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3.13.8 Long Term Fostering


Contents

  1. Introduction: The Position in Salford
  2. What does Salford mean by Long-Term Foster Care?
  3. What are the Benefits of Long-Term Foster Care?
  4. Different Types of Long-Term Fostering In Salford
  5. Long-Term Fostering - Family Finding Process


1. Introduction: The Position in Salford

Many children and young people who become Looked After will return to live with their birth parents. For those who cannot return, some will be adopted, some will live with carers who become their special guardians or secure a Child Arrangements Order in their favour. A significant number of children who are looked after want to live with a family where they can stay until they become independent and if adoption, residence or special guardianship is not the right order for them, then the alternative may be long term fostering.

In Salford each Looked After Child who cannot return to live with their birth parents will have a Care Plan that identifies an appropriate, permanent and alternate placement type for them.

In Salford, we are proactive in identifying and assessing family members to become permanent carers for children. The Public Law Outline requires that we consider family members at an early stage in proceedings. Children may be placed with family members on an immediate placement basis (Regulation 24, Fostering Regulations 2011), if deemed to be 'safe and appropriate' following a viability assessment. At care planning stage if children cannot return home, once fully assessed, these carers would be considered as long term carers for the children at either fostering panel or adoption and permanence panel.

In Salford, the expectation of all friends and family foster carers would be that they secure the placement of the child or children legally, through the use of either a special guardianship order or a Child Arrangements Order.

Long term fostering would not be accepted as a Permanence Plan for any child under the age of 5 years. A permanence plan for a child of this age would be either adoption, if appropriate, special guardianship or a Child Arrangements Order.

Some children do not have extended family members who are able to make a permanent commitment to them. In such cases alternative forms of permanence need to be carefully considered and planned for.

In every case of this type, adoption will be considered in Salford as a potential plan for all children under the age of 10 years. In Salford a high number of adoptive placements are made every year. These children tend to be younger children, and more often than not under the age of 10 years.

For children and young people who cannot live with their families, who are not in a position to be adopted, who do not wish to be subject to a legal order such as special guardianship (i) or Child Arrangements Order and alternative placement

is required that will provide them with a secure and solid base from which to grow up and explore the world.

For these children a long-term foster placement is the best option. In Salford we are committed to securing a positive long-term foster placement for children who cannot return to their birth families, and who have a plan for long-term fostering that has been endorsed by either fostering panel or adoption and permanence panel.

Government guidance proposes that long-term foster care should have equal status with adoption, special guardianship and Child Arrangements Orders once it is established that a child/young person cannot return to live with birth parents or wider birth family.


2. What does Salford mean by Long-Term Foster Care?

In Salford we have considered the definition of long-term foster care presented by Fostering Network. This is the definition that we accept in Salford, with some additional points made.

Long-term fostering is:

  • When children and young people are in a placement where they feel that they belong and have a sense of family membership;
  • Where they are able to develop relationships that are expected by all concerned will last after the child has moved on;
  • A long-term foster placement has been made as a result of a positive decision, taken in a planned way that best meets the needs of the child or young person involved;
  • Should actively involve the child in the decision making process;
  • Provides permanence in a stable environment, there children and young people can live safely in the knowledge that this is their home, and will remain their home until such time as they are ready to move on, or at least until they are 18.

(i) Salford is committed to general foster carers being able to pursue a special guardianship order for a child if this is deemed to be in the best interests of the child.

Long-term fostering as defined above provides looked after children with the opportunity of experiencing family life and the continuity of relationships that is so important for securing improved outcomes.

Long-term foster can provide:

  • A framework where children and young people can develop attachments and/or relationships that will last throughout their lives;
  • A choice for children and young people who want a family but are not going to be adopted or who do not want to be;
  • The opportunity for those children and young people who cannot go home to remain in contact with their family if they choose to while enjoying the benefits of having a foster family for life (ii);
  • The possibility of stability beyond 18 years of age, which in other circumstances can be very difficult for children in care (iii);
  • Young people with the reassurance that their foster carers will be available to them after they are 18 and have left the foster carers home;
  • Psychological permanency, that is, a sense of belonging which has long-term implications for the child's future and their view on the world;
  • An opportunity to ensure that decisions are being made in the very best interests of the child.

(ii) The issue of appropriate levels of contact is one that should be considered carefully within long-term foster families. There are a number of books that are helpful to read on the matter, and a paper has been prepared in order to guide social workers in their decision making. This paper is called 'Contact in long term foster placements', and is available from the family placement team, includes a bibliography of suggested reading material.

(iii) Salford has a scheme called continuing care which provides finances to foster carers if the child is in or seeking employment or further study.


3. What are the Benefits of Long-Term Foster Care?

The benefits of long-term foster care can be positive for birth families, foster carers and service providers, as well as for the child or young person:

For the Child

It is vitally important to consider the wishes and feelings of the child. Some children may wish desperately to be adopted, and may feel a real sense of loss if this does not happen. Others may not wish to be adopted and would be much happier in long-term foster care, or subject to a Special Guardianship Order.

Long-term foster care provides a sense of normality and an opportunity to belong to a family. It offers the opportunity for children to experience a framework for emotional and physical development that encourages the formation and maintenance of stable relationships through to adulthood. It allows children and young people to make mistakes, to learn, to mature and to feel cared for and encouraged in a safe and stable environment. It allows children to build attachments.

It. provides young people with a sense of permanence that encourages positive behaviours.

It enables children to remain in contact with their birth families, at an appropriate level, and to build on their sense of identity. Although the level of contact must be carefully considered to allow the child to form secure attachments to the long term foster carers. It is important to remember that contact within a long-term foster placement is for the purposes of identity, and should not be set at a level more appropriate to a plan for rehabilitation.

By providing stability for children they are better able to cope with the key transitions in their lives.

Therefore, long-term fostering provides good outcomes for children in both the short and the long-term.

For the Birth Parent

Birth parents usually want the same for their children as other parents, and when a child is placed in long-term foster care they will know what is happening to their child and know that they are safe and well. They will have on-going contact with their child, and will be able to help their child understand their history and build upon their child's sense of identity. The birth parent has the opportunity to build an effective relationship with the foster carer over time.

For Foster Carers

Foster carers have the opportunity to offer a child stability and security, and to provide consistency by reducing the number of moves that a child will have. They are able to offer continuity of care, and to share in the child's successes as they progress over time. A foster carer has the opportunity to develop skills and strategies for managing a particular child, based on their own skills and the needs of the child. These things are often learnt over time, as the carer develops a relationship with the child and understands their circumstances.

Long-term foster carers are entitled to support from their family placement worker and the child is guaranteed a social worker. This can be invaluable in supporting a placement. A long term support plan is put in place for all children in long term foster placements and ensures that the child will receive a wide range of support from a range of different professionals.


4. Different Types of Long-Term Fostering In Salford

For children in Salford who are unable to return to live with their birth families, a long-term foster placement may the best option for them to be able to experience life in a stable, nurturing family environment. There are now a number of different fostering schemes in Salford. They are outlined below.

4.1 General Long-Term Fostering

These are foster carers who have been recruited to foster for Salford on a long term basis. They will have been through the same preparation training as short term and respite foster carers. They will be allocated a family placement worker to carry out their assessment, and to provide support and supervision once a placement has been made.

General long term foster carers can be single, married, gay or straight, working or unemployed. They can have children of their own living at home. They would need to have space in their home, and the skills required to bring up a child through childhood and adolescence and support them into independent living. General long term foster carers would be encouraged to consider providing a child with legal permanence through special guardianship.

On going training and support is provided to all general foster carers.

4.2 3D Fostering

3D fostering is a short-term treatment programme, with each placement expected to last between nine and eighteen months. After this, the plan is for the child to move to a long-term foster placement or to return the young person to birth family. 3D fostering can be effective in helping children with their behaviour, improving relationships with birth family and as a bridging placement to help prepare children for a more stable, long-term placement.

The 3D programme is based on the groundbreaking 'treatment model' of fostering, which was originally piloted in America with great success. The model uses a behaviour modification programme that has a point and levels system to encourage young people to improve their behaviour and develop new skills.

As the child collects more points they can progress to higher levels and receive bigger rewards. The foster carers are trained to respond to various behaviours in very specific ways, taking points off the child's running total for negative behaviour. The children benefit from trained staff helping them in every area of their life. This includes a teacher, individual therapist and skills coach. This model has been particularly effective with children and young people who have complex issues, challenging behaviour, a history of youth offending and/or placement breakdowns.

4.3 Focus Fostering

Focus Fostering is the sister project of the 3D programme. The project was initially set up as a drop-down scheme to provide long-term foster placements for the children who will be moving on from 3D foster care. There is, however, funding for twenty Focus Fostering placements, meaning that children do not have to have been through the 3D scheme in order to be considered for a place. The age range is also wider (5 - 16) to enable younger children to be considered for the Focus Fostering scheme.

The scheme is similar to the 3D project in that a multi-agency team is available to support the carers and professional advice and support is available twenty-four hours a day. Carers who will be approved to provide medium to long-term placements for children on the 3D scheme will be trained to continue using the treatment model. Carers for children who have not previously been through the 3D scheme will not be expected to do so.

It is hoped that these placements will provide an intensive level of support to foster carers in order to maintain long-term placements for children with complex needs. It will aim to develop individualized plans to address the complex needs of the young people and facilitate positive development to overcome a range of emotional, behavioural, social and learning difficulties.

Social Workers should complete the relevant referral process to access the 3D or Focus Schemes.


5. Long-Term Fostering - Family Finding Process

5.1 Introduction

This procedure is to be followed when the child's Care Plan is long-term fostering. It details the family finding process that will take place operationally and administratively following the approval of the plan for long term fostering made at either Fostering panel or Adoption and Permanence panel. See Adoption and Permanence Panel Procedure.

5.2 The Process

The decision that long-term foster care is in the best interests of the child has been considered and agreed at the appropriate panel. Children aged 10 years and under will be considered at Adoption and Permanence Panel as well as those sibling groups that include a child under the age of 10 years. Children aged 11 years and above will be considered at Fostering Panel with regard to a plan for long-term fostering.

The panel administrator will provide panel minutes for long-term fostering cases to the team manager responsible for long-term fostering and ail workers involved in the family finding process.

The team manager responsible for long term fostering/Focus fostering will allocate family finding responsibility to the appropriate family placement worker.

Admin will set up a file for each child waiting to include a Child Permanence report and any additional reports and panel minutes.

  • Once the Court Hearing has concluded a Family finding meeting will be convened. This meeting will include the child's social worker, foster carer, or residential key worker and any other persons deemed appropriate. The nominated family placement workers responsible for family finding for the particular child or sibling group will chair the meeting. The chair of the meeting will take notes of the meeting that will be kept on the family finding file;
  • This meeting will clearly set out the plans for how family finding will be carried out. A written profile of the child will be drawn up at this meeting. The profile will include brief information about the child's background, the type of child that they are, their interests and hobbies and the type of family that we are looking for;
  • The profile will be included in a book of profiles which will include profiles on all children for whom we are family finding. This book will be shared at fostering preparation groups and at the fostering team meeting on a monthly basis. Profiles will be sent out to existing foster carers for Salford on a four monthly basis;
  • Any Salford foster carer responding to a profile should register their interest with the family placement worker responsible for family finding. This worker will then let the allocated family placement worker know, who should discuss their interest with them in more detail. If appropriate the family placement worker should arrange to visit the family with the key social worker to discuss the child in further detail;
  • If appropriate then a matching meeting would be held (see Matching Meeting);
  • Agreement will be made about who will take digital photos of the child for the profile. Consent from parents needs to be obtained. Agreement should be reached about who will secure signed consent for use of media and video in the search for a family. This will generally be obtained by the social worker. The specially prepared leaflet and consent form will be used;
  • A worker within admin will compile the profile from written information and photo provided. It is the responsibility of the chair of the family finding meeting to ensure that the profile accurately reflects the child and the issues in caring for him/her. A copy of the profile should be agreed by the key social worker, and shared with the child by the social worker;
  • Once signed consent has been obtained from parents a DVD of the child will be produced. This will be shown at fostering preparation groups. The aim is to encourage potential carers to come forward to be approved with a specific child or children in mind;
  • It is the responsibility of the team manager - fostering (long-term) to compile a list of long-term vacancies within Salford's existing carers. This will be done through discussion at fostering team meetings and through supervision.
  • If a placement is not identified within a six month period the child's profile will be sent to all accredited fostering agencies, and to other Local Authorities. The social worker responsible for family finding will circulate the profile, and will also ring the accredited agencies. Any decision to approach agency foster carers prior to a six month period of family finding elapsing will be made in conjunction with the team manager responsible for long term fostering;
  • Discussion will be held with Head of Looked After Children's Services about plans to approach Voluntary and Independent Fostering agencies about placements for children waiting. Consideration will be given to responses to family finding to date, and individual circumstances of a child waiting;
  • At the six-month point consideration will be given to specific advertising for the child. Consideration will be given to advertising in local newspapers (always consider views of the child) and to specific fostering magazines such as 'Family Finder' magazine. Consideration should be given to reconvening the family finding meeting at this stage;
  • Once an advert has been produced it is the responsibility of the worker who is family finding to co-ordinate the response. It is vital that any responses are dealt with swiftly in order to avoid losing potential placements. The worker coordinating the response will need to be clear about when the advert will appear, ensure that the social worker is available to prioritise reading through responses, and to keep the agencies up to date;
  • Should funding be required for a long-term placement Head of Looked After children's Services will discuss with the Assistant Director for Safeguarding for approval;
  • Family finding meetings will be reviewed on a six monthly basis. At this meeting the profile will be updated, family finding reviewed to date, and plans for further family finding to be agreed. Should the decision be made to cease family finding then the matter should be presented to the appropriate panel;
  • Each child waiting for a long-term foster placement will be reviewed at the appropriate panel on a six monthly basis. The panel administrator will be responsible for booking each review on the panel, and for informing the social worker. The child's 'Child Permanence report' should be updated for this panel.

Linking a Child to a Long-term Foster Carer

The Matching Meeting

Matching a child with a family is one of the most important decisions that will be made once the decision is made that they can no longer reside with birth family.

Some children will be placed with short term foster carers who make the decision that they would like a child to remain with them on a long-term basis. For other children and young people a search for a family will be necessary. In either event a matching meeting will be held to consider the merits of the match.

Once a family come forward as potential carers for a child, not previously known to them, a family placement worker and the child's social worker will visit the family to discuss the child with them in more detail, and to leave a copy of the CPR (Child Permanence Report). If the family decide that they want to proceed with their expression of interest and professionals feel that it is appropriate, a matching meeting will be held.

The social worker for the child will have the opportunity to read the foster carers form F prior to the matching meeting.

The matching meeting is chaired by a team manager from the fostering team, or a suitably experienced senior practitioner. The meeting will be attended by the family placement worker for the family, the child's social worker, if appropriate their team manager, the current foster carer and/or their worker, and a residential social worker if appropriate. The proposed foster family would not be invited to attend this meeting, information about the prospective family would be provided to the meeting by the supporting family placement worker.

The meeting follows a set format, and considers the needs of the child, and how those needs can be met by the proposed carers. Careful consideration will be given to the child's background, placement history and reasons for being looked after.

The following issues would be considered in relation to the child, their health needs, educational needs, emotional and behavioural development, identity, family and social relationships, attachment history and ability to make new attachments, contact needs, and any other needs relevant to the individual child.

With regard to the family it is important to consider the dimensions of parenting capacity as set out in the Assessment Framework, which would include the prospective carers ability to: provide for a child's basic care needs, emotional warmth, promote education, set boundaries, and provide stability. It is also helpful to consider the applicants' background and experience of being parented, previous parenting experiences, understanding of the background to the family, expectations of the child, capacity to manage the child's behaviour well into the future, support systems, capacity to use support appropriately, and strengths and vulnerabilities. All this information should be available from the prospective carers form F.

It is important to note that applicants should not be matched with children of a different age range or gender from that for which they have been approved, as this is a predictor of placement disruption.

Full matching meeting minutes will be taken at the meeting. There is a matching meeting pro-forma The pro-forma sets out the issues as above and then in conclusion details must be provided about how the prospective carers can meet the child's needs, any additional support that is required, and any further work that is required and who will complete the work.

The matching meeting minutes will be prepared for presentation at panel, but will firstly be forwarded to the child's social worker as a basis for information to be included in the social workers linking report.

No potential placement is likely to be perfect, and each will carry its risks. However, careful consideration of the placement's potential vulnerabilities at this stage will enable consideration to be given to the support that may be necessary to make the placement work.

It is essential to provide the prospective carers with as much information as possible before the match is considered by panel. The family can then make an informed decision about whether or not they feel that they can meet the child's needs throughout his childhood and beyond. As well as the child's CPR consideration should be given to providing prospective carers with documents relating to the child or children prepared in the course of care proceedings. Permission from legal section will need to be secured to release court documents.

Carers should also be given the opportunity to meet with as many relevant professionals as appropriate, prior to panel. It is always necessary to meet with the child's current carer, either foster carer or residential worker. This person knows better than anyone what it is really like to live with the child. At a later stage this current carer should also provide the new carer with information regarding routines and key information about caring for the child.

Consideration will always be given to whether or not the prospective carers would consider making a legal commitment to the child through special guardianship. This is simply an indication at this stage, but for some children legal permanence is hugely important and if not possible may mean that the placement will not be suitable in the long term.

The matching meeting will conclude by planning the next stage of the process if a match is made. This will include further information required for prospective carers, visits to be carried out and by whom, and the plan for preparing the child for a move to a long term foster placement. A date to present the match to panel for formal linking will be agreed, as will any updates required to paperwork. The issue of funding will be discussed, and clarity provided with regard to who will seek funding.

Making the Placement

Having agreed that the family could best meet the needs of the child the allocated family placement worker and the social worker will visit the prospective carers to provide any additional information and to discuss the placement further in more detail. This meeting is an opportunity for the social worker to explore and satisfy himself that the placement could meet the needs of the child if it were to take place. It is important to remind everyone involved that any doubts should be fully explored prior to the placement being made, and if a family/department is unable to proceed they should be encouraged to say that clearly.

If everyone is in agreement that consideration of the placement should continue then the prospective foster carers should meet with the current foster carer. Prospective foster carers should provide a booklet of photos of themselves, pets and family for the child to see, and current carers should provide detail relating to the child's routine.

Preparation of the child needs to be carefully considered. The child's age and level of understanding should be taken into account when making such decisions. For some older children it may be appropriate for them to meet the carers prior to the match being heard at panel. The purpose of such a visit should be clear to everyone; it is part of the process of deciding whether or not the placement should go ahead. Any such visit should take place in the child's current placement.

Long-Term Fostering Support Plan

Unlike adoption and special guardianship there is no requirement for the local authority to provide panel with a support plan for a long term fostering placement. In Salford we have made the decision to draw up a long term support plan to be considered against every long term link that is made in the authority. This is because the support needs of long term foster carers and the children in placement are important and support needs should be met as effectively as within any other long term placement.

The long term support plan is based upon both the adoption and special guardianship support plan. It considers the same aspects of a child and carer's needs that should be met to provide a placement with the best opportunity to succeed. The dimensions considered include health, education, identity and contact.

The long term support plan should be drawn up by the social worker and family placement worker following a face to face meeting with prospective carers. The plan should be agreed by all agencies providing a service before the plan is presented to panel.

The support plan must be reviewed on an annual basis at the point of the foster carer's annual review, or at an especially arranged meeting if the carers are agency foster carers. Any amendments must be carefully recorded and again discussions held with relevant providers before a commitment is made.

Panel Process - Long-Term Link

When it is decided that the placement is appropriate the matter will be heard by either Adoption and Permanence panel or Fostering panel.

The social worker for the child and the family placement worker for the family must attend panel.

The matching meeting minutes will be provided to panel, with a linking report from the social worker outlining why this placement has been chosen for the child or children. The child's CPR will be presented to panel, and the foster carers Form F. The team manager who has chaired the matching meeting should advise if any further documentation is required by panel to assist in their decision making.

A long term fostering support plan will also be presented to panel alongside all other paperwork (see section above).

The panel will consider the appropriateness of the placement and make a recommendation. The minutes will be sent to the agency decision maker with a clear recommendation. The agency decision maker will decide whether or not to ratify the recommendation made by panel. The decision will be made available within 10 days of panel meeting.

The Admin Process for making a Long-Term Foster Placement with an Independent or Voluntary Agency

As described previously there are times when Salford will make a long term foster placement with an agency foster carer.

The family placement worker who is contacting the independent agencies should request a form F of any potentially suitable foster carers.

The family placement worker should complete the form Checklist for agreeing IFA placement kept in the duty basket. This form acts as a prompt to the family placement worker to request paperwork from the agency such as panel minutes etc This form only needs to be completed when consideration is being given to using the placement, and ideally should be completed prior to the matching meeting. This form when completed should be passed to the team manager responsible for chairing the matching meeting.

Once a match is agreed at panel, the team manager responsible for chairing the matching meeting must complete the Authorisation for making a placement with an independent fostering agency/individual placement contract form. This form details the basic information regarding the child, the placement and requires a signature from a senior manager to set out that funding is agreed.

This form should be passed to the commissioning team on completion as this team is responsible for the payment of fees to agency foster placements.

Introductions

Once the match has been ratified by the agency decision maker, a plan for introduction to the placement can be agreed.

Successful introductions are a key to the future success of any placement. The introduction period needs to be handled carefully to ensure the best possible start for the child and his new family.

The planning of introductions for a child to a prospective long term foster placement is an important process that should not be rushed. The relationship being built between the child and the family is intended to be permanent and time spent at this stage can pay dividends in the future.

Before the introduction period is planned it is vital to check that the following matters have been completed:

  • The matching decision has been ratified following panel recommendation;
  • Up to date information about the child is available, including medical and educational details;
  • Life story work has been completed, or is well underway;
  • Child has an age appropriate understanding of the proposed move;
  • Contact arrangements have been discussed and agreed by all parties, preferably in writing;
  • The new carers have seen a DVD or pictures of the child or children;
  • The new carers have met the current carers, and any other relevant professionals;
  • The new foster carers have all the written information that they need in relation to the child or children.

An introductions meeting will be held, and will be chaired by the team manager who chaired the initial matching meeting, or the senior practitioner who chaired the meeting. The meeting needs to include the child's social worker, the existing carers and their worker (or residential staff), the new carers and their worker, and any other persons who will assist the process. It may be appropriate to involve an older child in an introductions meeting, consideration should always be given to this.

It is vital that the following information in available to the matching meeting:

  • Holiday arrangements and commitments of all those involved;
  • Present and proposed contact arrangements;
  • 'goodbye visits' to extended family members should have taken place prior to the introductions starting;
  • Proposed transport arrangements;
  • Accommodation for new carers, if appropriate;
  • Equipment that is required by the child;
  • Careful consideration should be given to when the carers should meet the birth parents, ideally this should be done prior to introductions commencing.

The purpose of the introduction meeting is to plan the child's move to their new placement in a manner that is child focused and gives the child the most positive start to life in their new family as possible. Remember that introductions are the start of the process of attachment to new carers.

The introduction plan should be written down and all key individuals should have their own copy. Not only will the detail of when face to face meetings take place need to be carefully recorded, but consideration should be given to the following issues:

  • The child's age and understanding;
  • Education, and school holiday time;
  • The need to have rest days, introductions are an exhausting process;
  • The needs of the other children in placement;
  • Setting a timescale that maintains the momentum, and is kept under review;
  • Decide who will tell the child about their new family and when;
  • Reassure the child about future contact with familiar figures;
  • Provide photographs for children of key people in their lives;
  • Agree the names that the child will call the carers;
  • Make sure to include the carers own children in arrangements;
  • Identify who will pay costs and how these can be claimed;
  • Make sure all carers and the child are well supported during introductions by ensuring that the allocated worker spends time with each person that they are responsible for.

A review of introductions should be held. This meeting will consider the progress so far, the impact on all parties, and how comfortable everyone is feeling. The meeting should also consider whether or not there are any more tasks to carry out before the move takes place. A date for the final move should be agreed.

It is important to check at the time of placement that the foster carers have all the equipment, and paperwork that they require.

End