule 4 Connected Person Practice Guidance.

Temporary approval is given by a Designated Manager.

Placements that are made without an assessment and approval by the Designated

Manager are deemed as "unregulated" under the regulations.

The CoramBAAF Form C is to be used for Viability Assessments and Temporary Approvals

3. Process

Before a placement can be made with a relative or friend, the 'Connected Person', a Viability Assessment of the connected person using the relevant parts of CoramBAAF Form C must be completed.

Where the Viability assessment is positive the next stage is to build on this with the same form for the Temporary Approval Assessment. The Form C must be sent to the designated manager for approval of the connected person as a temporary foster carer/s under Reg 24.

If approval is agreed by the nominated person, the child is placed with connected person as a Child Looked After.

A Connected Person who is caring for a child on an Interim Care Order, Care Order or who is accommodated under Section 20 must be presented to the fostering panel for full approval after 16 weeks whether or not the child's Care Plan is to be cared for under Special Guardianship/Child Arrangements Order or remain with their carers as a looked after child

A Connected Person approved under Fostering Regulations 2011 will be entitled to the same supports and services, including fostering allowances, as are available to unconnected foster carers, so long as they meet the appropriate competence criteria.

4. Collaborative Practice

  1. It is expected that the child's social worker, assessing social worker and support social worker meet or hold a telephone discussion discuss the specific issues related to the plan a minimum of three times during the assessment. An initial, midway and final meeting/telephone discussion should be held;
  2. The child's social worker is expected to attend the Fostering Panel;
  3. When placing a child a copy of the connected person information booklet must be given to the prospective carer;
  4. When placing a child, completion of Disclosure and Barring Service checks are required on all in the household over the age of 16;
  5. An application form which contains the previous addresses and consent to undertake checks must be completed and signed by the applicant.

5. Guidelines for Connected Person (Family and Friends) Report (Form C)

Introduction

Form C is designed in a way that means it can be used in the assessment of Connected Persons at the various different stages of placement, and with the amount of depth appropriate to that stage. In other words, it can be used for viability assessments (to consider whether a full assessment should be undertaken), for temporary approval assessments, and for assessments of prospective foster carers and special guardians. It is intended that where an assessment has been undertaken using this form, any subsequent assessment takes that assessment, and builds on it. This means that the practitioner will not need to rewrite or repeat information that has already been set out, but will be able to concentrate on assessing in more depth, and for the specific purpose of the next stage.

Crucially, the way the form has been designed recognises that the assessment of Connected Persons needs to have a different focus than the assessment of strangers to care for children as either foster carers or adopters. Specifically, it is recognised that family and friends come into the process in relation to an individual child or children, who they usually know and have a relationship with, and see themselves not as part of a professional network, but as part of that child's existing social network. With this in mind, the guidance that follows intends to assist the practitioner in using Form C in a way that meets legal and practice requirements while at the same time being understandable and relevant to those being assessed.

Structure of this Form

Form C has been structured as follows:

Front sheet

Section A containing basic factual information under headings

  • A1 - the child(ren);
  • A2 - their birth family;
  • A3 - the applicants.
Section B containing more descriptive information under headings
  • B1 - the child(ren);
  • B2 - their birth family;
  • B3 - the applicants;
  • B4 - capacity to parent the child;
  • B5 - post placement considerations;
  • B6 - applicant's self report;
  • B7 - summary and recommendations.

Section C collates supplementary information to support the application, and contains chronologies, reports, references and other supporting documentation. Only part 3 and 9 relevant to Temporary Approval assessment.

Section D is a checklist of references and statutory checks that are required or recommended. Only relevant to Full Fostering or SGO Assessment and not required for Temporary Approval.

Section E is a competency table that summarises how the prospective carers have met the competencies required of foster carers, and highlights areas for development. Only relevant to Full Fostering or SGO Assessment and not required for Temporary Approval.

Section F provides evidence about the extent to which applicants meet the required Training and Development Standards and plans future development. Only relevant to Full Fostering or SGO Assessment and not required for Temporary Approval.

As noted above, not all parts of the form are relevant or applicable to every type of assessment, and guidance about how best to use these forms is provided in the following section. Relevant sections have been colour coded for ease of reference.

6. Types of Connected Person Assessments

Viability Assessment

Before a placement can be made with a relative or friend, the 'Connected Person', the expectation is for the allocated social worker of the team holding case responsibility to complete a Viability Assessment of the Connected Person using the relevant parts of CoramBAAF Form C (This for form replaces any Viability Assessment Template previously used by Kirklees in any proceedings or placement);

Please note viability assessments are the first stage of determining whether a person is suitable to be considered to care for a looked after child and should still be seen and signed by the relevant team manager of the assessing social worker;

A viability assessment is a relatively brief assessment undertaken to decide whether a full assessment should be embarked upon. It is necessary to focus on the key areas that might indicate whether someone is potentially suitable to look after a child, usually as a foster carer or special guardian.

There are no regulatory requirements around the completion of a viability assessment, and so the assessor can use Form C in a flexible way. It is envisaged that sections A1, A2 and A3 will be completed first to set out the basic factual information, and that B1 will then be used to identify the child or children's needs.

The assessor can then begin to get more background information about the applicants as identified in section B3, and work with the applicants to look at how they can meet the child's identified needs, completing aspects from section B3 and B4 as appropriate. Applicants should be encouraged and supported to complete B6 the self report section where they want to do this, and the viability assessment is then concluded by making a summary and recommendation using the section B7.

In situations where an assessor is needing to consider more than one potential carer's viability for the same child or children, then it is anticipated that sections A1, A2, and B1 will be identical for each assessment (so long as the child's wishes and feelings are considered in relation to all prospective carers).

List of relevant parts for A Viability assessment

  • A1;
  • A2;
  • A3;
  • B1;
  • B3 (parts highlighted);
  • B4 (parts highlighted);
  • B6 (optional); and
  • B7.

Temporary Approval Assessment

Under Regulation 24 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 the local authority may approve a Connected Person as a temporary foster carer for up to 16 weeks subject to an assessment before the child is placed. Statutory guidance makes clear that temporary approval is intended to be used exceptionally, where the connected person is already known to the child, to avoid an unnecessary move to a stranger foster carer, and in "circumstances which could not easily have been foreseen".

Where the Viability Assessment is positive the next stage is to build on this with the same form for the Temporary Approval Assessment. This is additional information requested in the Form C and sent to the Designated Manager for approval of the Connected Person as a temporary foster carer/s under Regulation 24. The nominated officer must be satisfied that the temporary approval of Connected Person is the most appropriate plan for the child;

In deciding whether family and friends should be temporarily approved as foster carers, the Designated Manager should take into account the needs of the child or children to be placed and the capacity of the carer to meet those particular needs, and therefore whether it is seen as in the child's best interests to be placed with them. In order for the placement to be in the child's best interests, the carer will need to have the capacity to meet his/her needs for the duration of the placement, whether this be short or long term. The likely length of the placement, the age of the child and if appropriate, as may be the case where the carers are older, the capacity of the wider family to contribute to the child's long term care should be taken into account.  Where it is assessed that the family and friends carer could meet the needs but will require some support or services to be able to do so, these should be specified.

If approval is agreed by the Designated Manager, the child is placed with Connected Person as a Child Looked After.

Matters to be taken into account when assessing the suitability of a Connected Person: Within the CoramBAAF Form C

  1. The nature and quality of any existing relationship with the child;
  2. Their capacity to care for children and, in particular in relation to the child, to provide for his/her physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care; to protect the child adequately from harm or danger including from any person who presents a risk of harm to the child; to ensure that the accommodation and home environment is suitable including, where relevant, an initial risk assessment of any pets, together with the environment in which the pet is kept; in relation to the child's age and developmental stage, to promote his/her learning and development; to provide a stable family environment which will promote secure attachments for the child, including promoting positive contact with parents and other connected persons, unless this is not consistent with the child's welfare;
  3. State of health (physical, emotional and mental), and medical history including current or past issues of domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems;
  4. Family relationships and the composition of the household, including particulars of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of any relationship with the  connected person and each other including any sexual relationship; any relationship with the parents; any relationship between the child and other members of the household; other adults (not members of the household) likely to have regular contact with the child; any current or previous domestic violence between members of the household, including the connected person;
  5. Their family history, including their childhood and upbringing, and the strengths and difficulties of their parents or others who cared for them; their relationship with parents and siblings and each other; educational achievement and any learning difficulty/disability; chronology of significant life events; particulars of other relatives and their relationships with the child  and the connected person;
  6. Any criminal offences;
  7. Past and present employment and other sources of income;
  8. Nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child  and the connected person;
  9. The child's wishes and feelings (subject to age and understanding) must be ascertained and recorded;
  10. The views of parents /those with Parental Responsibility must be obtained.

This temporary approval can be extended for up to 8 weeks (if it is likely to expire before the assessment is completed) or until the outcome of the review (if the outcome of the assessment is that the Connected Person is not approved and seeks a review).

Before deciding whether to extend the approval, the Local Authority must consider if the placement is still the most appropriate placement available, and it must be considered by the Fostering Panel

In order to comply with regulations, it is necessary to complete sections:

  • A1;
  • (A2 would have been filled in viability stage);
  • A3;
  • B1 (parts highlighted);
  • B3 (parts highlighted);
  • B4 (parts highlighted);
  • B7 (parts highlighted);
  • C3; and
  • C9.

 

7. Assessment and Approval of Connected Person as Foster Carers

If the plan is for the placement to last longer than 16 weeks, the fostering assessment process should commence as soon as possible after the placement is made and the child's social worker should make a referral to the Fostering Service immediately so that a social worker will be allocated for this purpose. 

The relevant sections of the Connected Persons C from should be should be sent to the Fostering Service as part of the referral. This should be accompanied by the applicant's bank details, application and consent to foster forms.  

A file will be opened for the foster carer's assessment. The Team Manager /allocated assessing social worker will immediately arrange for a slot to be booked on the Fostering Panel within 16 weeks for the assessment to be considered;

The allocated social worker will liaise with the child's social worker to discuss the plan for the assessment and check the process of the DBS and other checks undertaken by the child's social worker.

The allocated worker will explain the assessment process to the carers and provide them with written information.

The procedure for the assessment and approval is as for all applicants - see Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

If and when the carers are approved as foster carers, the procedures in relation to support, supervision and review of the foster carers are the same as for all approved foster carers.

In order to comply with regulations, it is necessary to complete sections:

  • A1;
  • A2;
  • A3;
  • B1;
  • B2 (part);
  • B3;
  • B4;
  • B5;
  • B6 (optional);
  • B7 (part);
  • Section C;
  • Section D;
  • Section E (optional);
  • Section F (optional).

8. The Placement

When a child is to be placed with a Connected Person a Placement Planning Meeting should be held before the placement or, where this is not possible because of the urgency of the placement, within 5 working days.

On the placement of the child, the child's social worker will ensure the child's Care Plan and the written Placement Plan is given to the carer.

If the child was not previously Looked After, the child's social worker will send a notification of the child's placement and a request for the child's first Looked After Review to the Child Protection and Review Unit.

If the child was already Looked After, the social worker will send notification of the placement to the child's Independent Reviewing Officer.

The child's social worker must visit and see the child alone in the placement (unless she/he refuses) each week until the first Looked After Review and thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks during the period of temporary approval. The visits are to be fully recorded as statutory visits.

Notification of the placement will also be sent by the child's social worker to the relevant local Children's Services Department if the placement is in a different local authority area.

The child's social worker will notify all family members consulted and involved in the decision-making process of the placement.

These notifications must be made in writing, advising of the placement decision and the name and address of the person with whom the child is to be placed. They must be sent before the placement wherever possible or within 5 working days of the placement.

The child's social worker should also notify - preferably in writing but it may be verbally - all those involved in the day to day arrangements for the child, including nursery/school, GP and any health professional or YOS worker actively involved with the child.

It will be necessary for the child's social worker to ensure the child is registered with a GP, Dentist and Optician, either retaining practices known to him or her (which is preferable) or in the area where they are placed.

In relation to a first Looked After placement it will also be necessary for the social worker to arrange a Health Assessment - see Health Care Assessments and Health Plans Procedure.

The social worker must also arrange for the completion of a Personal Education Plan - see the Education of Children in Care Procedure.

Every effort should be made to enable the child to remain at the same school unless there are reasons which would be detrimental to his or her well being.

9. Supervisory Responsibilities

The allocated social worker for the child is responsible for the overall assessment and service provision to that child; for conducting the initial screening of the prospective carers using the CoramBAAF Form C, obtaining management approval for the placement, for referring to the appropriate fostering team and for supervision of the placement. The Fostering Team will allocate a supervising social worker to the connected carer on placement of a child in cases where this is required

The child must be seen in placement alone, (wherever possible and unless they are of an age and understanding that they can refuse) and their bedroom seen. They should be seen within the first week of their placement then at intervals of no more than 6 weeks.

10. Ending the Placement

When the placement ends, the child's social worker must update the child's electronic record and send notification to the finance section so that payments to the carer/provider will cease. (This can be done via the team manager of the fostering team)

The social worker will also send copies to those notified when the placement was made.

Where appropriate, consideration may be given to holding a Disruption Meeting in which case the procedure set out in Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure should be followed.

Trix procedures

Only valid for 48hrs