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3.1.4 Permanence Planning Guidance

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RELATED CHAPTER

Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure

AMENDMENT

In June 2016, this chapter was extensively revised and updated and should be read in full.


Contents

1. Defining Permanence
2. Key Objectives in Permanence Planning
3. Options for Permanence
  3.1 Staying / Returning Home
  3.2 Placement with Connected Person
  3.3 Adoption
  3.4 Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective
  3.5 Permanency Fostering
  3.6 Residential Placements
  3.7 Special Guardianship Order
  3.8 Child Arrangements Order
  3.9 Long-term Fostering
4. Permanence and Local Placement
5. Assessing and Planning for Permanence


1. Defining Permanence

Permanence is the long term plan for the child’s upbringing and provides an underpinning framework for all social work with children and their families from family support through to adoption. It ensures a framework of emotional, physical and legal conditions that gives a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment, identity and belonging.


2. Key Objectives in Permanence Planning

The objective of planning for permanence is to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond and to give them a sense of security, continuity, commitment, identity and belonging. It is also important to remember that older children and young people also need to achieve permanence in their lives although they may not wish (for a variety of reasons) to be in a foster home or to be adopted. For example, they may prefer to live in a children’s home where they can also achieve a sense of security and belonging.

The question "how are the child's permanence needs being met?" must be at the core of everything we do.

Where it is necessary for a child to leave his or her family:

  • This should be for as short a time as needed to secure a safe, supported return home; or
  • If a child 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's needs;
  • Where it is not in the child's best interests to live within the family network, it will usually be in the interests of the child 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;
  • 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, Connected Person 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 will be taken into account. The older and more mature the child, the greater the weight should be given to his or her wishes.

Whilst it is important, when undertaking permanence planning, to promote the child's links with his or her racial, cultural and religious heritage, this should not be allowed to introduce delay in achieving permanence for the child. Note that due consideration no longer has to be given to a child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background when matching a child and prospective adopters.


3. Options for Permanence

3.1 Staying / Returning Home

The first stage within permanence planning is work with families and children in need to support them staying together. Staying at home offers the best chance of stability. Research shows that family preservation has a higher success rate than reunification. This of course has to be balanced against the risk of harm to the child.

3.2 Placement with Connected Person

If the assessment concludes that the child cannot safely remain at home, every effort must be made to secure placement with relatives or friends. This will be either as part of the plan to work towards a return home or - if a return home is clearly not in the child's best interests - as the preferred permanence option. It is very important to establish at an early stage which relatives or friends might be available to care for the child, to avoid the kind of delays that can happen during court proceedings where this work has not been done.

3.3 Adoption

For further details see Placement for Adoption Procedure.

Adoption transfers Parental Responsibility for the child from the birth parents and others who had Parental Responsibility, including the local authority, permanently and solely to the adopter(s).

The child is deemed to be the child of the adopter(s) as if he or she had been born to them. The child's birth certificate is changed to an adoption certificate showing the adopter(s) to be the child's parent(s). A child who is not already a citizen of the UK acquires British citizenship if adopted in the UK by a citizen of the UK.

Research strongly supports adoption as a primary consideration and as a main factor contributing to the stability of children, especially for those under four years of age who cannot be reunified with their birth or extended family.

Adopters may be supported, including financially, by the local authority and will have the right to request an assessment for support services at any time after the Order is made. See Adoption Support Procedure for detailed procedures.

Adoption has the following advantages as a Permanence Plan:

  1. Parental Responsibility is held exclusively by the carers;
  2. The child is no longer Looked After;
  3. No future legal challenge to overturn the Adoption Order is possible;
  4. The child is a permanent family member into adulthood.

Adoption has the following disadvantages as a Permanence Plan:

  1. It involves a complete and permanent legal separation from the family of origin;
  2. There is no review process.

Family finding should begin as soon as adoption is under consideration, and before the Agency Decision Maker decides that the child should be placed for adoption or a Placement Order is made.

3.4 Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters

The Children and Families Act 2014 imposes a duty to consider placements with carers who are approved as both adopters and foster carers - see Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure.

3.5 Permanency Fostering

Permanency Fostering - is a permanency route for children where adoption is not considered suitable and there is no-one in the child's network who can offer a home through Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship. Permanency fostering placements will provide the child with relationships and support beyond their 18th birthday after they are not longer looked after.

This permanency placement option will mean the child remains a looked after child. The carer will not have or be able to exercise Parental Responsibility and will be required to work with and be directed by the Local Authority in all key decisions. This will include decisions in respect to education, health issues, contact and travel. However they will be expected to be a permanent family for this child, caring from them beyond their 18th birthday.

It expected the social worker would therefore have discussed in detail with the prospective carer the merits for the child and their relationship with the child of applying for Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order. Timing of such applications should be discussed and confirmed at the child's Looked After Review

For family finding for a permanent foster carer to commence a referral to the Adoption Team is required. It is likely the Adoption Team will have been alerted to the child via the LACPT who are required to identify all children likely to require substitute families by the second review. However the search request for a permanent foster carer will not be allocated until the referral is made by the allocated social worker (first part of Form E) and a Permanency Planning meeting is held.

3.6 Residential Placements

In an extremely small number of instances young persons' plan may be to be placed in residential unit on a longer-term basis until they have completed their secondary education or are ready for semi-independence.

Should this be proposed by the social worker it will need to have agreement of the Team Manager for it to be presented at the child's looked after review. The plan will require the endorsement by the allocated IRO at the child's looked after review.

The plan will then need to be reviewed by the Head of Looked After Children's Social Care and authorised by the Director Child protection. As such the allocated social worker may be required to provide further written documentation to support the case for residential care.

3.7 Special Guardianship Orders

See Applications for Special Guardianship Orders Procedure for the detailed procedures.

Special Guardianship addresses the needs of a significant group of children, who need a sense of stability and security within a placement away from their parents but not the absolute legal break with their birth family that is associated with adoption. It can also provide an alternative for achieving permanence in families where adoption, for cultural or religious reasons, is not an option.

The following persons may apply:

  1. Any guardian of the child;
  2. A local authority foster carer with whom the child has lived for one year immediately preceding the application;
  3. Anyone who his named in a Child Arrangements Order as a person with whom the child is to live;
  4. Anyone with whom the child has lived for 3 out of the last 5 years;
  5. Where the child is subject of a Care Order, any person who has the consent of the local authority;
  6. Anyone who has the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility for the child e.g. Anyone, including the child, who has the leave of the court to apply.

The parents of a child may not become the child's special guardians.

Special Guardianship Orders offer greater stability and security to a placement than Child Arrangements Orders in that - whilst they are revocable, there are restrictions on those who may apply to discharge the Order and the leave of the Court, if required, will only be granted where circumstances have changed since the Special Guardianship Order was made.

Special guardians will have Parental Responsibility for the child and although this will be shared with the child's parents, the special guardian will have the legal right to make all day to day arrangements for the child. The parents will still have to be consulted and their consent required to the child's change of name, adoption, placement abroad for more than 3 months and any other such fundamental issues.

A Special Guardianship Order made in relation to a child who is the subject of a Care Order will automatically discharge the Care Order and the local authority will no longer have Parental Responsibility.

Special guardians may be supported financially or otherwise by the local authority and, as with adoptive parents, will have the right to request an assessment for support services at any time after the Order is made.

Special Guardianship has the following advantages as a Permanence Plan:

  1. The carers have Parental Responsibility and clear authority to make decisions on day to day issues regarding the child's care;
  2. There is added legal security to the Order in that leave is required for parents to apply to discharge the Order and will only be granted if a change of circumstances can be established since the original Order was made;
  3. It maintains legal links to the birth family;
  4. The child will no longer be in care and there need be no social worker involvement unless this is identified as necessary, in which case an assessment of the need for support must be made by the relevant local authority.

Special Guardianship has the following disadvantages as a Permanence Plan:

  1. The Order only lasts until the child is 18 and does not necessarily bring with it the same sense of belonging to the special guardian's family as an Adoption Order does;
  2. As the child is not a legal member of the family, if difficulties arise there may be less willingness to persevere and seek resolution;
  3. Although there are restrictions on applications to discharge the Order, such an application is possible and may be perceived as a threat to the child's stability.

3.8 Child Arrangements Order

Child Arrangements Orders were introduced in April 2014 by the Children and Families Act 2014 (which amended section 8 Children Act 1989). They replace Contact Orders and Residence Orders.

A Child Arrangements Order means a court order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:

  1. With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact; and
  2. When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.

The 'residence' aspects of a Child Arrangements Order (i.e. with whom a child is to live/when a child is to live with any person) can last until the child reaches 18 years unless discharged earlier by the Court or by the making of a Care Order.

The ‘contact’ aspects of a Child Arrangements Order (with whom and when a child is to spend time with or otherwise have contact with) cease to have effect when the child reaches 16 years, unless the court is satisfied that the circumstances of the case are exceptional.

A person named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, will have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force. Where a person is named in the order as a person with whom the child is to spend time or otherwise have contact, but is not named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, the court may provide in the order for that person to have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force.

Child Arrangements Orders are private law orders, and cannot be made in favour of a local authority. Where a child is the subject of a Care Order, there is a general duty on the local authority to promote contact between the child and the parents. A Contact Order can be made under section 34 of the Children Act 1989 requiring the local authority to allow the child to have contact with a named person.

A court which is considering making, varying or discharging a Child Arrangements Orders, including making any directions or conditions which may be attached to such an order, must have regard to the paramountcy principle, the ‘no order’ principle and the welfare checklist under the Children Act 1989.

Interim Child Arrangements Orders can be made.

Where a child would otherwise have to be placed with strangers, a placement with family or friends may be identified as a preferred option and the carers may be encouraged and supported to apply for a Child Arrangements Order where this will be in the best interests of the child.

The holder of a Child Arrangements Order does not have the right to consent to the child's adoption nor to appoint a guardian; in addition, he/she may not change the child's name nor arrange for the child's emigration without the consent of all those with Parental Responsibility or the leave of the court.

Whilst support may continue for as long as the Child Arrangements Order remains in force, the aim will be to make arrangements which are self-sustaining in the long run.

As was the case with Contact and Residence Orders, any person can apply for a Child Arrangements Order. The following can apply for a Child Arrangements Order without needing the leave of the court. In addition, any person who is not automatically entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order may seek leave of the court to do so:

  • Any parent (whether or not they have Parental Responsibility for the child), guardian or special guardian of the child;
  • Any person named, in a Child Arrangements Order that is in force with respect to the child, as a person with whom the child is to live;
  • Any party to a marriage (whether or not subsisting) in relation to whom the child is a child of the family - this allows step-parents (including those in a civil partnership) and former step-parents who fulfil this criteria to apply as of right;
  • Any person with whom the child has lived for a period of at least three years - this period need not be continuous but must not have begun more than five years before, or ended more than three months before, the making of the application; or
  • Any person:
    • Who has the consent of each of the persons in named in a Child Arrangements Order as a person with whom the child is to live;
    • In any case where there is an existing order for care in force, has the consent of each person in who favour the order was made;
    • In any case where the child is in the care of a local authority, who has the consent of that authority;
    • In whose favour a Child Arrangements Order has been made in relation to the ‘contact’ aspects and who has been awarded Parental Responsibility by the court (i.e. they would be able to apply for a Child Arrangements Order in relation to the ‘residence’ aspects);
    • In any other case, has the consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child.
  • A local authority foster parent is entitled to apply for a child arrangements order relating to whom the child is to live, and/or when the child is to live any person, if the child has lived with him for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application;
  • A relative of a child is entitled to apply for a child arrangements order relating to whom the child is to live, and/or when the child is to live any person, if the child has lived with the relative for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application. (A relative is a child's grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (by full or half blood), or by marriage or civil partnership.)

A Child Arrangements Order specifying with whom the child is to live has the following advantages:

  1. It gives Parental Responsibility to the carer whilst maintaining the parents' Parental Responsibility;
  2. The child will no longer be Looked After and there need be no social work involvement, therefore, unless this is identified as necessary;
  3. There is no review process;
  4. The child will not be Looked After and so less stigma is attached to the placement.

A Child Arrangements Order has the following disadvantages:

  1. It is less secure than Adoption or Special Guardianship in that an application can be made to revoke the Child Arrangements Order. However, the Court making the order can be asked to attach a condition refusing a parent's right to seek revocation without leave of the court;
  2. There is no formal continuing support to the family after the Order is made although in some instances, a Child Arrangements Order Allowance may be payable by the local authority;
  3. There is no professional reviewing of the arrangements after the Order unless a new application to court is made, for example by the parents for contact or revocation. (NB New applications to court may be expensive to defend, and the carers would have to bear the cost if not entitled to assistance with legal costs).

3.9 Long-term Fostering

(Please see the separate chapter Placements in Foster Care for details regarding the appropriate making of long-term foster placements).

For those children who remain Looked After an important route to permanence is long-term foster care. Where the permanence plan for the child is longer-term foster care this may be where the current short-term foster placement is assessed to meet the long term needs of the child for permanence or where a new placement is identified for a child as a result of an assessment and matching process.

This option has proved to be particularly useful for older children who retain strong links to their birth families and do not want or need the formality of adoption and where the carers wish for the continued involvement of the local authority.

Long-term fostering has the following advantages as a Permanence Plan:

  1. The local authority retains a role in negotiating between the foster carers and the birth family over issues such as contact;
  2. There is continuing social work support to the child and foster family in a placement that is regularly reviewed to ensure that the child's needs are met;
  3. It maintains legal links to the birth family who can still play a part in the decision making for the child.

Long-term fostering has the following disadvantages as a Permanence Plan:

  1. Lack of Parental Responsibility for the carers;
  2. Continuing social work involvement;
  3. Regular Looked After Reviews, which may be regarded as destabilising to the placement;
  4. Stigma attached to the child due to being in care;
  5. The child is not a legal member of the family. If difficulties arise there may be less willingness to persevere and seek resolution;
  6. Post care and/or post 18 the carers have no legal responsibility towards the young person.

Approval for Long term fostering matches for young people between the ages of 10 and 15 are made by the Long Term Fostering Panel. If a young person is part of a sibling group with a child under the age of 10 approval for this arrangement would be made by the Adoption and Permanency Panel.


4. Permanence and Local Placement

Where a child is placed with long term carers, it is important that the child has access to the friends, family or community within which they were brought up and which form part of their identity and their long term support network. For these reasons children should be placed in local provision wherever possible.

Any decision to place a child away from his or her community should be based on the particular needs of the child, and considered within the context of a Permanence Plan. Where an alternative family placement is sought in the area of another local authority, the likely availability and cost of suitable local resources to support the placement must be explored. In the case of an adoptive placement, this will be required as part of the assessment of need for adoption support services (see Adoption Support Procedure), but should be carried out in relation to any permanent placement.

Also see Out of Area Placement Procedure.


5. Assessing and Planning for Permanence

Assessments of a child's needs in relation to his or her Permanence Plan must:

  1. Focus on outcomes;
  2. Consider stability issues, including the child's and family's needs for long-term support and the child's needs for links, including contact, with his or her parents, siblings, and wider family network.

Social workers must ensure the child's Permanence Plan is clearly linked to previous assessments of the child's needs.

In considering the child's needs, full consultation with family and community networks should be undertaken to establish the child's attachments and supports.

In all cases, the child's own wishes and feelings must be ascertained and taken into account.

By the time of the second Looked After Review, the child must have a Permanence Plan (incorporated into the Care Plan), to be presented for consideration at the review.

Where the Permanence Plan includes a Parallel Plan, the social worker must ensure that the parents are informed of the reasons why two plans are being made to meet the child's needs and prevent unnecessary delay.

5.1 Twin Track or Parallel Planning

Social workers are encouraged to consider working to this model; working towards a child's return home whilst at the same time developing an alternative Permanence Plan, within strictly limited timescales.

Where children's cases are before the court in Care Proceedings, the Court require twin track planning to be reflected in the Care Plan - see also Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline.

Permanency planning meetings should be helped on all children under the age of 12. These will be chaired by the Adoption team.

See also Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure.

5.2 Placement/Contact with Siblings - Issues to Consider

Please see the separate chapter Contact with Parents / Adults and Siblings Procedure.


Glossary

Adoption Team The Team of social workers in the Looked After Children's Social Care Service undertakes family finding for adoptive parents and permanent foster carers for Islington's looked after children.
Bridging to Permanence Foster placements that are secured with a view to take the match of the child to the carers to the Adoption and Permanence Panel after the child has been placed, settled and the placement stability tested.

Bridging to Independence - Fostering

A permanency option for children only over the age of 14 who require a secure foster placement until they have least completed their secondary school education but do not require permanency fostering.
Interim Placement A fostering placement for a child under 14, to 'hold' them while work is being done to prepare them for permanence.
Long Term Fostering A permanency option for secondary school aged children who require a secure foster placement until they are ready for independence but are assessed as not requiring a permanency foster placement or are settled and wanting to stay in a foster placement that is not offering permanency.    
Permanency Fostering  The permanency route for children where adoption is not considered suitable and there is no-one in the child's network who can offer a home through Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship. Permanency fostering placements will provide the child with relationships and support beyond their 18th birthday after they are not longer looked after.

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