Placements with Parents
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTERThis procedure applies to any placement of a child, on a Care Order or an Interim Care Order, with a parent or person with Parental Responsibility or person who held a Child Arrangements Order specifying with whom the child is to live immediately before the Care Order was made, for more than 24 hours.
1. Planned Placements
In exceptional circumstances a child may be placed without the immediate need for the following procedures; please see Section 2, Immediate Placements.
A child must not be placed with parents if that would be incompatible with an order as to contact under Section 34 Children Act 1989.
The Local Authority should consider whether the Care Order is still required. The Authority and parents may agree to apply to discharge the Care Order; such an agreement must include the level of support and supervision by the Local Authority, and co-operation by parents.
The Authority must provide such services and support to the parents as appear to be necessary to safeguard and promote the child's welfare, and record details in the Care Plan and Placement Plan (see Section 6, Recommending the Plan as to additional information to be provided).
1.2 Approval of Decision to Place Child with Parents
A decision to place the child with the parents must not be put into effect until it has been approved by the Nominated Officer (the Designated Manager (Placement with Parents) and the Placement Plan prepared.
The Nominated Officer must be satisfied that:
- The child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
- The assessment of parents' suitability to care for the child (see below) has been completed;
- The placement will safeguard and promote the child's welfare;
- The Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted.
1.3 Consultation before Placement
Before a child is placed, the following people must be consulted and their views accounted for:
- The child;
- Both parents (including a parent who is not the proposed carer of the child);
- Any person with Parental Responsibility;
- Any other member of the family who is significant to the child;
- Relevant health practitioners including any health visitor known to the child, the child's GP, as well as the GP and any health visitor known to the person with whom it is proposed the child will be placed (with the person's consent);
- The child's school and the local education service where the child will live;
- The child's current foster carer and supervising social worker or the manager of the children's home currently caring for the child;
- The Probation Provider if it has contact with the family;
- The Police;
- The Youth Offending Service;
- The relevant Children's Services Department if the child is placed in another local authority's area;
- The child's Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO).
The consultation should be formal. The persons being consulted should be written to, requesting their views on the proposed placement. It is important that those who are consulted should reply in writing; their written replies should be placed on the child's case record.
If appropriate a letter should also be sent to the child, as part of the consultation process with the child.
Minutes of the Looked After Review which recommended the child's placement can be taken as a written record of the consultation with those in attendance.
1.4 Assessment and Checks before Placement
The suitability of the proposed placement should be assessed through:
- Obtaining relevant information about the proposed main carer or carers and all members of the household (including checks of Children's Services Records and with the carer's GP);
- Inspecting the accommodation;
- Checking the proposed carer and all members of the household aged 18 years and over with the Police (Public Protection Unit);
- In addition, the parents and adult members of the household can be asked to apply for a basic DBS check if they live in England and Wales, or Disclosure Scotland if they live in Scotland, (see DBS Basic Checks Guidance).
1.5 Assessment of Parents' Suitability to Care for the Child
Before deciding to place a child with parents, the Local Authority must:
- Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the Local Authority, the placement will safeguard and promote the child's welfare and meet their needs as set out in the Care Plan; and
- Review the child's case;
- Assess the suitability of the parents to care for the child, including the suitability of the proposed accommodation and all other members of the household over 18.
Take into account:
- The parents' capacity to care for children. Where a child has suffered, or was likely to suffer, significant harm the assessment should address 'what has changed in parental capacity and circumstances that indicate this placement will be in the child's best interest and will promote safe care?' In particular in relation to the child:
- To provide for the child 's physical needs and appropriate medical and dental care;
- To protect the child adequately from harm or danger, including any person who presents a risk of harm to the child;
- To ensure that the home environment is safe for the child including, where relevant, the need for a risk assessment of any pets and the environment in which they are kept;
- To ensure that the child's emotional needs are met and they are provided with a positive sense of self, including any particular needs arising from religious persuasion, racial origin, and cultural and linguistic background, and any disability the child has;
- To promote the child's learning and intellectual development through encouragement, cognitive stimulation and the promotion of educational success and social opportunities;
- To enable the child to regulate their emotions and behaviour, including by modelling appropriate behaviour and interactions with others;
- To provide a stable family environment to enable the child to develop and maintain secure attachments to the parents and other persons who provide care for the child.
- The parents' state of health (physical, emotional and mental). This includes the parents' medical history, including current or past issues of domestic violence and abuse, substance misuse or mental health problems;
- The parents' family relationships and the composition of the parents' household, including:
- The identity of all other members of the household, their age and the nature of their relationship with parents and one another, including any sexual relationship; their relationship with any parent of the child;
- Other adults who are not members of the household but are likely to have regular contact with the child;
- Current/previous domestic violence and abuse between household members including the parents.
- The parents' family history, including:
- The particulars of the parents' childhood and upbringing, including the strengths and difficulties of their parents/carers;
- The parents' relationship with their parents and siblings, and their relationships with each other;
- The parents' educational achievement, including any specific learning difficulty/disability;
- A Chronology of significant life events;
- Other relatives and their relationships with the child and parents.
- Criminal offences of which the parents have been convicted or cautioned;
- Parents' past and present employment/sources of income;
- The nature of the neighbourhood and resources available in the community to support the child and parents:
- In relation to other members of the parents' household, the assessment must take account of the above considerations except (d), (f) and (g);
- The assessment should include any available information about the parents' previous experiences of looking after children. Where a parent has other children subject to care/adoption orders, earlier case records should be explored to ascertain the circumstances which led to social work involvement, and any indication that the capacity of the parent to bring up children has changed.
1.6 Recommending the Plan
In normal circumstances, the child's placement with their parent must be part of the Care Plan, upon the recommendation of a Looked After Review. If the child has previously suffered Significant Harm when living with the parent, and continues also to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the Looked After Review should actively consider the recommendations of a Child Protection Review Conference before itself recommending the child returns home.
The recommendations of the Looked After Review (and Child Protection Review Conference where applicable) will then be sent to the Nominated Officer Designated Manager (Placement with Parents), together with the Care Plan and proposed Placement Plan and a written report covering the following:
- Summary of child's and family's history;
- Summary of how and why the child came to be in care;
- Summary of plan for the child when they originally came into care;
- Details of proposed placement with the parent/s including:
- Any therapeutic input that may be required to assist the child and/or parents to acknowledge the reasons for the child being placed in care, to ensure there is no minimisation of previous actions and to assist in the process of coming to terms with any trauma that may previously have occurred;
- Outcome of the assessments, consultations and enquiries made, including an assessment of the parents' ability to meet the identified needs of the child;
- Aims and objectives of the proposed placement (there needs to be great clarity about why this placement is being proposed) and long term plan for the child;
- Any identified areas of risk involved in the placement;
- Support and services to be provided to the family and child to meet the child's needs;
- Details of supervision of placement;
- Arrangements for the child's education;
- Contingency plans in case of breakdown.
1.7 Short Term Placements
Where the relevant plan provide for a series of short term placements of a child with a parent, the requirements as to consultation, enquiries and checks can be carried out once only rather than every time a placement is made, provided that:
- All the placements take place within a 12 month period;
- No single placement is for a period of more than 17 days; and
- The total duration of the placements does not exceed 75 days.
If a series of short-term placements is part of a longer-term rehabilitation plan, further consultation and approval must be obtained before the rehabilitation plan is extended and/or the child is returned to the parent's full-time care.
1.8 Post Placement Arrangements
Once the child is placed, the child's social worker should undertake the notifications and other arrangements set out in Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure.
1.9 Ending of Placement
Wherever possible the decision to end a placement should be made at a Looked After Review and the ending should take place in a planned way. In Re DE (A Child) , the High Court stated that not less than 14 days' notice of a removal of the child should be given to the parents, save in an emergency.
The Court further stated that any removal of a child in circumstances where the child's welfare does not require immediate removal, or without proper consideration and consultation, is likely to be an unlawful interference with the rights of the parent and child under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In emergencies, the social worker must discuss the case with their manager, who will make the decision. Legal advice should always be sought. The Care Order gives the local authority power to enable the child to be removed by the social worker but this power should only be used after obtaining legal advice; the use of other orders (e.g. a Recovery Order) might be appropriate in some circumstances.
All those notified of the placement starting should be notified, in writing, when it ends; preferably notifications should be made prior to the ending, or as soon as practicable thereafter.A letter should also be sent to the parents and child explaining why the decision was made.
2. Immediate Placements
Placement of Child with Parents before Assessment Completed
There is a new provision that, where the Nominated Officer considers it necessary and consistent with the child's welfare, the child may be placed with parents before the Assessment of Parents' Suitability to Care for the Child has been completed, provided:
- Arrangements are made for the parents to be interviewed to obtain as much of the assessment information as can be readily ascertained at that interview;
- The assessment and the review of the child's case are completed within 10 working days of the child being placed;
- The decision on placement is made and approved within 10 working days of the assessment being completed, and
- If the decision is to confirm the placement, the Placement Plan is reviewed (and if appropriate amended);
- If the decision is not to confirm the placement, the placement is terminated.
Practitioners should also seek to meet with all other members of the household before placing the child. This is particularly relevant to identifying issues such as domestic violence and substance misuse which may impact on the child's safety.
A 'Working Agreement' should be completed by the practitioner with the parents to clarify the expectations of the parent(s) and ensure the child is safeguarded and their needs are met during this temporary phase before the Statutory Review.