Children Placed with Parents for Assessment
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
There has been some uncertainty about the legal status of children placed with their parents in residential units; foster placements; extended family; or drug or alcohol rehabilitation units. Case law has defined these issues, and there are also clear Residential Family Centre Regulations (2002) and Fostering Services Regulations (2011) that assist us in the appropriate practice.
Where the child is the subject of a Care Order or Interim Care Order (ICO), the relevant legislative provision is Section 23 of the Children Act 1989 and the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 Regulations 17 to 19 will apply to the child's placement with P where:
- A person who is C's parent;
- A person who is not C's parent but who has parental responsibility for C; or
- Where C is in the care of the responsible authority and there was a residence order in force with respect to C immediately before the care order was made, a person in whose favour the residence order was made.
The child's legal status will usually be defined by the status of the child before s/he enters a particular establishment with the parent, but it is also affected by the nature of the establishment itself, and the purpose for which the parent and child are living there. All three elements need to be taken into account before a determination is made. If you remain at all unsure about the child's status, then advice should be sought from a more senior manager or Legal Services.
The most common scenarios are as set out in the sections below:
AMENDMENTThis chapter was added to the manual in October 2012.
1. Residential Family Assessment Units
These are assessment placements used for high risk scenarios where ability to parent safely on a day to day basis is in question. These placements will be increasingly rarely used, and this should only be in the context of Care Proceedings. Children in these circumstances will be Looked After Children, either under an ICO or sometimes Section 20. If the case is in Care Proceedings under the No Order principle, the child will be Section 20 when in the residential unit. There is no need for a Placement with Parents Regulations Form to be completed.
In very rare circumstances, it is possible for a child to enter a residential assessment unit with his or her parent for the purposes of assessment under Section 17. The child should not have been previously Looked After, or at the last Statutory Review, a formal decision will have been made that accommodation is no longer necessary. In these scenarios, legal advice should always be sought first.
2. Foster Placement
There are two different ways in which foster placements can be used in relation to parents and children.
If, on very rare occasions, the foster placement's primary purpose is to assess the parenting of the child, then this child is again Looked After, either under an ICO or Section 20. The parent may or may not be Looked After him or herself, depending on his or her previous status and age. Again, the Placement with Parents Regulations Form does not need to be completed.
If the foster placement is primarily designed to provide support to the parent because he or she is a Looked After child (and therefore under 18) and there is no ICO, then the child is not Looked After and the Care Planning, Placement and Review (England) Regulations do not apply to the placement.
Both of these scenarios are very unusual. A Pre-Birth Assessment would need to have been completed in both cases, and a GM reassured that proceedings were not required in the latter circumstance. There should be a clear plan in place for the child (either Child Protection Plan or Child in Need) to monitor and review the child's needs and safety entirely separately to the parent's own Review process.
If there was an ICO in relation to the child then the Care Planning, Placement and Review (England) Regulations 2010would apply to the child's placement.
Sometimes, there are also requests to provide foster placements to adult parents and children as a monitoring or support arrangement i.e. not for assessment purposes. These arrangements are very complicated, both from a legal and financial perspective, and should only be considered in very exceptional circumstances. Head of Service authorisation must be sought in all such cases.
3. Kinship/Connected Persons Placement
The child's status may vary depending on the individual situation. If the case is in proceedings and there is an ICO, and the parent and child are then living with, for example, maternal grandmother (already assessed), there are two possibilities. The first is that the child is actually being placed with the parent. The child is Looked After and therefore, the Care Planning, Placement and Review (England) Regulations 2010 are applicable and a form will need to be completed in order for the Head of Service to authorise the placement.
The second option is that the maternal grandmother is the main carer of the child, and so the child is Looked After but placed with the grandmother as an approved foster carer. In this instance, therefore, the placement is not regarded as 'with parents' under the Care Planning, Placement and Review (England) Regulations. There would, however, need to be a very tight written agreement about the exact responsibilities of the parent and the grandmother in respect of the child.
If, however, the child was accommodated under Section 20, the situation would be different. If grandmother was the main carer, the situation is the same as in proceedings. If, however, the child is returning to the parent's care, albeit in grandmother's home, the child ceases to be Looked After. A Looked After Review should be held before this move is made to consider this move, and again, a tight support plan is required.
4. Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Units/Hospitals
These are units designed primarily for adults, but which may be prepared to offer parent and child places. It is extremely important that legal advice is sought about these placements in advance of any agreement being made with the units. The Operations Director must also give authorisation for any placement of a child in such a setting as there may be significant placement costs.
Again, the original status of the child and the purpose of the placement are key in determining the child's status in placement.
If the parent enters a unit from the community and takes his or her child, the child is a Child in Need Section 17, and not Looked After. The unit is not assessing the parenting capacity of the adult; it is addressing the drug dependency etc.
If the case is already in Care Proceedings and there is an ICO, then the child retains his or her status as a Looked After child. The child is, however, in the care of the parent (the unit is not offering an assessment of the parenting), the Care Planning, Placement and Review (England) Regulations 2010 do apply, and a form will need to be completed in order for the Head of Service to authorise the placement.
The above can only be a general guide, as there are always exceptions to every set of circumstances. This is a particularly difficult area, fraught with potential safeguarding risks to the child and very significant financial commitments. If there is any doubt about the correct pathway to follow, please seek the advice of a Head of Service or the Legal Department.