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6.6.1 Long Term Fostering

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AMENDMENT

In March 2018 this chapter was substantially revised and updated and should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. Long Term Fostering Policy Statement
  2. Placement Options for Permanence
  3. Criteria for Long Term Fostering
  4. Long Term Fostering
  5. Procedure for Long Term Fostering
  6. Matching Meeting
  7. Approval of New Carers
  8. Change of Approval from Short-Term to Long-Term
  9. When Current Short Term Carers offer a Long Term Placement to the Child Seeking Permanence
  10. Independent Agency Short Term Carers
  11. Prospective Adopters being Approved as Foster Carers
  12. Panel Procedures for Matching
  13. After the Panel Meeting
  14. Visiting Arrangements
  15. Flowchart


1. Long Term Fostering Policy Statement

Hertfordshire County Council believes that all children have a right to grow up safe and free from harm, with opportunities to maximise their potential to develop and grow and to feel secure. Hertfordshire County Council will provide services to promote and secure the upbringing of children by their birth families wherever possible and when in the best interests of the child.

Hertfordshire County Council believes in the fundamental right of every child to belong to a family which can meet its needs during childhood and beyond, family and Connected Persons need to be considered first. If no family or connected persons deemed suitable, the preferred option for all children is adoption, especially for under 10’s but if not possible, SGO’s and long term fostering should be the alternative option.

The child's welfare, safety and needs will be at the centre of this procedure.

The child's wishes and feelings will be actively sought and taken into account in the implementation of this procedure.

Any individual need of a disabled child or a child with special needs will be taken into account when decisions are made in connection with this procedure.


2. Placement Options for Permanence

Placement Options for Permanence (See also Permanence Planning and Placement Procedure).

When birth parents are unable to look after and bring up their children they may be able to make secure suitable arrangements for them through Private Law applications, (for Guardianship or Child Arrangements Orders) (See Private Law Applications (including Section 7 and Section 37 Reports)), or through adoption within the family, or by an informal arrangement with another family member.

In these circumstances the child will not become Looked After and this procedure does not apply to those children.

Where a child has become looked after by Children’s Services (Social Care), it may become clear that the child will need alternative care which will last into adulthood and beyond.

A safe and sustainable plan which removes the need for the child to be Looked After long term will usually be the preferred care option for the child.

For most children who become looked after returning to the birth family will be the preferred pathway to permanence. Proactive case management and working with birth parents is crucial for successful reunification. Any return home must be planned and well managed. Before and after the return there needs to be:

  • Evidence of improved parenting capacity including measurable improvements  in the areas of original concern;
  • An evidence based  risk assessment;
  • Provision of services to support the plan;
  • The views and wishes of the child must form an integral part of the plan.

Wherever possible this will be sought and identified within the wider family in a Connected Person arrangement, and will be achieved through the making of an Adoption Order, or more probably a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order (refer also to Placements with Family and Friends/Connected Persons Policy and Placement Procedure (Including Regulation 24 Placements), Special Guardianship Orders Policy and Procedure, and Child Arrangements Order Policy and Procedures). When the Friends and Family or Connected Person Foster Carers  become the long term foster carers, the arrangement does not need to be considered at the Fostering Panel re: Matching as such issues will have been addressed at the Fostering Panel re: Approval.

When placement within the wider family is not an option the child's needs for legal and emotional security (permanence) may be obtained through adoption by adopters not known to the family. (See Part 8 of this manual, Adoption and Permanence).

Foster carers may also seek a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order in order to share Parental Responsibility for a child or young person they are caring for and to end the period of being Looked After for the child.

(Hertfordshire County Council can offer financial support to current foster carers for a child who wish to share Parental Responsibility in this way where it is clearly in the child's best interests. See Part 8 of this manual, Adoption and Permanence and Special Guardianship Orders Policy and Procedure for further guidance).

However it is understood that for some children none of these alternatives will be available, for any of a number of reasons, and they will remain Looked After by the County Council.

Security, continuity and stability may be provided for these children through a long term fostering placement which can meet their needs into adulthood. Potential long term foster carers will be made aware of HCC’s Staying Put Policy and be prepared to consider this if it becomes appropriate to do so.

In order to maximise opportunities for these placements to be sustained and secure for the child/young person they must be well planned. The strengths and vulnerabilities of both the child and the proposed long term carers must be assessed with particular regard to their ability to manage the relationship between the child and the birth parents safely and any support needs of the child or the carers must be explicitly addressed.

In order to provide the best options for children and to maximise the use of potential resources the needs of children and potential placements with carers will be considered on a county wide basis.

This means there will be a 'pooling' of potential carers in order to help identify the most appropriate likely resource to meet the needs of a named child.

When considering how best to provide a sense of permanence for a young person plans must take account of the strengths of existing relationships, the young person's sense of identity, views about themselves and their preferences, and how best to provide continuity as well as permanence.

In instances where the adoption plan has been reversed and the child / young person’s plan changes to Long Term Fostering, authorisation needs to be obtained from the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) before this occurs.


3. Criteria for Long Term Fostering

Long term fostering will be the preferred placement option where:

  • A Family Group Conference (See Family Group Conferences Procedure) has been held and assessments of family members have not been successful in identifying potential carers to meet the needs of the child or young person. A permanency planning meeting has looked at the options for the child’s best interest and concluded that long term fostering is the best option having ruled out the alternatives i.e. adoption, connected persons and SGO’s;
  • The Permanence Plan must recommend that placement within the family is not possible;

    or

  • A child or young person has had a previous adoption placement which has disrupted;

    The Permanence Plan must recommend that further attempts to place for adoption are inappropriate;

    The adoption agency decision maker must be asked to re-consider the suitability of the child for adoption;

    or

  • A child is over the age of 10 years;

    The Permanence Plan has recommended that adoption is not appropriate;

    or

  • A child is under 10 years old, has frequent contact with family members and has a strong sense of identity with the family;

    The Permanence Plan must have recommended that adoption is not appropriate for a child in this situation;

    or

  • Where a child is under 10 years old and adoption has been agreed by the adoption agency decision maker as the most appropriate plan for the child, but all reasonable attempts to identify potential adopters for the child have failed, both within the county and externally;

    A revised Permanence Plan must recommended that further attempts to place for adoption are inappropriate (delay in securing permanence);

    The Adoption Panel must be asked to re-consider the suitability of the child for adoption;
  • Some children will be long term fostered by children with Friends and Family/Connected Persons Foster Carers, who have already been approved as a match with the child. The preferred Permanence Plan for such children is SGO or Adoption.

Whatever the circumstances, the statutory review for the child must endorse the plan for long term fostering as the appropriate Care Plan for the child, and a review should be brought forward if necessary to avoid delay.

Where there is a sibling group of children who are Looked After, planning decisions about long term placement of choice will be made on a case by case basis, considering the needs of each child individually and making decisions about best possible outcomes for each child.

Workers should use the Sibling Checklist CSF4218 as a tool in assessing relationships within sibling groups and how best to maintain important sibling relationships which can increase resilience for children.

Placement Plans for Long Term Fostering must be prepared and:

  • Sets out how the placement will meet the child’s needs;
  • Ensures the child’s well-being is safeguarded and promoted;
  • Ensures the child’s wishes and feelings are included;
  • Evidences that the IRO has been consulted;
  • Evidences the child’s family were consulted (where appropriate).


4. Long Term Fostering

Decisions about long term fostering will be made in order to meet a child's physical and emotional needs and to provide a sense of permanence and identity, which are crucial to the development of the child's sense of self-worth and ability to form satisfying relationships in the future.

It is intended that a long term fostering placement will last throughout childhood and into adulthood, including Staying Put, as appropriate for that young person.

'Long term fostering' as a term will be restricted to care planning for permanence.

The plan for long term fostering can be decided at the initial stages of permanency planning, or it can be the result of a change in plans at a later date. For example, if the plan to return home has changed and a young person does not wish to be adopted.

Regardless of whether the placement identified as long term is within their current placement or a new placement, the placement will be formally identified as a long term placement in accordance with The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (June 2015) when the following steps have been taken:

  • Long term foster care is the ‘plan for permanence’ and is recorded in the child’s care plan;
  • The foster carer has agreed to act as the child’s foster carer until the child ceases to be looked-after; and;
  • The responsible authority has confirmed the arrangement with the foster carer(s), the birth parents and the child.

In instances where children / young people are residing in placements indefinitely, the placement will not be considered a long term placement until the above measures have been completed.

A child under 14 years old will be considered for long term fostering unless  circumstances dictate otherwise. Where this is not appropriate the care plan needs to clearly record the reasons why and be documented on the child’s LCS profile.

For children age 14 and over, the decision for Long term Fostering may be ratified outside of the Fostering Panel by the IRO at a CLA Review.

Decisions regarding agreement for Long Term Fostering must be clearly recorded on LCS by:

  • Completing the Work Flow Pathway that identifies long term fostering;
  • Ensuing long term fostering is chosen as the option under the tab for CLA Placement Type’;
  • Completing a case record to include the date the decision for long term fostering was made and by whom, and any actions are required;
  • Notifying the panel administrator and team manager of the decision.


5. Procedure for Long Term Fostering

This section does not apply to children placed with Friends and Family/Connected Persons Foster Carers.

The recommendation for long term fostering as the placement option of choice for any child will be made as part of the Permanence Plan or a revised Permanence Plan. This should be attended by the fostering team, the child’s social worker, the current foster carers and or family finder if available.

Following this recommendation a Long Term Fostering (Family Finding) Referral Form should be completed and sent to the Fostering Team, identifying the need for a long term fostering placement.

Long term fostering placements are planned, individually considered, and matched placements. They are not identified by the Brokerage Team. Requests for a long term placement should not be made to the Brokerage Team, but directly to the long term family finders who sit as part of the fostering teams.

The recommendation of the Permanence Plan for long term fostering must be confirmed at the child's CLA review as it may represent a change in the Care Plan. The review should be brought forward if necessary to avoid delay in implementing the plan.

In some circumstances the agency decision maker may need to be asked to re-consider their recommendation.

However, in order to avoid delay, work can commence associated with identification of a long term placement.

HARP permission to move a child will need to be sought.

'Parallel planning' for a child may involve assessment of family members as potential connected persons and simultaneous work to identify potential long term foster carers.

Where this is the case, the potential family carers should have a speedy but robust viability assessment to establish whether a fuller assessment of their capacity to meet the child's needs in the long term is appropriate.

In order to try and avoid the need for multiple family assessments (adding to delay) other family members should be encouraged to support the identified potential carers through offering respite, holidays etc. and by maintaining an interest in the wellbeing and development of the child.

In order to begin Family Finding the Fostering Team will need:

The Fostering Team will identify a worker to take on the Family Finder role for the child, and will begin to look for potential long term carers for the child, initially from within the county's known foster carers expressing an interest to offer long term care. This piece of work may include a family finding meeting to further identify the child’s needs; ethnicity, geographical etc.

When a possible family (or families) is/are identified general information about the child (which does not identify him or her) will be provided to the potential carers by the child’s social worker and/or the family finder social worker.

This information will include factual details about age, gender, any health considerations or disability, any Special Educational Needs for example.

The supervising social worker, of the potential  carer, and/or the Family Finding social worker and the child’s social worker will meet any/all potential carers together to answer any questions and to provide further information about the child's needs.

The potential carers should also have an opportunity to meet and hear about the child from the current carers, supported by their supervising social worker, unless deemed inappropriate in any particular situation.


6. Matching Meeting

This section does not apply to children placed with Friends and Family/Connected Persons Foster Carers.

A 'needs and matching' meeting will be held to discuss the child's assessed needs, and the alternative long term fostering placements available, to identify the carers most likely to be able to offer secure and sustainable care into adulthood.

When potential carers are identified a matching meeting needs to be arranged.

People attending the meeting should include:

  • The child's social worker;
  • The Team Manager for the case holding team;
  • The Fostering Team Manager of the child's current placement;
  • The current carers and the supervising social worker;
  • Where appropriate, others who can help with the decision making and planning for the child;
  • The worker with the Family Finding role for the child.
The 'needs and matching' meeting will be chaired by the Team Manager of the Fostering Team for the child's home area.

The meeting will consider the options available and will make a recommendation about the preferred long term foster carers.

The person chairing the selection and matching meeting will complete the Child's Permanence Needs and Matching Report CS0252F50 as a record of the evidence used in decision making for the child.

The social worker for the child will provide the Child's Permanence Report which should provide comprehensive information about:

  • The current and predicted needs of the child;
  • The child's experiences to date;
  • The nature of the child's attachments;
  • The child's behaviours, responses to particular situations, likes, fears, favourite things and activities;
  • Anything else that will assist the carers to understand the day to day needs of the child.

Contributions from other professionals or the Child and Family Assessment or any other assessment can be included.

Where there are developmental or health issues that may impact on the child's future needs, it will be good practice for the prospective long term foster carers to be given an opportunity to meet with the Medical Adviser for the Panel.

The fostering supervising social worker will complete the short to long term review

If the preferred carers are not yet approved by Hertfordshire County Council Fostering Panel as long term carers, the recommendation will be 'in principle' pending their approval. (See Section 7, Approval of New Carers).

The proposed match will need to be presented to the next available Fostering Panel for recommendation, and be approved by the agency decision maker.


7. Approval of New Carers

Where the preferred prospective long term foster carers are not currently Hertfordshire County Council carers, they will have to be assessed as new carers for the county and be approved a long term carers by Hertfordshire's Fostering Panel.

When the Friends and Family or Connected Person Foster Carers become the long term foster carers, the arrangement does not need to be considered at the Fostering Panel re: Matching as such issues will have been addressed at the Fostering Panel re: Approval.

This assessment will follow the assessment process for all applicants; will include attendance at 'Skills to Foster' workshops, evidence of competencies etc. Their assessment and training may be focused around the specific needs/experiences and behaviours of the particular child.

When the selected carers have been approved as long term carers by the Fostering Panel, formal 'matching' with the child can be presented to Fostering Panel for consideration.

The approval as long term carers and matching can take place at the same Panel meeting, so long as carers are recommended for approval before any recommendation for matching.


8. Change of Approval from Short-Term to Long-Term

This section does not apply to children placed with Friends and Family/Connected Persons Foster Carers.

If carers who are currently approved as short term carers for Hertfordshire seek to be approved as long term carers they must be re-approved by the Fostering Panel. The panel will need the Child's Permanence Needs and Matching Report CS0252F50. The short to long term fostering review and the child’s permanence report . See the Long Term Fostering Flowchart.

If carers who are approved by another agency as short term carers seek to be approved as long term carers they must be re-assessed and approved by Hertfordshire Fostering Panel as long term carers.

Medicals

New medical assessments will be required of carers from other agencies who seek to become long term carers for Hertfordshire.

Where the carers are approved as short term carers for Hertfordshire the Medical Adviser should be informed of the carers' intentions to seek re-approval.

This will allow consideration of any possible impact of any medical condition on the carer's proposal to change to long term carers

An up to date medical will be required if the previous medical was completed over one year ago.


9. When Current Short Term Carers offer a Long Term Placement to the Child Seeking Permanence

In some situations foster carers form a close attachment to a fostered child and when the plan changes to long term fostering the current short term carers may ask to be considered as long term carers for the child. See the Long Term Fostering Flowchart.

Such placements may promote the security of a child and encourage further development of attachments to the carers and their family.

In some cases foster carers may wish to share Parental Responsibility for the child and will seek a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order, and the child will cease to be looked after. See Special Guardianship Orders Policy and Procedure).

Where carers seek to remain as foster carers and change their approval to long term foster carers in order to continue caring for a child in placement with them each case must be considered individually, bearing in mind:

  • The current and likely future needs of the child;
  • The availability of alternative approved long term foster carer;
  • The length and quality of the current placement, the quality of the attachments already formed;
  • The risks to the child in a change of placement;
  • The contact plans (if parents and family members are aware of the current placement, will there be additional risks if the placement becomes the plan for permanence);
  • The plans of the carers in respect of other short term placements and the impact of these on the child needing permanence via long term fostering.

The Child's Permanence Needs and Matching Report CS0252F50 must be completed by Supervising Social workers, and a matching meeting needs to be arranged (as per section 6) with the case holding social workers assistance, for carers approved as short term carers who wish to become long term carers.

The foster carers review and recommendation for change of approval needs to acknowledge the different tasks and roles for carers when caring for an individual child until their independence and beyond.

The capacity to be able to provide the young person with the sense of permanence and to more fully integrate the child into the carers' family needs to be evidenced.

The proposals as to how the family intends to meet any identity, cultural or religious needs of the child need to be explicit, and put forward for panel's consideration where the placement is not a cultural match.

The supervising social worker needs to ensure that the carers have considered the impact on themselves and different members of their family of a decision to commit themselves to the long term care of this child.

The child's social worker needs to consider how the skills and competencies of the known carers can be harnessed-if they can-to meet the changing needs of the child through the rest of his or her growing up.

The advantages of maintaining existing relationships (if of quality) and existing networks that contribute to resilience (school, leisure activities) should be balanced against risks associated with age or health issues for example.

The panel will need this form together with the minutes of the Panel when the carers were originally presented for approval if within the last five years.


10. Independent Agency Short Term Carers

Where the current short term carers for a child are approved by another agency, and there is evidence that the placement is the most likely to meet the long term needs of the child the carers must be encouraged to become Hertfordshire County Council carers. If the carers do not agree to become Hertfordshire County Council carers, HARP (see Hertfordshire Access to Resources Panel (H.A.R.P) and Delegated Authority for Resource Agreement Procedure) permission to be sought from HARP regarding funding and movement.

Where it is agreed that this provides the best care and placement option for the child the carers must be approved as long term carers by their own agency panel.

Once approved as long term carers the 'matching' must be done by Hertfordshire Foster Panel.

It will be a condition of approval as long term carers that no other child will be placed without the prior knowledge and agreement of Hertfordshire County Council.

No short term placement should be made within the first year of a long term placement decision, and after that period none should be made without Hertfordshire County Council having an opportunity to assess any likely impact on the child /young person in long term placement.

This undertaking needs to be made explicit and written into contracts prior to commitment to long term funding.

See the Long Term Fostering Flowchart.


11. Prospective Adopters being Approved as Foster Carers

If prospective adopters request to be approved as foster carers, see Fostering for Adoption Procedure.


12. Panel Procedures for Matching

If the Foster Carers are approved Hertfordshire Foster carersl (i.e. in-house foster parents) the panel will need:

  • Carer’s review Short Term - Long Term;
  • Updated medical in relation to Long Term;
  • Child’s Permanence Report on each child;
  • Matching Report on each child;
  • Permanency Planning Meeting - summary sheet.

If the foster carers are approved by an Independent Fostering Agency

The Brokerage Accommodation Team should obtain confirmation that the carer(s) are approved as long term foster carers. If they are not, the foster carers must first  have their status, as long term foster carers, approved by the Fostering Panel of the Independent Fostering Agency.

Then the Hertfordshire’s Fostering Panel will need:

  • Up to date carer’s review (within last 3 months);
  • Review to address understanding of difference between short term and long term;
  • Why carers want long term for these children;
  • Evidence of relationship with children in placement, managing behaviour;
  • Ability to manage children into adulthood;
  • Short report from independent fostering agency manager that they agree with recommendation;
  • Confirmation that all checks are up to date, including a new medical update in relation to long term;
  • Child’s Permanence Report on each child;
  • Matching report on each child;
  • Permanency Planning Meeting - summary sheet.


13. After the Panel Meeting

It is considered good practice to mark this event in the life of the child.

The agency decision maker will be invited to send a letter to the child/young person, foster carer(s) and parent(s) confirming the long term placement decision.

A placement planning meeting should be convened as soon as possible after the recommendation for 'matching', in order to plan in detail the work to be completed with:

  • The child making sense of their script more work on wishes and hopes for the future planning goodbyes working out contact checking and rechecking that the child is 'moving' emotionally;
  • The child's family continuing support planning contact, dealing with any conflict checking and rechecking that they understand the plan and its' implications;
  • The current carers and their family continuing support planning introductions and move considering any other children in placement and impact considering carers' children and impact;
  • The long term carers and their family work with the carers and their children continuing work around contact preparation for managing changing relationships.

For more information regarding the Panel Recommendations and ADM decision process see the Fostering Panel Procedure.


14. Visiting Arrangement

In accordance with the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2015 (section 3.234) once a child or young person has been in long term placement for at least one year and the placement is stable, the frequency of visitation may be extended to no more than 6 monthly intervals. The decision to change frequency of visits should be determined by circumstances and agreed upon. The frequency of reviews may also be reduced and this would be agreed upon by all parties and documented within the child’s Placement Support Plan. (See Statutory Visits to Children Looked After Procedure).


15. Flowchart

Click here to view the Long Term Fostering Flowchart.

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