Part 6 - Permanence - Procedures for Planning and achieving Permanence
Adoption and Fostering Planning is complex and these procedures do no attempt to cover every eventuality, but to guide through the key processes.
Initiating Adoption and Fostering Planning-Decision to begin Exploration
The decision to begin exploring possible alternative routes to adoption and fostering apart from parents is based on an assessment of the likelihood of failure to achieve a successful and sustainable re-unification with parents. This decision can only be made by the local authority if the child is subject to a Compulsory Supervision Order or with the agreement of parents, if the child is accommodated under S25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
Time is a significant factor among others in this. The passage of time, particularly time without actual, experienced progress, tends to reduce the likelihood of successful re-unification and to increase both the likelihood and extent of harm to the child, arising from separation from parents. Identifying, assessing and progressing viable alternative routes to adoption and fostering also takes time.
This decision, to begin exploring possible alternative routes to adoption and fostering apart from parents, must be made by majority decision at a formal, quorate Looked After Child’s Review and recorded in the minute of that meeting.
Preparation for decision to explore options
The initial practice tasks in preparing for that decision, having regard to our duties towards children and parents are to:
- Identify and assess evidence that could inform judgements about the likelihood of success or failure in achieving successful re-unification, through the use of appropriate practice tools, including –
- Talk with children and those holding parental responsibility, and/or previously exercising parental care, to maintain a continuing awareness of and to work with their views, wishes and intentions. Parents and children will fear what is not discussed and such fear clouds their understanding and impedes their ability to act effectively. They will need help to explore and engage with the various possibilities and to understand what actions are open to them and what choices they can make.
- Record and analyse this evidence, using the appropriate tools, and make as clear a recommendation as possible, with regard to the potential necessity for permanence planning, in the report for the Review.
- Ensure that parents and children, as appropriate, are aware of this recommendation and of the thinking behind it.
- Understand that the information that you have gathered and the ways in which you have recorded it will acquire a different significance if and when the case progresses further down a specific route to permanence.
It should be born in mind that in many instances these practice tasks, in preparation for decisions about adoption and fostering, will begin whilst other tasks, in planning for the episode of care itself and other work with the family, are in train. Much of the actual activity will be combined, but practitioners must retain a distinct focus on the tasks associated with adoption and fostering, ensuring that the work is properly accomplished and recording is appropriate and identifiable within the relevant records.
Timing and conditionality of decision to explore options
There may be instances in which there is substantial evidence, strongly suggesting the likelihood that re-unification will not be successful, or not in the child’s best interests, even from the earliest point in an episode of care. This might apply in relation to either planned or unplanned episodes. It is also possible that a recommendation to place a child and pursue adoption and fostering has been made at a Child Protection Case Conference prior to the start of the care episode.
It is therefore possible for an Emergency (within 72 hours) Looked After Child Review, providing it meets appropriate conditions, in terms of participation of relevant parties, to make a decision to begin exploring alternative routes to adoption and fostering.
An initial Looked After Child Review (within six weeks) must give consideration to the potential requirement to explore options for adoption and fostering apart from parents, with explicit reference to the recommendation in the report, but due care must be given to conditions that apply to that exploration. The reasonableness of any conditions and the manner of their communication may become significant in any future legal challenge.
In many instances, the initial exploration of alternative options will take place at the same time as other work towards re-unification of the child with one or both parents. This is referred to as “parallel planning”, but this language is easily misunderstood by the most interested parties. Undertaking both activities at the same time does not imply equal weight being given to each and it is critically important that all parties, particularly parents, have a shared understanding of the relative weight of each activity. This affects motivation and engagement as well as understanding. There will be subtle gradations, but broadly, all parties need to know whether an option is being explored –
- “against the unlikely possibility that the main plan towards re-unification will not succeed”
- “against the equal possibility that the work towards re-unification will not succeed, or not be in the child’s best interests”
- “because it viewed as unlikely, though still genuinely possible, that re-unification will be successful, or in the child’s best interests”
Parents and children need to be really clear about the nature and extent of change that is required, and the timescale within which it is required, for re-unification to be achieved. Timescales need to be reasonable, bearing in mind both the relative urgency of child’s need for secure, “good enough” care and the timescale within which change could realistically be achieved.
Whilst work towards re-unification may still be taking place, two distinct adoption and fostering planning activities must be progressed:
- Exploration of the kind of placement that the child requires and that could be sought.
- Consideration of legal grounds and appropriate legal routes for adoption and fostering.
One activity does not follow the other; it is important that both are initiated at the earliest opportunity, once a decision has been made to explore options for adoption and fostering. There are limits to which these initial activities can be pursued prior to a formal decision to cease working towards re-unification with parents, but, essentially, this exploration of options feeds directly into the pursuit of a specific plan if and when it is decided that it is required.
Considering Placement options
- Considering kinship or other family options
Discuss with parents, children and other family members, as appropriate, the possibility of an extended family member providing the care that the child needs in the longer term. It is important to include any person holding legal parental responsibility in that discussion. Failure to do so could seriously delay adoption and fostering planning and affect your ability to meet the child’s needs within a reasonable timescale.
It is important also not to “rule out” options that family members might wish you to rule out, unless there are good grounds for doing so.
If there are extended family members who might be able to meet the child’s needs, discuss these with the Kinship Social Worker, with a view to initiating a Kinship Care Assessment.
- Identifying the child’s placement needs
Discuss with parents, child, other family members and professionals who know the child well the nature of placement that the child needs. This includes a wide range of factors, mostly to do with meeting the child’s needs or redressing specific known deficits in the child’s experience to date, but could also include things to be avoided, also relating to the child’s previous experience.
Observe what takes place during contact between parents and children and between siblings. Refer to Securing Children’s Futures: Good Practice in Permanence Planning and Family Placement , which has useful guidance on observing contact. Refer also to Managing Contact. If the case progresses further down a route to permanence, the information that you gather will inform completion of Form E or a Young Person’s Adoption and Fostering Panel Report,
- Considering the needs of sibling groups
An aspect of considering the placement needs of each child is assessing the necessity or desirability of siblings being placed together or apart. Refer to Together or Apart and use the sibling relationships checklist to inform your assessment.
Considering legal grounds for adoption and fostering
- Weighing the evidence for legal grounds
The legal test for a Permanence Order is that either
- “no-one has rights in relation to residence” or
- “residence with any of the persons who do have rights in relation to residence is, or is likely to be seriously detrimental to the welfare of the child”
You need, as with any risk assessment, to consider all the evidence available to you, including what has transpired in the course of work to address a family’s difficulties and re-unite parents and children, to assess:
- the likelihood of detriment, or harm, occurring, taking the long view of the child’s development throughout their childhood
- the seriousness, or significance, of such detriment, or harm.
- Seeking legal advice
You will need to take advice from the Council’s Legal Officers to help you to make this judgement, as well as agreeing to the appropriate legal route to adoption and fostering, both of which should be incorporated as recommendations in the report to the next LAC Review.
Decision to pursue a Specific route to Adoption and Fostering apart from parents
This decision is taken by a subsequent Looked After Child Review.
The decision is informed by your report and by discussion at the meeting. The decision is essentially a decision by the local authority to pursue a course of action.
The authority of the Council to make such a decision if the child is accommodated on a voluntary basis without the agreement of parents is questionable. Where the child is subject to compulsory measures, parents may contest that decision at a subsequent Children’s Hearing and in either circumstance may contest the subsequent application for a court order and it is important that there is evidence that they have been made aware of those rights.
- Reviewing progress towards re-unification
The report and the review must consider what progress has been made in addressing a family’s difficulties and towards re-uniting parents and children. If some progress has been made, is it likely that sufficient progress will be made, within a timescale that is reasonable, bearing in mind the best interests of the child? If there have been barriers to progress, what are they and how likely is it that they could be addressed and sufficient progress made, again, within a reasonable timescale?
- Reviewing the balance of evidence and deciding the Plan
Taking into account the evidence of progress and of barriers to progress, alongside other evidence of existing detriment or likely detriment, as discussed with the Council’s Legal Officers, the Review must:
- take a view as to the likelihood of the grounds for a Permanence Order being met
- decide whether a specific permanence option should be pursued
- decide whether or not to continue with any work towards re-unification, either alongside or instead of the pursuit of a specific adoption and fostering plan
- Planning the Route towards Adoption and Fostering
If a decision is made at the Review to pursue a route to adoption and fostering for the child, the meeting must decide and record a plan for the processes leading towards the Adoption and Fostering Panel, including:
- the anticipated date of the Adoption and Fostering Panel
- a date for the Child’s Profile Meeting
- a date for the Business meeting (this can sometimes follow directly on from the Child’s Profile Meeting, or even be combined in a single meeting)
- arranging a medical, if the anticipated legal route is Adoption, or if the Medical Advisor suggests it is necessary for a permanent foster placement the specific legal route eg Adoption, Permanence Order etc
Pursuing a specific adoption and fostering Plan
Pursuit of a specific plan towards adoption and fostering entails the completion of the exploration of options, in terms both of placement and legal route, and preparation for formal decisions by appropriate bodies – Adoption and Fostering Panel, Matching Panel, Court etc. The work of identifying the right placement for the child and pursuing a legal route towards adoption and fostering are distinct processes, but take place in parallel.
Identifying the right Route to Adoption and Fostering
- Completing the profile of the Child’s Needs
This is generally initiated at the Child’s Profile Meeting, ideally within a couple of weeks of the Looked After Child Review. The meeting does not include parents, but must be informed by a current understanding of the child’s and parents expressed views and wishes. The meeting is chaired by either the Fostering and Adoption Senior or Manager, or the Reviewing Officer, and is convened by the chair and the child’s Social Worker.
The meeting is also attended by the Fostering and Adoption Link Social Worker (Adoption), previous and current foster carers (including respite carers), other professionals with a good knowledge of the child, such as health professionals or support workers. A judgement must be made about whether the child should participate in all, part or none of the meeting and the child’s views and wishes regarding this should be taken into consideration.
There may be circumstances – for example where it is practically difficult to arrange for all of the relevant parties to meet within a reasonable timescale. In this case the work should be done through a series of joint visits by the Social Worker and Link Social Worker to those identified.
The profile will be used to inform the identification of potential placement options and the relevant section of the Form E report for the Adoption and Fostering Panel.
- Detailed Process Planning
This takes place at the Business Meeting, which can follow directly on from the Child’s Profile Meeting, involving some of the same participants –
- child’s social worker and/or senior
- fostering and adoption link worker to the current carer
- fostering and adoption link worker to potential adopters (if adoption is being considered
- kinship worker (if kinship is being considered)
At this meeting detailed consideration is given to placement options for the child, legal aspects of the process, support to prospective carers and support to the birth family. Planning and timing of steps towards the Permanence or Young Person’s Adoption and Fostering Panel and beyond also takes place, including setting a date for completion of Form E or Report to the Young Person’s Adoption and Fostering Panel and requesting a date for a meeting with the Adoption and Fostering Panel via firstname.lastname@example.org
- Consideration of placement options
This part of the Business Meeting includes consideration of –
- the viability of any kinship placement that has been identified
- whether siblings should be placed together or apart
- whether the child should be placed locally or at a distance from the birth family
- what form of contact with the birth family is in the child’s best interests
- the relative capacity of different potential placements to meet the child’s needs
- the necessity for any specialist input – for instance in relation to contact or the advisability of sibling placement
- Completing the profile of the child’s needs
These deliberations inform the work of the Link Social Worker in Family Finding, preparatory to Matching.
- Legal aspects
This part of the meeting includes consideration of –
- the already obtained legal advice about the best legal route
- the views and wishes of child and parents, including the likelihood of the child, if approaching 12 years, consenting to a Permanence Order or POA
- timing of steps, including completion of Form E, either Adoption and Fostering or Young Persons Adoption and Fostering Panel and Advice Hearing of the Children’s Panel, to ensure completion of all that is required with the minimum of delay
- Support to parents and prospective carers
This part of the meeting includes consideration of –
- planned meetings with potential carers
- adoption allowances
- any specialist input that might be required in advance of placement
- post adoption support that might be required
- support to parents and siblings following permanent placement
Decision on a route to adoption and fostering
The formal decision by the local authority to pursue a specific route to permanence is taken by the Agency Decision Maker, on the basis of a recommendation from either the Adoption and Fostering Panel (for children under 12 years) or the Young Persons Adoption and Fostering Panel. The Panel requires the appropriate Report – either Form E for the Adoption and Fostering Panel, or the Report for the Young Persons Adoption and Fostering Panel two weeks before the Panel date. Reports are sent to Panel Members a week prior to the meeting.
There is a place on these forms for the child to consent if they have capacity (it is capacity rather than age which is essential.)
When a child comes to the pane for permanent fostering, Health will :
Produce a written summary of health information gathered from the following reports ~
- Review of the LAC in to Care Medical Form (the IHA-C/YP forms)
- Review of the hospital and community child health notes. If there child is being seen within the hospital or community paediatrics, this should have up to date health information.
- A carer’s report – Form CR-C or Form CR/YP.
- A school report if available
- An immunisation Report - Form E
NB – 3, 4 and 6 should be provided by Social Work
If it is felt that there is not enough information available from the above, or there are significant concerns arising from the above, then health can arrange a medial appointment.
Children for adoption will have a medical arranged with a consultant paediatrician as before.
The decision, by the agency decision-maker must be made within 14 days of the Panel recommendation.
Given that statutory timescales apply in respect of various aspects of case management when applying for a Permanence Order – particularly if also applying for authority to adopt – consideration should be given to commencing work on the Court Report at this stage.
Young People’s Adoption and Fostering Panel
These procedures will apply to those Moray Council looked after children who have been in foster care, kinship care and/or residential care arrangements within or out with Moray, for more than 6 months. These procedures will not apply to those looked after children who are on home based supervision orders.
The following will inform which route might be pursued to make a adoption and fostering plan, or confirm the long-term status of the child: -
(i) The views of the child, parents and current carers
(ii) The age of the child
(iii) The legal issues and advice
Permanence Monitoring and Development Group – Children (Care planning)
The CLAS stats are sent to the Corporate Parenting and Commissioning Manager every month. These stats are monitored with specific focus on those children who have been accommodated for a period of more than 6 months, details of which the Corporate Parenting and Commissioning Manager will forward to the Permanence Monitoring and Development Group – Children (Care planning)
The core remit of the Permanence Monitoring and Development Group – Children (Care planning) is: -
(i) To oversee the processes, from a child being identified as being in need of adoption and fostering, or long term placement, to the child being placed with permanent carers, with the aim of assisting workers to avoid drift and unnecessary delay;
(ii) To analyse processes, issues, and numbers for use in informing strategic planning
Adoption and Fostering Procedures
Looked After Children younger than 12 years
All children who have been looked after for more than 6 months will have their circumstances considered by the Permanence Monitoring and Development Group – Children (Care planning)
The Permanence Monitoring and Development Group – Children (Care planning)
(i) Will confirm the LAC review recommendation that for children who are less than 12 years of age, their needs for adoption and fostering will require being progressed through the Moray Permanence Panel. For this a form E will be required.
(ii) Will communicate with legal services about children being referred to Permanence Monitoring and Development Group - Children (Care planning)
(iii) Will confirm with the social worker which other social workers have recently completed E forms/ attended panel – to create opportunities for peer support
(iv) Confirm with the social worker key tasks and timetabling of processes/activities required by any person who is one of the members of the team round the child. Reference will be made to LAC Review, Business meetings, Child’s needs meetings and the Moray Permanence Panel.
All children who have been looked after for more than 6 months will have their circumstances considered by the Permanence Monitoring and Development Group - Children (Care planning).
The Permanence Monitoring and Development Group - Children (Care planning): -
(i) Will hear from and monitor the needs of over 12s via the LAC review recommendations. The alternatives are either the Moray Permanence Panel, (for this a form E will be required), or a less formal group known as the Young Persons Placement Panel (for this no form E will be required however the headings within the form E will inform reports and LAC reviewing processes): use of form E will be acceptable.
(ii) All processes detailed above, for children under 12 years of age, will apply if the child is over 12 years of age and the Permanence Monitoring and Development Group - Children (Care planning) believe, consistent with the LAC review recommendations, that he/she should be presented to the Moray Permanency panel.
(iii) Factors that will influence the recommendation on whether or not the child should be presented to the Moray Permanence panel include: - the views of the child/ parents/ carers and whether there is any plan to alter current legal status.
(iv) If there is recommendation to alter the legal status (for example to apply for a PO/ POA/ adoption) then the child’s case, using the E form must be presented to the Moray Permanence Panel, irrespective of age.
(v) If there is no recommendation for a change in legal status excepting where kinship or foster carers are seeking residency through s 11 order, and the child is older than 12yrs and the views of the child, parents and carers are in agreement with planning then adoption and fostering can be considered at the “Young Person’s Adoption and Fostering Panel”.
(vi) The report to the LAC review and the minute of the LAC review should detail that all headings have been considered and recorded and make a recommendation on the plan that is to be presented to the “Young Person’s Adoption and Fostering Panel”.
(vii) The minute and LAC report should be sent to Chair of the “Young Person’s Adoption and Fostering Panel”, who is the Corporate Parenting and Commissioning Manager.
(viii) Where the young person’s plan is to remain with an existing carer or move to an identified Foster Carer the Fostering & Adoption Team will ensure that the carers have the necessary approval to provide permanent or long term care.
(ix) The young person’s Social Worker and the Foster Carers’ Supervising Social Worker must complete and submit matching reports identifying how the young person’s needs will be met by the particular carers. If the matching report format is not used then the matching consideration must be detailed within the LAC review report and minutes- to evidence active consideration of this issue.
(x) Membership of the “Young Person’s Adoption and Fostering Panel” will comprise the following: -
- the Corporate Parenting and Commissioning Manager, or the Continuing Support Service Manager in the absence of the Corporate Parenting and Commissioning Manager, their role is to Chair the meeting
- the Placement Team Manager, or Fostering Senior Social worker
- the young person’s social worker.
- *optional depending on the needs for consideration.
The manager or the senior social worker from the team in which the Young Person has an allocated social worker.
(xi) The “Young Person’s Matching Panel” will meet when there is need based on referral. On receipt of referral the Corporate Parenting and Commissioning Manager will liaise with the child’s social worker and agree a date for meeting which will be within a period of 4 weeks.
(xii) The Corporate Parenting and Commissioning Manager will screen the papers and forward to those listed above 2 weeks in advance of the placement panel.
(xiii) The Young Person will be invited to attend if it’s in his/ her interests to attend. The carer will be invited and expected to attend. The social worker will be expected to attend.
(xiv) The minute of discussion and recommendation will be sent to Head of Integrated Children’s Services for approval who will issue a letter to the young person confirming approval.
(xv) Any contentious or challenged aspect will be considered by The Corporate Director Education and Social Care.
Notice to Parents
Following the decision, formal Notices are sent to birth parents, including unmarried birth fathers without parental rights and responsibilities if their identity and address is known, by Legal Services. Legal Services will also request an Advice Hearing of the Children’s Panel, to be held usually no earlier than 28 days from the Notice to Parents, to allow them time to respond.
If parents do not respond to the Notice, it should be assumed that they will contest the making of the specified Order.
Formal Advice Hearing
Seeking advice from the Children’s Hearing
The Advice Hearing includes a full case review. This Hearing may also request a change of residence for the child if adopters have been identified and matched with the child. This should be covered in your report.
Preparing the Court Report
Problems / amendments required to LAC Manual?
Please contact Linda Pearce