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3.1.8 Permanence Planning and Stability Protocol

This chapter was added to the manual in October 2020.


Contents

  1. Introduction and Purpose
  2. Adoption Planning, Relinquished Babies and Early Permanence
  3. Permanency Planning Meetings
  4. Permanence Planning Meetings for Children in PLO or Care Proceedings that are not Looked After
  5. Permanent or Long Term Foster Care for all Children up to the Age of 14
  6. Supporting Placement Stability
  7. Life Story Work
  8. Governance of Permanency Planning and Placement Stability
  9. Placement Stability


1. Introduction and Purpose

If children and young people are unable to remain with their birth parents and experience the trauma and loss of separation as well as earlier adversities, it is essential that they have the opportunity to form reparative, long-term relationships to build resilience.

Our aim is for all children and young people in our care to have a safe, effective and stable placement as early as possible, including through Special Guardianship, adoption and long term fostering.

The practice outlined in this protocol aims to ensure that effective planning for children and young people takes place at the earliest possible opportunity. This is in order to identify stable placements with carers who are in tune with their needs, so that children and young people achieve the best possible outcomes in the right placement for them.

Permanency Planning Meetings (PPM) will be required for all children up to the age of 14 who have come into Local Authority care and for all cases where care proceedings have been issued. They will be chaired by the Permanency Team Manager.

Children and young people’s views about placements should be fully considered and a full, age appropriate explanation given to them about decisions that are made.

This protocol applies to the Children Looked After, Children with disability and Children in Need services.

Initial Formulation meetings

Clinicians allocated to CLA teams and Independent Futures will facilitate an initial meeting of the parenting team when children and young people first come into Local Authority care, to include CiN and CLA social workers, Young People’s Advisers (YPA) Supervising Social Workers (SSW) and foster carers (or keyworkers) to share and consider children and young people’s formative experiences and needs.

These meetings should take place before the first looked after review apart from cases transferring to Independent Futures when they should take place within 6 weeks.

In this discussion, an initial trauma informed formulation of the child’s experiences will be shared and developed to inform the foster carers (or keyworkers) and SW/YPAs understanding of the expressed and unexpressed needs the child is likely to bring to the relationship, interaction and communication with their carers.

The discussion will also provide an opportunity for the parenting team to consider any concerns, feelings (anxiety) that the parenting team may have about the plan to look after the child and the support available to manage this. The overall aim is for the parenting team to have an opportunity to develop a shared understanding of the child’s current and developmental needs and consider ways the carer and SWs will work together to support the child in the initial phase of being looked after.


2. Adoption Planning, Relinquished Babies and Early Permanence

If adoption is being considered as a plan for the child, an immediate discussion should take place and an adoption planning meeting should be set up with the Permanency Team Manager. As soon as possible. There should be no delay in waiting for care proceedings to be initiated. A Family Finder from the Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) will be invited. The meeting will be chaired by the Permanency Team Manager. S/he will be responsible for the minutes to be written up within 7 working days of the meeting taking place.

These discussions should consider the possibility of early permanence via adoption for the child, including whether a foster to adopt placement is appropriate (see flowchart early permanence).

If adoption is agreed as the long term plan for the child, then the adoption planning procedures should be followed. The Permanence Team will act as the lead for the adoption plan, liaising with the CLA Social Work Team and RAA, to ensure all appropriate reports and timescales are met.

In cases where a baby is being relinquished or siblings of the child have been subject to any form of permanence, a discussion should be held immediately with the Permanency Team Manager and early permanence through adoption considered (see relinquished baby flowchart).


3. Permanency Planning Meetings

An initial permanency planning meeting (PPM) for all Looked After Children up to the age of 14 will take place between the first and the second Looked After Review. This should be highlighted within the CLA plan at the initial Looked After Child Review.

For children over the age of 14 discussions around their permanency needs should take place in team around the child meetings and supervision.

The allocated Social Worker should request an initial permanence planning meeting with the Permanency Team Manager. This can be requested on LCS through forms, which will be overseen by the Permanence Team Manager.

The Social Worker will complete a referral form on LCS, outlining the child’s history, including their attachment history, and the permanence options being considered. They will also be asked to send any relevant expert reports that are already available, for example those that have been completed within the PLO process.

The Permanency Team Manager will then make the decision, in conjunction with the child’s Social Worker, about whether any other professionals need to be invited to the meeting, such as the family finder from the Regional Adoption Agency (where adoption is being considered), the Permanency assessor, Supervising Social Worker or a teacher from the Virtual School.

Minutes of the PPM will be taken by the Permanency Team and will be available within 7 working days. The minutes will automatically go into the forms section on LCS once approved by the Permanency Team Manager. The meeting must be attended by the child’s Social Worker and either a Practice Manager or Team Manager. Where cases are particularly complex, the relevant Team or Service Manager will be invited to attend.

The purpose of the PPM is to explore all of the permanence options for the child, taking into account the child’s needs, and any siblings they have. The meeting will consider whether there is sufficient information available for a decision to be made about what the long term plan for the child is. It is expected that the child’s Social Worker will be able to represent the child’s wishes and feelings about the permanence options and plan, where this is age appropriate.

If it is felt sufficient information is available, a recommendation will be made at the end of the meeting. The Social Worker for the child should share the minutes of the meeting with the child’s IRO once they are available.

If insufficient information is available to make a final care planning decision for the child at the time of the initial meeting, for example because assessments have not yet been completed within Court or further information is identified as necessary, then a review PPM will be booked. A review PPM will also be booked if further reflective discussion is needed around contact, placement of siblings etc. The review PPM will need to be held within the child’s timescales, for example prior to the final hearing if the case is in Care Proceedings, or prior to the third Looked After review. The date for the next PPM will be set at that meeting to ensure least drift and delay.

The PPM should consider all aspects of permanency and the different options available including rehabilitation to ensure early planning around contact, completion of sibling assessments, family finding for permanent and long term foster placements and agree timescales for completion of sibling assessments and child permanence reports (see flowchart Permanence Planning – to follow).

Prior to any implementations of the permanency plans made in the meeting, the Local Authority will present these plans to the CLA Review to ensure IRO scrutiny and endorsement of the care plan.

The purpose of a Permanency Planning Meeting is to consider:

  • The child’s formative developmental experiences, attachment experience and the impact of any trauma, abuse and loss to inform professionals and carers of their immediate and longer term needs;
  • What are the possible plans for the child / what is the final plan for the child?
  • What expert reports are available and how do they influence planning;
  • What further information is still needed to help make a permanence decision;
  • What are the plans for contact?
  • Are there siblings and what are their plans? Is a sibling assessment required?
  • What other processes are needed e.g. selection meeting / child permanence report etc.
  • What support will be required if rehabilitation to the birth family is being considered;
  • What support is needed for adopters or Special Guardians or for foster carers.

Family and Friends Care: consideration should be given to all children growing up within their extended family if they are not able to remain in the care of their parents. Assessments need to consider family and friends capacity to provide good reparative care throughout the child’s life. PPM should be used to comprehensively explore support that would be required if the child/ren was placed with their extended family, particularly around contact with their family and other significant people. Review PPM may be combined with mid-way meetings.

SGO support: The Permanency Team are responsible for providing SGO support and children should be supported to grow up outside of the care system with their extended family (link to SGO Protocol). Family and Friends long term fostering should only be considered in exceptional circumstances and with the agreement of the Service Manager in Permanency and Fostering or CLA.

Sibling Assessments – all sibling groups should have a Sibling Assessment completed once it is clear that they are going to remain in care, regardless of the how they have been placed from when they came into care. This assessment should be completed by the child’s Social Worker, in conjunction with the Permanence Team, and should provide a clear rationale about why decisions are being made about whether to place siblings together or apart. These decisions should be shared with children in age appropriate ways.


4. Permanence Planning Meetings for Children in PLO or Care Proceedings that are not Looked After

When Care Proceedings are initiated and the child is not Looked After, permanence planning is still vital for the child involved.

After the Case Management Conference (CMC) Court Hearing, the allocated Social Worker should request a permanence planning meeting within four weeks.

PPM can be requested during the PLO process prior to proceedings being initiated to assist permanence and care planning. In these circumstances if the case is about to be transferred to the CLA service they should be invited to attend.


5. Permanent or Long Term Foster Care for all Children up to the Age of 14

If permanent or long term foster care is identified as the permanence plan for a child, then a family finding Social Worker will be allocated from the Permanency Team. They will work alongside the Deputy Team Manager in the Placement Service who will be responsible for commissioning permanent/long term foster families.

Responsibilities for family finding will be agreed at the PPM. Family finders will be responsible for completing profiles on children and young people and these will be used by the Placement Service to assist in identifying potential carers. Photos, videos etc. should be used where appropriate. Both the family finder and the child’s Social Worker should read assessments of in house and IFA foster carers in order to assess suitability. Family Finding meetings will continue as required once the Permanency plan is agreed.

The Permanency Team may decide to attempt to identify a family through the in-house fostering service, the consortium carers and Linkmaker and the Placements Team will also undertake placement searches where appropriate. The focus needs to be on finding the right carer for the child and if that is not possible in house then IFA carers need to be considered. Where a child’s current foster placement is being considered as a permanent home, careful assessment and a joint visit with the CLA Social Worker and the Family Finder from the Permanence Team to the foster carer will be arranged. Matching though a selection meeting is then required to support the long term stability of the placement of the child or young person.

Selection meetings

If permanent or long term fostering is a likely outcome for the child, early planning to help secure the right placement for the child as soon as possible is crucial and planning for this should not wait until the conclusion of care proceedings.

Once suitable foster carers have been identified, a selection meeting should be held to agree the match. This meeting will be chaired by the Practice Manager from the Permanency Team and will include the child’s Social Worker and the Practice or Team Manager, the supervising Social Worker and any other relevant professionals.

The purpose of the meeting is to ensure everyone is:

  • Clear how the placement will meet the child’s needs, including their emotional, developmental and reparative needs throughout the child’s minority;
  • Clear what the child’s view is regarding the potential plans;
  • Clear how the child and family’s history will be shared with the carers;
  • That there is an agreed support plan for the child and the carer;
  • The role of the agency support if this is an IFA placement.

At the end of the meeting, a date should be agreed for when paperwork will be completed and the date of the panel that the case will be presented at (Fostering Panel for children under 10 years old and Long Term Fostering Meeting for children between 10-14 years old).

The Permanency Team will complete the matching report for the Fostering Panel with input from the child’s Social Worker and Supervising Social Worker. The Social Work Team will complete the Child Permanence Report. The Form F will also be presented to the Fostering Panel alongside any updated assessment that details the carers capacity to meet the child’s long term needs and the last foster carers review.

The Supervising Social Worker (in house or IFA) with input from the Permanency Team will be responsible for completing the matching report for Long Term Fostering Panel. This will be presented with the child’s Care Plan and a copy of their PEP.

The children’s views as to their long term match should be fully considered as there may be some older children who may not wish for their placement to be confirmed as long term for the time being. Such decisions should be recorded on the child’s file and timescales for reviewing this agreed.

Escalation

If a worker is unhappy with the permanence plan, or process of agreeing a permanence plan, this should initially be raised with their Team Manager, and if not resolved then it should be escalated to the Service Manager for CLA or Permanency and Fostering.

If children are unhappy with their permanence plan, this should be highlighted within the permanence planning process, and their IRO should be alerted. Children should be offered the option of an advocate through CAIS so that they have independent support to represent their views.


6. Supporting Placement Stability

Embedding our practice model is crucial to helping ensure stable good placements for children and young people that help them to come to terms with their losses, build resilience and achieve good outcomes. Purposeful, child focused and trauma informed support should be provided by the team around the child/carer on an ongoing basis utilising personal and group supervision, coaching, clinical and PACE consultations.

Team around the Child Meetings (TAC) should be held regularly to ensure good communication and reflection on the needs of the child/young person and their carer(s). The frequency of these should be based on need but should occur at least every six months alternating between reviews. Where cases are joint funded with Health and Education TACs should take place at regularly intervals, at least once every 6 months. Carers should always be invited to these meetings.

Where a placement is in difficulty a Supporting the Placement meeting should be held. This should be chaired by the Practice Manager from CLA or Independent Futures and should be attended by the carers and all professionals involved with the child or young person. This meeting needs to focus on the strengths of the placement and how these might be built on, the challenges and the support required to help ensure the placement is sustainable where this in the child or young person’s interest.

Where a carer or placement gives notice and asks for a child to leave a Moving On should be held within a week of notice being given. This meeting could be chaired by a Practice or Team Manager and should be attended by the carers and professionals involved with the child or young person. This meeting should consider what has happened and whether there are any services that could be put in to support the placement. If the carers are clear that the placement needs to end the meeting should agree timescales, how the ending will be managed for the benefit of the child and how s/he will be told. It should also consider whether there are any lessons to be learnt.


7. Life Story Work

Life story work will be an integral part of all work completed by the CLA and IF service. It is expected that life story work will become built into all work undertaken with children and young people. All children who have been in care will be expected to have a life story book. Life story activities and worksheets will be collated in a life story folder that the child and young person can keep, and the workers will be expected to keep copies of these for the child’s file. Children and young people will be supported to have a life story box in which they keep items and objects that they consider important, and these will all be appropriately labelled with the support of the child’s Social Worker. Integrating life story work into everything our Social Workers do with children and their families and carers, will support children and young people to understand why they are in care, the decisions that have been made about them and it is hoped that this will help to support placement stability.

Later life letters should be completed for all looked after children and updated when a social worker leaves and when the case transfers to IF. Later life letters should also be completed where children are placed in Special Guardianship arrangements prior to the order being made. For adopted children the life story book and later life letter must be completed and handed over to adopters by the pronouncement hearing.


8. Governance of Permanency Planning and Placement Stability

  1. Permanency planning, including the completion of Life Story Work will be tracked at monthly permanency tracking meetings. These will be chaired by the Service Manager for Permanency and Fostering. They will be attended by the Service Manager for CLA, the designated CLA Doctor, the RAA (for adoption tracking) and the Permanency Team Manager;
  2. Themes will be reported to Senior Leadership Meetings such as Corporate Parenting Board and Practice and Outcomes Board;
  3. Reports from this meeting will be discussed at the Practice and Outcomes Meeting and Care Planning Panel in CLA.


9. Placement Stability

Placement stability meeting

  1. All placement moves will be agreed by the Service Manager for CLA or IF over the age of 16. Unless an emergency all placement moves must be agreed the Placement Stability Meeting which takes place weekly and is chaired by the Service Manager in CLA. The Service Manager of Fostering and Permanency, Independent Futures, the Virtual Head and Manager of the Placement Service also attend this meeting;
  2. All placement moves in Independent Futures apart from moves from Spot provision to the HASS pathway or moves within the HASS pathway from assessment and progression to visiting support will be discussed at the placement stability meeting;
  3. This meeting will also monitor all children who have had one or more moves to help promote placement stability.

Care Planning Panel

  1. This panel currently monitors all children in residential care in order to help ensure good outcomes are being achieved and there is a clear plan for step down to foster care or semi-independent provision;
  2. This panel will also review children who are in other long term placements to help promote placement stability.

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