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1.4 Matching Children with Permanent Foster Carers

RELATED GUIDANCE

See also: The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review (June 2015).

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in June 2015 when the link to the above guidance was added.


Contents

1. Purpose
2. Matching of Children with Long Term Foster Carers Procedure
  2.1 Assessment and Matching for Permanent Fostering with Approved Connected Persons (Relatives and Friends) Foster Carers
  2.2 Approval of a Plan for Permanence through Permanent Fostering
  2.3 Permanent Fostering and Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) Placements
  2.4 Referral to Fostering Panel that Permanent Fostering is the Appropriate Plan for the Child
  2.5 Family Finding Process
  2.6 Matching Process
3. Matching with Existing IFA Carers
4. Matching Meeting
5. Matching at Fostering Panel and Post Match Approval
6. Placement Planning


1. Purpose

Where at all possible, children should be afforded the opportunity to secure legal permanence within their wider family, through residency or special guardianship or through adoption. Though permanent fostering does not give legal permanence it can afford for some young people the opportunity for security and stability and to enjoy family life. The role permanent fostering plays in achieving a degree of permanence is set out in the Council’s Permanence Strategy.

This policy sets out the process for the matching of children who are already fostered to best achieve permanence through permanent fostering.

Where placement with a foster carer is assessed as the best way to meet duties to safeguard and promote a child’s welfare, these procedures describe how the Family Placement Service will identify and co-ordinate the matching process when a child comes into care, and any subsequent change of placement to ensure:

  • The child is matched with foster carers who have the skills to effectively safeguard and promote a child’s welfare;
  • Siblings are kept together where they wish to be together and it is consistent with their needs, and within a locality which helps them keep in touch with friends and family, unless exceptionally the assessment of individual children identifies the need to place separately;
  • In placements which do not disrupt a child’s education or training (a change of school in year 9 will only be agreed with senior management approval);
  • Placements are sought that reflect a child’s culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, language and religion in order to enhance their sense of identity. However children will not be left waiting for a specific match for a prolonged period.

These procedures should be read in conjunction with Care Planning Procedures which detail the procedures to be followed by social workers to prepare, monitor and review a care plan, which includes the placement plan for foster care.

Matching When Children Become Looked After

The Placement in Foster Care Procedure must be followed when first referring and placing a child in a foster placement.

Matching Children for Permanency in Foster Placement

Connected Persons (Friends and Family)

Assessment of family and friends carers who have temporary approval for a specific child under regulation 24, which is expected to last longer than 16 weeks.

The Connected Persons Foster Carers Temporary Approval and Assessment Policy and Procedure - to follow should be followed.


2. Matching of Children with Long Term Foster Carers Procedure

2.1 Assessment and Matching for Permanent Fostering with Approved Connected Persons (Relatives and Friends) Foster Carers

Connected Persons foster carers will initially be approved by Fostering Panel as time limited carers for a named child/ren. A decision should be made at the Child’s LAC review about the permanency plan for the child. The foster carers Family Placement Social Worker should be included in this review. Once it is established that the Permanence Plan for the child is to remain with the connected persons on a looked after basis (i.e. not on any other legal basis such as Special Guardianship), then the fostering assessment will be updated and the matter referred to Fostering Panel to consider a recommendation to change the foster carers terms of approval to Long Term Connected persons Foster carers.

The re-assessment will consider the suitability of the placement to meet the children’s needs for permanence. The re-assessment should be undertaken by the a Family Placement Social Worker other than the social allocated to the connected persons. It should be completed and considered by Fostering Panel within 4 months of the permanence decision.

2.2 Approval of a Plan for Permanence Through Permanent Fostering

Where a LAC review or other planning meeting has identified a permanence plan for the child through Permanent fostering the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) must agree the plan. No Permanent fostering arrangement can be brought to Fostering panel for a match without this decision first being made.

This will happen through the following process:

  1. Where there is a change of plan from Adoption to Permanent fostering
    The ADM will be provided with the original CPR, a Family Finding report and minutes of the LAC Review that recommended a change of plan. The ADM will need to be satisfied that fostering is now the most appropriate route for permanence for the child;
  2. Where the child has had no previous plan for adoption
    The Fostering Panel must first consider the child’s suitability for Permanent fostering and make a recommendation that is followed by a decision by the ADM. The allocated social worker for the child must submit a report to the fostering panel to consider the child’s suitability for permanence.

2.3 Permanent Fostering and Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) Placements

The same process for approval of suitability for permanent fostering applies regardless of where a child is placed. (see Section 2.2, Approval of a plan for permanence through Permanent fostering Above)

No plan for permanency with existing short term IFA carers as Permanent Foster Carers can be progressed without first having the permanency plan agreed by the Senior Manager for the child’s Social Worker. Once this and the associated funding have been agreed the matching process below must be followed:

  • Where the child’s existing IFA foster carers cannot provide permanent fostering then the usual process as detailed below for Family Finding will be followed;
  • Other than for children whose plan it is to remain with existing IFA foster carers, no family finding through IFA’s can take place until the Senior Manager for the child’s Social Worker has approved the funding and search;
  • Where a child is placed on a time limited with IFA foster carers and requires a different permanent placement. Family Finding within Northumberland’s in house service must be perused before approval for family finding from another agency can take place. However, to prevent unnecessary delay a timescale for in-house family finding should be set at the beginning of the process.

It is the child’s Social Workers responsibility to:

  1. Seek Senior Manager approval to identify and fund a permanent IFA placement;
  2. Make a referral to the Referral and Placements Co-ordinator. Emailing the form to placements@northumberland.gov.uk;
  3. A family finder will be allocated once the child’s Social Worker has completed and returned a referral for a permanent foster placement to the Referral and Placements Co-ordinator. Emailing the form to placements@northumberland.gov.uk.

2.4 Referral to Fostering Panel that Permanent fostering is the Appropriate Plan for the Child

Family finding for children 12 years old or younger should be undertaken to establish a degree of stability and permanence. Older young people may also benefit from permanent fostering, though for most, task-centred fostering may be more appropriate to their needs.

A care planning meeting/LAC review is held which makes the child’s plan for permanent fostering (as per Care Planning procedures). The role of the Family Placement Social Worker in the meeting is to ensure all the team are aware of the procedures and timescales to be followed.

Where the child is placed with Northumberland foster carers, the Family Placement Social Worker should notify the Assistant Manager in the Supervision and Support Team of the decision and the matter should be placed on the Fostering Panel Forward Agenda.

Where a child is in an IFA placement it will be the child’s Social Workers responsibility to refer the child to the Assistant Manager of the need to place the child on the Fostering Panel Forward Agenda.

The child’s Social Worker will complete a report for permanent fostering for the Fostering Panel to consider.

The Fostering Panel will then consider recommending that Permanent fostering is appropriate and the Agency Decision Maker asked to make a decision.

No match with existing carers can be agreed until this decision is made. Once it is made then planning and assessment can progress.

One a child has been identified as requiring permanent fostering the Fostering Panel should be kept updated on progress in relation to family finding and matching. The allocated service will be required to submit a Permanent Fostering Update Report every 6 months.

2.5 Family Finding Process

A Social Worker from the Family Placement Service will be allocated to support the family finding process. The worker allocated will depend on the circumstances as set out below:

  • A child previously identified as requiring adoption - Where a child has had a plan for adoption the Child Permanence Worker will be the identified worker from the Family Placement Service to family find permanent foster carers providing the change of plan was agreed by ADM within the previous 6 months. After 6 months, the responsibility will transfer to a member of the Supervision and Support team. The line manager for the Children’s Permanence Worker will notify the Assistant Manager in the Supervision and Support Team of the need to arrange a transfer of social worker;
  • Where a child is placed with Northumberland Foster Carers then a Family Placement Worker from the Supervision and Support Team will be allocated to family find. Where an alternative permanent placement is needed it will usually be the Family Placement Worker for the carers currently looking after the child that shall be allocated;
  • Where the plan is for the existing foster carers to change their status to permanent foster carers, family finding will not be required but the foster carers will require reassessment, which will be allocated to a different social worker in the Supervision and Support Team (see Section 2.6, Matching Process);
  • Where a child is placed with short term IFA foster carers, the child’s Social should advise the Assistant Manager in the Supervision and Support Team of the need for a worker to be allocated to family find.

In all cases once the Fostering Panel and ADM have agreed the plan, the allocate family finder will ensure that a further planning meeting is convened. This will be chaired by the Family Placement Manager or Assistant Manager to plan the family finding process, including the setting of timescales.

A time scale will be set for an initial family finding process within existing approved Northumberland permanent foster carers and other in-house foster carers.

This meeting will establish whether there are:

  • In house families approved or in the process of assessment.

This meeting must plan how a match is to be identified within the next 3 months and whether is it likely that the canvassing of IFA placements as well as re-visiting the potential of the current carer is needed. This meeting should be recorded and the minutes placed on the child’s ICS record. The minutes of the meeting should be forwarded to the Senior Manager responsible for agreeing funding of any proposed IFA placement.

A review meeting will take place after the 3 month’s timescale to explore the progress of family finding and decision making in respect of whether an IFA placement is necessary and potential matches.

Where in-house family finding has not been successful within the agreed timescale the child’s Social Worker will be required to seek approval for the finding and funding of an IFA placement. Once this is gained they will complete a further IFA Permanent Fostering Placement Form that will be sent to the Referral and Placements Co-ordinator. Emailing the form to placements@northumberland.gov.uk

The family finder will receive all information regarding potential matches and review these sending appropriate profiles to the child’s Social Worker for consideration. If this is in the timescale where the plan changes from adoption to permanent fostering, the family finder will be the Children’s Permanence Worker, i.e. within the first six months of the decision being by Agency Decision Maker.

Where potential matches are identified the child’s Social Worker and the family finder will make arrangements to meet the potential foster carers, read assessment information and meet with the assessing workers and IFA workers as appropriate.

If the child’s Social Worker decides not to proceed with the possible match at the conclusion of visits, the reasons should be clear and noted on the child’s ICS record. The process should be repeated until a suitable match is identified.

The need for a permanent placement which meets the child’s identity needs should be seen as the priority and where it is not possible to match a child within the locality within 6 weeks of referral, other potential matches should be explored and attention given to how a new family meet the child’s cultural needs.

The Family Placement Service will set time scales on searching for a sibling placement. If the search is unsuccessful decisions will be reviewed and consideration given to the priorities of a permanent placement for individual needs of the children.

Once a potential match has been identified the matching process will be followed. (See Section 2.6, Matching Process)

2.6 Matching Process

Matching existing Northumberland time limited foster carers

This procedure will be followed where the child was approved by the Agency Decision Maker or by the fostering panel as suitable for permanent fostering. and It will be agreed at the child’s LAC Review or planning meeting it is in the best interest of the child to remain on a permanent basis with their existing in-house Northumberland foster carers and the foster carers wish to provide permanency for the child.

The allocated Family Placement Social Worker for the foster carer (or the child’s Permanence Worker) will be part of the care team and will take on the nominal role of family finder.

An initial meeting will be convened by the Family Placement Manager or Assistant Manager to co-ordinate arrangements and, identify key issues for consideration for the match, to arrange allocation for assessment and set timescales for completion, putting a date no more than 3 months hence into the Panel Forward Agenda for decision that the child requires a long term foster placement.

Any match should be returned to Fostering Panel no more than 3 months from the decision on suitability for permanent fostering.

A Family Placement Social Worker other than the allocated Family Placement Social Worker for the foster carers will be allocated to complete a fostering assessment to consider a change in terms of approval from time limited to permanent fostering and to consider the suitability of the match with the child in placement.

A Matching Matrix for Permanent Fostering will be prepared jointly by the Family Placement Social Worker and the child’s Social Worker.

A matching meeting will then be held and the procedure followed as below.


3. Matching with Existing IFA Carers

This procedure will be followed where the child was approved by the Agency Decision Maker or by the fostering panel as suitable for permanent fostering. I will be agreed at a child’s LAC Review or planning meeting that it is in the best interest of a child to remain on a permanent basis with their existing IFA foster carers and the foster carers wish to provide permanency for the child on a fostering basis.

The child’s Social Worker must have gain Senior Manager approval to fund any match with an IFA on a long term basis. (See Section 2.3, Family Finding Process). They will be required to notify the Family Placement Manager of the need to refer the child to Fostering Panel (see Section 2.4, Referral to Fostering Panel that Permanent fostering is the appropriate plan for the child).

The allocated Supervising Social Worker for the IFA for the foster carer (or child’s Permanence Worker) will be part of the care team and will take on the nominal role of family finder.

An initial meeting will be convened by the Family Placement Manager or Assistant Manager to co-ordinate arrangements and, identify key issues for consideration for the match, to arrange allocation for assessment and set timescales for completion.Any match should be returned to Fostering Panel no more than 6 months from the decision on suitability for permanent fostering.

If necessary, it will be the IFA’s responsibility to assess the foster carers and refer them to their own Fostering Panel to revise their terms of approval to permanent fostering.

A Matching Matrix Permanent fostering will be prepared jointly by the IFA Family Placement Social Worker and the child’s Social Worker.

A Matching Meeting will then be held and the procedure followed as below.

Matching with permanent foster carers where the child cannot be matched with the existing foster carers.

This procedure will be followed where the child was approved by the Agency Decision Maker or by the fostering panel as suitable for permanent fostering. It will be agreed at a child’s LAC Review or planning meeting that a child for whatever reason cannot remain with their current foster carers on a permanent basis.

The allocated Family Placement Social Worker for the foster carer (or the child’s Permanence Worker) will be part of the care team and will take on the role of family finder.

An initial meeting will be convened by the Family Placement Manager or Assistant Manager to co-ordinate arrangements for the child to be referred to Fostering Panel, identify key issues for consideration for the match, to arrange allocation for assessment and set timescales for completion. Any match should be returned to Fostering Panel no more than 6 months from the decision on suitability for permanent fostering.

A Matching Matrix fort Permanent fostering will be prepared jointly by the Family Placement Social Worker and the child’s Social Worker.

A matching meeting will then be held and the procedure followed as below.


4. Matching Meeting

A Matching Meeting will be held chaired by the Northumberland Family Placement Manager or Assistant Manager. The meeting will be attended by the child’s Social Worker, the Assessing worker, the allocated Family Placement Worker, the Foster carers and any other relevant person for the child.

The following reports will be available to the meeting:

  • The Child’s Social Work Report/the updated Children’s Permanence Report;
  • Matching Matrix;
  • Permanent fostering Assessment.

In all cases, the foster carers should have read all the reports submitted for the proposed match in advance of the meeting. If any issues arise from this information that are of concern for the foster carers, the meeting will be postponed or cancelled if necessary, to allow for the opportunity for the foster carers to meet and discuss these concerns with the relevant social workers. A decision will then be reached about whether to continue with the match and reschedule the matching meeting.

The meeting will consider the suitability of the match, including:

  • The priority needs of child and how these are to be met in a long term placement;
  • Review the prospective permanent carers suitability for this potential matching, including any previous proposed matches and their outcome;
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses within the match;
  • Identify any factors that may potentially disrupt a placement and how to minimise their impact;
  • Develop a support plan for the placement identifying necessary support services, including finance.

The chairperson will prepare a report of the meeting which will be provided to the Fostering Panel with the other reports.


5. Matching at Fostering Panel and Post Match Approval

The match should be presented to the Northumberland Fostering Panel with the following reports:

  • Updated Child’s Social Worker Report for permanent fostering or the Children’s Permanence Report, with minutes of panel that accepted child;
  • Foster Carers Assessment for Permanent Fostering Matching Matrix;
  • Record of the Matching Meeting;
  • Previous Panel minutes and recommendations in relation to the approval of the carers;
  • Original Foster Carers Assessment (for reference only);
  • Any other information requested by the Fostering Panel.

The Fostering Panel will consider the reports and will make a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker about whether the child/young person should be matched with the carers.

At this point, the role of the Family Finder/ends and is taken over by the prospective foster carers Family Placement Social Worker unless the match is not approved.

The carer’s Family Placement Social Worker should contact them with the decision from the Agency Decision Maker about whether the proposed placement has been agreed within 2 working days.


6. Placement Planning

Within one week of the agency decision to match, the Family Placement Social Worker should ensure that a Placement Planning Meeting (to invite the LAC nurse and ESLAC co-ordinator if the child has additional health or education needs) is held to:

  • Share the care plan for permanent fostering;
  • Complete the Placement Plan, with tasks of foster carer, especially in respect of contact, are made explicit;
  • The preparation and introduction arrangements;
  • Identify any equipment needs;
  • Date on which it is proposed to place the child;
  • Whether the child needs another copy of the Children’s guide, and if so, how the foster carer is going to promote its aims;
  • Detail placement support services to be provided as identified in the matching process, including any health or education services to be provided and the responsibility for their provision;
  • Any birth family contact arrangements;
  • Delegated authority arrangements for the foster carers;
  • Details of any other arrangements as identified.

A Placement Planning Meeting must be held even if the child remains with existing carers as the status of the placement will have changed significantly including delegated authority.

Where appropriate a mid-introductions review should be held during the introduction process involving all the relevant parties. The progress of the introduction should be reviewed and any necessary changes made depending on the needs of the child and the permanent foster carers.

End