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1.27 Children Missing from Care

RELATED GUIDANCE

Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care January 2014

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in December 2016 when a link to the statutory guidance was added.


Contents

  1. Children Missing from Foster Placement
  2. Managing the Absence
  3. Foster Carers Records
  4. Notification of other related Events
  5. Return to the Foster Placement

    Appendix 1: Category Definitions


1. Children Missing from Foster Placement

The safety and welfare of the child/young person is paramount and this guidance read in conjunction with the Northumbria Police Missing from Placement Protocol is aimed at ensuring the safe return of children who go missing.

This framework should be followed in all cases when a child or young person is missing from their foster placement.

Every “missing” episode should be considered carefully to ensure that the correct and safe response is given.

The guidance also aims to

  • Provide clear guidance for staff and foster carers on the steps to be taken when a young person is missing from placement;
  • Provide guidance on the identification, assessment and management of risk. Clearly identify roles and responsibilities;
  • Identify arrangements for appropriate management oversight.


2. Managing the Absence

Managing the absence - See Police Protocol Document

When a young person is referred for admission to a foster placement a pre-admission risk assessment form must be completed. The allocated social worker to identify the associated risks including missing from placement. This risk assessment should also contain an agreement of how the young person is to return to placement once they have been found.

In all cases following a child/young person’s accommodation a “Placement Planning Meeting” will be held. At this meeting, the “Risk Assessment” will be jointly completed by all of the Care Team. Subsequently this document will be reviewed at each Care Team Meeting and Looked After Review or more frequently if appropriate.

Other than in exceptional circumstances where a young person’s safety may be compromised, it is essential that those with parental responsibility for a young person are informed as soon as possible, if a child is missing from placement.

The foster carer will contact the police in all cases where a child is missing, or to report an absence when the young person is subject to a curfew order, or is bailed to the care of the Local authority. The foster carer will ensure the police are made aware of any known risks or vulnerability, in line with the child’s risk assessment completed at the Placement Planning Meeting. Every local arrangement should attempt to find out why a young person has gone, or goes, missing, so that appropriate action can be taken by Police and Local Authorities in respect of any child.

Please refer to Appendix 1 for Category Definitions

The Foster carer will then be available to provide information on the missing child to the police.

If the child/young person goes missing during office hours

The foster carer will contact by telephone the child’s social worker, district office duty social worker, or the team manager at the district office and inform them that the child has gone missing, the date and time, the circumstances and confirm that they have informed the police. The district office must be informed immediately after the call to the police has been made.

After the foster carer has informed the district office, she/he will telephone the fostering duty worker, who will complete Part 1 of a Missing from Care Form. The fostering duty worker will also complete Part 2 of the form if the child has already returned to the placement. 

The completed form will be placed on the S drive or on ICS once the form is developed. Copies will also be forwarded immediately to:

  • The allocated supervising social worker;
  • The Family Placement Manager; and
  • The Assistant Manager;
  • The administration team for logging of the event.

If the child is reported missing outside of normal working hours

The foster carer will contact the Emergency Duty Team after contacting the police. The foster carer will contact the social worker, or if not available the district office duty worker, or team manager and, immediately after that the duty fostering duty worker, to inform that the child is missing from placement at 9 am on the morning the offices re-open. The fostering duty social worker will follow the same procedure outlined in above.

If a child who has been reported missing returns to the placement, the foster carer will immediately inform the police and then Emergency Duty Team, of the district social work team, followed by the fostering duty worker. Detailed procedures for the child’s return to placement are given below.

The fostering duty worker will complete Part 2 of the Missing From Care form.

The fully completed form, Parts 1 and 2 will be placed on the S drive or on ICS once the form is developed. Copies will also be forwarded immediately to:

  • The allocated supervising social worker;
  • The Family Placement Manager; and
  • The Assistant Manager.


3. Foster Carers Records

All absences of a child or young person from the foster home and significant information relating to the absence from the placement must be recorded in detail in the foster carer’s daily record.


4. Notification of other related Events

The fostering duty worker will complete a Notification of Events Form as set out in the Notifications of Events Procedure if the circumstances as detailed in Schedule 7 Regulation 36 (1) of the Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011 require this - for example, if a missing child has committed a serious offence, has suffered a serious accident, or has been or is suspected of having been involved in prostitution. 

The notification form will be placed on the S: drive or on ICS once developed. Copies will also be forwarded immediately to:

  • The allocated supervising social worker;
  • The Family Placement Manager;
  • The Assistant Manager;
  • The Administration Support team to log the notification.
The Family Placement Manager will determine when the notification form is finalised and forwarded to Ofsted.


5. Return to the Foster Placement

If the child or young person is being held by the police and the foster carer is contacted with a view to arranging their return, (check missing from care protocol) the foster carer should ensure that the police have informed the Emergency Duty Team (EDT) (if out of hours) of the district social work team if during office hours. If the foster carer feels it is safe and appropriate to collect the child or young person themselves, they should arrange to do so with the police. The child or young person must be collected within the shortest possible timescale taking into account the geographical distance where the child or young person has been found.

If the foster carer cannot set off to collect the child or young person within one hour of the discussion with the police, they should notify the Emergency Duty Team or the district social work team, i.e. child’s or young person’s social worker, duty social worker, or team manager.

If the foster carer on discussing the matter with the police, the foster carer - because of risk or geographical distance - feels unable to collect the child or young person, they should request the police return them to placement. If the police are unable to transport the child or young person, the foster carer should immediately contact the Emergency Duty Team (EDT) or the district social work team to inform them of the difficulty. EDT will take the necessary action.

If the child or young person turns up at the district office, the child or young person’s social worker or duty worker will inform the police of their return and contact the foster carer to arrange their return to placement. If possible, the child’s or young person’s social worker or duty social worker will transport them back to placement. If this presents practical difficulties, the social worker may request the foster carer collect the child or young person.

If the child contacts the foster carer from a given location and requests to be collected, the foster carer should record the telephone number and their whereabouts and ask them to remain until she/he is collected. If the foster carer is able to collect the child and feels it is safe to do so, she/he should inform the child or young person.

The foster carer in all cases must immediately and prior to collecting the child or young person, inform the police and the EDT or the district social work team (if during office hours) of the situation and the child’s whereabouts. If the foster carer has agreed to collect the child, she/he must inform the police, the EDT, the district social work team of this arrangement. If the foster carer has not arranged to collect the child or young person, arrangements for their collection must be discussed and made with the police, and EDT, and the district social work team. 

If the child or young person returns to the placement of their own volition, the foster carer will inform the police and EDT or district social work team immediately.

Whatever the circumstances of the child or young person’s return, the foster carer must telephone the fostering duty social worker as soon as possible once the child or young person has been made welcome and comfortable and is settled back into placement. Once the foster carer has reassured themselves of the child or young person’s welfare, they will telephone the fostering duty social worker.

The foster carer will inform the fostering duty worker of any significant information, incidents, or events they are aware of with regard to the child or young person’s period of absence. The fostering duty social worker will record the information shared in detail on the Missing From Care form and forward a copy to the child and young person’s social worker and the district team duty worker. 

Foster carers should welcome young people returning from an absence in a positive manner. The Police will also wish to discuss the absence with the young person as part of their procedures and responsibilities will conduct a formal ‘Safe and Well Check’.

Where a child or young person has been reported missing, on return to placement in addition to a Police ‘Safe and Well Check’, a formal ‘Return Interview’ should be completed by an ‘Independent Person’. The Independent Person conducting the Return Interview should normally be the child’s allocated Social Worker. However, where a child is missing from a Foster, Residential or Looked-After Placement the Return Interview may alternatively be conducted by the Social Worker for Missing Children.

In all cases, on a child’s return from a missing episode, the allocated Social Worker should liaise with the Social Worker for Missing Children to agree who is the most appropriate Independent Person to conduct a Return Interview. The Return Interview should follow a standard format, and should be conducted with the child within 72 hours of their return from a missing episode.  After completing the Return Interview the interview content should be recorded, and shared with Police and Children’s Services where necessary.

The written record of the Return Interview will be sent to the Family Placement Manager and Senior Supervising Social Worker from the Social Worker for the child or young person. The Family Placement Manager or Senior Supervising Social Worker will forward this record to the allocated Supervising Social Worker who will place the record on the foster carer’s file. It is not normally shared with the foster carer. 

Following the child or young person’s return to placement an assessment must be undertaken by the Care Team with a view to:-

  • Identifying and understanding the young person’s individual’s fears and anxieties;
  • Understanding the reason behind the episode;
  • Providing supportive measures, which may prevent further absences;
  • Determining the views of the young person regarding their placement within the home;
  • Assessing the young person’s emotional state;
  • Reviewing the individual Risk Assessment.

If it is suspected that a child protection issue is related to the absence or a criminal offence has been committed against the young person then safeguarding children and young people procedures must be followed.

Where appropriate a plan to address absconding behaviour should be developed and suitable professional intervention initiated. The plan should identify appropriate support services including responsibility and timescales. A copy of the plan will be provided to all members of the Care Team.

If the risk behaviour continues a report to the Risk Management group should be considered.


Appendix 1: Category Definitions

Based on the ‘Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care’ (DfE 2014) the definitions which should be used when working with children, young people and their families are set out as follows:

  • Child: anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. ‘Children’ and ‘young people’ are used throughout this guidance to refer to anyone under the age of 18;
  • Young runaway: a child who has run away from their home or care placement, or feels they have been forced or lured to leave;
  • Missing child: a child reported as missing to the police by their family or carers;
  • Looked after child: a child who is looked after by a local authority by reason of a care order, or being accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989;
  • Responsible local authority: the local authority that is responsible for a looked after child’s care and care planning;
  • Host local authority: the local authority in which a looked after child is placed when placed out of the responsible local authority’s area;
  • Care leaver: an eligible, relevant or former relevant child as defined by the Children Act 1989;
  • Missing from care: a looked after child who is not at their placement or the place they are expected to be (e.g., school) and their whereabouts is not known;
  • Away from placement without authorisation: a looked after child whose whereabouts is known but who is not at their placement or place they are expected to be and the carer has concerns or the incident has been notified to the local authority or the police;
  • Care leavers cover young people from aged 16-24;
  • For Northumbria Police Force definitions of missing and absent, and responses, see The Northumbria Police Force.

End