Permanence Planning and Placement
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter focuses on Permanence Planning and placement. Permanence is a framework of emotional, physical and legal conditions that gives a child a sense of security, commitment, identity and continuity of care throughout their childhood and into adult life taking into account any cultural issues as they arise.
AMENDMENTIn March 2023, this chapter was updated and should be re-read in full.
1. Defining Permanence
Permanence Plans are required for all children who are looked after (except for those who start to be looked after at age 15+ years where the needs assessment and the Pathway Plan form the Permanence Plan).
Permanence for children and young people has three particular aspects:
- Legal - e.g. staying with birth parents who have Parental Responsibility; Adoption; or Court Orders such as a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order;
- Psychological - when the child/young person feels attached to an adult who provides a stable, loving and secure relationship;
- Physical or environmental - a stable home environment within a familiar neighbourhood and community where the child/young person's identity needs are met.
2. Key Objectives in Permanence Planning
The key objective of planning for permanence is to ensure that children/young people have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond. Every reasonable effort to prevent drift and delay for children or young people and to support children/young people to move out of the care system wherever possible and appropriate. Decisions need to be taken quickly as possibilities for reunification decrease markedly after four months, and the younger child/young person, at placement, the greater likelihood of him or her developing good attachments throughout childhood and into adulthood.
The question "how are the child/young person's permanence needs being met?" must be at the core of all work undertaken.
Where it is necessary for a child/young person to leave their family:
- This should be for as short a time as needed to secure a safe, supported return home; or
- If a child/young person cannot return home, plans must be made for alternate permanent care. Family members and friends should always be considered in the first instance with the permanence secured through the appropriate legal order to meet the child/young person's needs;
- Where it is not in the child/young person's best interests to live within the family network, it will usually be in the interests of the child/young person for alternative permanent carers to be identified and the placement secured through adoption, long term foster care, Child Arrangements Orders or Special Guardianship Orders;
- Residential group living is provided only when a need for this is identified within the Care Plan and when substitute family care is not appropriate. Some older children and notably those with severe disabilities may require a specialist residential facility. Whilst this is often a long term provision it should not be regarded as permanent and plans should include how the child/young person an be returned to the community and experience family life for at least some of the time;
- For older children arranging for their independent living must be considered.
Where it is clear that families and children are unable to live together, planning must be swift and clear to identify permanent alternative settings.
Wherever possible, care should be provided locally unless clearly identified as inappropriate.
Contact with the family and extended family should be facilitated and built on (unless clearly identified as inappropriate).
The professionals involved will work in partnership with parents/families to meet the above objectives. The wishes and feelings of the child/young person will be taken into account. The older and more mature the child/young person, the greater the weight should be given to their wishes.
When undertaking Permanence Planning, all workers have a duty to promote the child's links with his or her racial, cultural and religious heritage by:
- Wherever possible promoting placements enabling the child/young person to be brought up within the same racial, cultural and religious environment as their birth family;
- The identified placement does not have to be a cultural and racial match if the identified adopters are able to meet the child's needs (Pg 84 of Chapter 4 revised Adoption Act Guidance Feb 2011);
- Identifying a placement which will promote links for the child/young person's race, culture and religion, if the above is not possible.
Practice promoting race equality according to the child/young person's assessed needs must therefore be evidenced within the child/young person's Permanence Plan.
3. Planning for Permanent Placements
Permanence planning is a process and the child/young person's needs should be kept under review at all times. The timing of further permanence planning meetings should be determined by the following factors:
- Where there is a change in the child's circumstances or plan;
- Where assessments of possible carers are completed;
- At least 10 working days before the CLA review before the final hearing;
- Where requested by an IRO as part of the child's CLA plan;
- Where there is no final plan;
- If the outcome of further assessments changes the care plan a further permanence planning meeting needs to be arranged and a CLA review held to ratify the new plan.
At the first CLA Review the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) will record the decision that a Permanence Planning Meeting or discussion must take place no more than 10 weeks after the child became looked after.
The plan for permanence and the advice given by the Specialist Services will be recorded in the Care Plan, reviewed and revised whenever appropriate, between or prior to CLA Reviews. Advice from Specialist Services should be sought each time the permanence plan is revised.
Monthly Permanence Meetings are held, chaired by Head of Adoption and Fostering and attended by managers from Operational, Fostering, Adoption and Independent Review teams to track family finding progress for children subject of a permanence plan.
Parents and extended family must be given information regarding Children’s Services policy on Permanence at the earliest opportunity. If the plan is for adoption, a worker from the Adoption Team should provide ongoing support to the responsible social worker.
For children with links to a foreign country (e.g. foreign national child, a child with dual nationality or a British child of foreign national parents/origin) social workers should consider informing the relevant Embassy and work with colleagues abroad when exploring potential placements for a child with family members aboard. (see Working with Foreign Authorities: Child Protection Cases and Care Orders).
The Team Manager and Service Manager are responsible for driving forward the Permanence Planning following appropriate consultation with the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO). All permanent and long term placements, except Special Guardianship, will need to be approved at either the adoption or fostering panels (see Section 10.3, Adoption Panel and Fostering Panel Procedure).
Child In Need Meetings and Family Group Conferences (FGC) (see Family Group Conferences Procedure) provide an early opportunity for extended family and friends who may be able to care for the child/young person in the short or long term to be explored. This must be with parent's consent or by direction of the Court. For those where there is evidence of an existing relationship or interest and commitment to the child/young person, a Viability Assessment will be carried out. The social worker will compile a genogram/map of the child's extended family and social network.
If a decision is taken not to hold one of these meetings, the reasons for this must be recorded on LCS and agreed by the Team Manager.
A Permanency Planning Meeting (PPM) will be held for all children under 12 years of age. Children over the age of 12 years will not require a PPM. However the Care Plan must address issues of permanency. In exceptional cases the Service Manager, on recommendation from the Team Manager, can agree that a PPM is not required for children under 12 years of age.
If a PPM is not to be held, a discussion with a Specialist Team (Adoption and/or Fostering) must be held and recorded on the child's file. The decision not to hold a PPM must be recorded as well.
Different processes exist where the child/young person is a relinquished baby. The Adoption worker is the responsible social worker and the care planning is managed in the Adoption Team (see Relinquished Children Procedure).
4. Permanence Planning Meetings
The PPM or discussion with Specialist Service Teams, should occur at least two weeks before the second review. It will formulate the permanence plan to be presented to the second CLA review for ratification. It then becomes incorporated into the Care Plan, and is reviewed at EVERY CLA review and the IRO will take up issues if there is drift or delay. It must be kept up to date. For children who are the subject of care proceedings the Permanence Planning timescales must tie in to the Public Law Outline (PLO) timescales.
The child's care plan must be updated on LCS 28 days after the first CLA review. The plan for permanence is an integral part of the care plan and is reviewed at the second CLA review.
For children in care proceedings, the second CLA review will take place no more than 14 weeks after the child became looked after. For all other cases, the second CLA review will take place no more than 16 weeks after the child became looked after.
If there are matters in dispute between different parts of Children's Services, it is the Head of Service's responsibility to ensure that there is one clear Local Authority position prior to documents being filed in Court. It is recommended that, in these circumstances, the Head of Service will chair the meeting.
For children in care proceedings who are not looked after, the first interim care plan, filed in the care proceedings, must record that a Permanence Planning Meeting must take place no more than 14 weeks after the start of the care proceedings.
The social worker in consultation with their manager will complete the Child and Young Person's Permanence Plan on LCS.
For a sibling group, there may be only one Permanence Planning Meeting but each child must have a separate plan using the Child and Young Person's Permanence Plan, following the completion of the Child and Young Person's Permanence Plan the social worker will arrange for the distribution of the report to all attendees who have been invited to the meeting in advance to enable the agencies to consider if they need to attend.
Where the possible plan is adoption or where the child is under 10, the social worker should consult with the Adoption Team Manager to discuss.
Where a possible plan is long term fostering, or Special Guardianship Order, the social worker should consult with the Manager of the Fostering Team.
The Service Manager of the social work team (Family Safeguarding or Children Looked After) will chair. Specialist Services must send a representative, either the Team Manager or Senior Practitioner.
Following the distribution of the Child and Young Person's Permanence Plan and for all children in care proceedings and for children where the preferred plan is adoption, the Social Worker should ensure that the Childcare Litigation Unit (CLU) is invited to attend the Permanence Planning Meeting to give legal advice in respect of the care plan in accordance with the requirements of the Children Act 1989, Guidance and Regulations, Volume 1 Court Orders. If CLU confirms that its specific attendance is not required they should instead be provided with a copy of the minutes of the Permanence Planning Meeting.
The following must be invited:
- Specialist Service, Adoption of Fostering Team Manager or Senior Practitioner;
- Social Worker's Team Manager or Services Manager who will chair;
- Child/young person's Social Worker;
- Supervising Social Worker to Foster Carer / Residential Manager;
- Foster Carer / Residential key worker;
- Children's Guardian;
- If Friends and Family Kinship Carers are invited to the meeting they can only attend the initial information sharing part of the meeting and not the decision making part of the meeting.
The child/young person's social worker will ascertain the child/young person's wishes and feelings and ensure they are presented to the meeting in a form acceptable to the child/young person.
The chair will complete the minutes and summary sheet for each child/young person. This document must be attached to the LCS record. Admin will circulate the minutes to all the invitees to the meeting as well as those who were asked to contribute.
Where the Adoption Team Manager attends the Permanence Planning Meeting and issues adoption advice following the meeting, this should be circulated to both the social worker and the IRO following the meeting within at least 5 working days.
The completed minutes and summary sheet must be sent to the IRO at least 5 working days before the second CLA review. When the minutes of the PPM are available on LCS the allocated IRO must be notified.
The child/young person's social worker will inform the birth parents after the meeting of the outcome of the meeting and will send the PPM summary sheet and recommendations for the plan for permanence to the parents 5 days before the second CLA Review. A record of the date of these discussions and the date of the written confirmation will be included in the Child's Permanence Report if the plan is adoption (see Adoption Procedures and Special Guardianship Procedures).
5. Permanence Planning Meeting Agenda
In order to ensure consistency in the meeting format an Agenda has been drawn up to assist Team Managers. The Chair will need to ensure that the following areas are considered in the meeting:
5.1 Child's Needs
- Attachment needs/emotional development;
- Social Development;
- Family Relationships;
- Child's wishes and feelings;
- Equality strands relating to the child's assessed needs;
- Options for permanence;
- Identified services required;
- Adoption advice;
- Return to parent/s Supervision Order/Care Order; for children 8 & under, Special Guardianship Order, Adoption;
- Record the reasons why adoption is not being considered for a child under the age; of
- Consider the contingency plan if other options are being considered;
- Life story work is required for all children for whom the plan is a permanent placement other than reunification with a birth parent. The child's Social Worker must ensure that this is undertaken and completed.
5.2 Possible Options for Permanence
Consider a Family Group Conference to further develop the Permanence Plan.
- Reunification with parent(s);
- Connected Person's care (formerly Family and Friends) Permanence with extended family through Special Guardianship Order, Child Arrangements Order or Adoption. N.B. Adoption can be an option for a birth relative e.g. Grandparent/s, aunt, cousin, on advice;
- Connected Person (formerly Family and Friends) foster care (child remains CLA);
- Long term foster care with approved 'stranger' foster carers e.g. Herts Foster Carer;
- Adoption with approved 'stranger' adopters.
For children under age 10 who cannot live with their birth parents, consideration must be given as to why adoption is not a suitable option including why another order is preferable if the child is to be cared for by a Connected Person (formerly Family and Friends). The plan for a child of this age should always be presented to the Agency Decision Maker for consideration and determination if the plan should be adoption (see Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker's Decision Procedure).
The Care Plan must contain a plan for permanence with contingency plans as necessary. In some situations there will be parallel planning so as to avoid any delay in achieving permanence for the child. This allows for planning for reunification with parents whilst exploring and progressing other options should reunification not be viable and, or consistent with the child's welfare.
6. Children with a Plan for Adoption who have Siblings
Children who have a plan for adoption may:
- Have siblings, also with a plan for adoption, all of whom are subject of Care Proceedings;
- Have sibling(s) who are already adopted. These are likely to be older than the child in question.
Where a sibling group have existing relationships the Sibling Checklist must be completed and analysed for the Permanency Planning Meeting, the Agency Decision Maker's Decision as to if adoption is the best plan (SHOBPA) for the child, and the Adoption Panel (Matching).
The checklist should be completed by the carer and analysed by the social worker. The social worker must consider how far the siblings are supportive of each other, or if the significant harm that the children have received, in terms of their attachment behaviours, is such that the siblings would have needs better met by separate placements. This is where it is imperative that the analysis sections of the sibling checklist are completed and if the social worker has any doubts about the conclusions of the work must contact the adoption service for consultation at the earliest opportunity. Further assessment may be required.
The Permanency Planning Meeting for each child must consider the social worker's analysis. Additionally the issue of delay has to be considered in the balance against identified positives of siblings being placed together.
If a child has a sibling already placed in an adoptive placement, then active consideration must be given to placing the siblings together. The relationship of the child to a sibling is more significant than to an adult relative in the extended family with whom there is no pre existing relationship. If a decision is made not to place the siblings together in this situation, the reasons must be recorded in the Permanence Plan and all paperwork to Adoption Matching Panel.
The decision as to whether the siblings should be placed in an adoptive home or not must be given with reasons in the Permanence Plan. This must be countersigned by the child/young person's Service Manager.
7. Children with Plan for Adoption when Father does not have Parental Responsibility
8. Immediate Actions to be Undertaken if the Permanence Plan includes Adoption
- Birth parents pack from Adoption Team to be given to social worker, to then explain & give to birth parent/s;
- Child Permanence Report (CPR) to be written by a suitably qualified and experienced and/or supervised by a suitably qualified and experienced social worker, also usually the social worker who knows the child best (for Agency Decision Maker and for child when reading as an adult) and signed by parents or written explanation given in CPR if not; The author should indicate how they meet the requirements, where the social worker has been working under the supervision of a suitably qualified social worker, that social worker should sign the report as well, indicating the capacity they are working in and how they meet the requirements. The role of any other contributors should be described. See Restriction on the Preparation of Adoption Reports Regulations 2005 (ARR);
- See Quality Assurance process for CPRs at Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker's Decision Procedure, Child Permanence Reports and Prospective Adopters' Reports to Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker;
- Book Agency Decision Maker with Adoption Panel administrator, see Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker's Decision Procedure, Agency Decision Maker (ADM) - Role and Process;
- Ensure all paperwork is available as required. See Chapter 8.5a section 6 Agency Decision Maker, Role and Process;
- Following Agency Decision Maker 's decision that adoption is the plan for the child, and if there is not parental consent, or there is a belief that parental consent may be withdrawn a Placement Order application will be lodged with the Court;
- Identify services required;
- CLA review to be promptly reconvened if next CLA review more than 3-4 weeks away as decisions arising from PPM taken at CLA review form basis of care plan for Court;
- PPM summary sheet to be sent to Head of Independent Review Team within 5 working days of the PPM;
- Identify further meetings required in particular ensure permanency planning links to the CLA Review process;
- Adoption advice to be minuted as a separate paragraph.
9. Permanence Planning for Children Subject to Placement Order
When a child is subject to a Placement Order, his or her CLA Review, will monitor progress to place a child with an adoptive placement. The IRO may require a further Permanency Planning Meeting see Looked After Reviews Procedure, Looked After Children Who Are Subject of Child Protection Plans.
10. Preventing Drift in Permanency Planning
All children who are subject of a Placement Order will have a CLA Review every three months to monitor the progress of family finding. Where a significant change has been agreed to a child's care plan the IRO must ensure that any changes are reflected in the child's Permanence Plan i.e. the minute of the Permanency Planning Meeting.
All children who continue to be subject of a Placement Order after six months, and where adoption is unlikely to be approved within 12 months must have their Care Plan referred to the Head of Service for Adoption and Fostering or Head of Family Safeguarding, or Head of Children Looked After.
If a child or young person under 12 has had three or more placement moves his/her social worker must alert:
- The relevant Service Manager;
- The Head of Adoption and Fostering;
- The Head of Family Safeguarding or Head of Children Looked After;
- Child's Independent Reviewing Officer.
The progress of planning for the child will be monitored by the Practice and Resources Panel (P.A.R.P.) and regular reviews of the Permanency Tracker.
11. Practice and Resources Panel (P.A.R.P)
Where there is a need for further discussion regarding the permanency plan/drift occurring for the child with the plan a referral should be made to the PARP panel.