3.2.2 Policy and Guidance Family and Friends Foster Care
This chapter was amended in June 2012 to include legal advice and policy clarification in relation to the legal status of placement and temporary approval of placements with families and friends.
On a national level the management and expectations of foster care is clearly regulated and controlled by the need to meet recognised minimum standards. Such standards (relating to training and development, demonstrating competence and most importantly, promoting positive outcomes for children) are aimed at improving service delivery and apply equally to family and friends foster carers as they do to mainstream foster care. This work will be undertaken within the context of child protection procedures, and will take into account the child's need for protection and his/her wishes and feelings.
The principles that apply to family and friends foster care in Devon are:
Rigorous consideration will be given to options for care within the child's extended family and networks if he or she is unable to live with his or her parent or primary carers to provide continuity of relationships and networks. Exploration will need to be given to whether any suggested placement is 'safe' and in the best interest of the child. In emergency situations under formal arrangements this is likely to require admitting the child temporarily to public care, prior to any family and friends placement being temporarily approved.
Not all situations where a child is cared for by relatives or family should or need to be classed as 'formal family and friends foster care'. This refers to specific situations where the local authority has intervened to protect the child and a decision made to place the child with family or friends in consultation with the Agency Decision Maker.
The local authority can make payments from Section 17 funds to support a child's placement with relatives or friends for a time-limited period as an alternative to receiving them into accommodation and to act in the best interest of the child.
The local authority will proactively work to ensure that the children who are admitted to local authority care are placed with family and friends carers, so long as this is consistent with safeguarding and promoting their welfare, following the Agency Decision Makers approval. The wishes and feelings of the child will also be given due consideration, in keeping with their age and understanding of their situation.
The local authority will give active consideration to whether a child's needs will be best met by their permanent placement with a family and friends carer, if they are unable to return to parental care within a reasonable time-scale.
Legal alternatives to family and friends foster care need to be considered early in the planning process for a child, for example the possibility of a Special Guardianship Order or Interim Residence Order. We know that the vast majority of family and friends carers have no wish to become foster carers but want to care for the child and sometimes need financial assistance to facilitate this.
If it is necessary to assess family or friends as foster carers for a child in care of Devon County Council, a Full Fostering Assessment (see Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure) will be undertaken. This will also take into account the child's individual needs arising from, for example his or her ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation or disability and the carer's capacity to meet those needs.
When the child's family or friends are required to be assessed as foster carers, these carers will need to meet the full standards and expectations placed on foster carers by the national minimum standards for fostering.
The fostering panel will consider each family and friends foster care assessment against the national standards, with consideration also being given to the established relationship between the child and the prospective carers.
For the purpose of this policy and guidance, family and friends care is defined as the full time nurturing and protection of children (living apart from their birth parents) by their relatives and friends.
Family and Friends Care is used to describe all arrangements where the local authority is involved in providing a service to children and families in partnership with persons previously known to the child.
There are two categories of family and friends care - informal (private) family and friends care, which the family have arranged for the child, and formal (public) family and friends care, where the local authority has taken a role to protect the child. It is possible that the local authority has assisted the family in setting up the informal (private) family and friends care arrangement, and may subsequently provide limited financial assistance (e.g. under Section 17), or support and advice - but informal (private) arrangements are not intended to require ongoing local authority involvement in order to be viable in the long term. There needs to be absolute clarity in respect of the legal status of the arrangement.
Family and friends care arrangements may be made for children under the following sections of the Children Act 1989:
- Section 17 - Provision of advice and support, including financial support;
- Section 20 - Provision of accommodation by agreement;
- Section 31 - Provision of accommodation under a Care Order;
- Section 8 - Placement under a Residence Order.
This policy defines how Devon understands these arrangements and translates them into practice. It also sets out our obligations to carers under the Fostering Regulations and outlines the links between family and friends foster care and other types of care arrangements, including private fostering.
Positive work undertaken by BAAF (British Association of Adoption and Fostering), Fostering Network and the Department for Education seeks to raise standards in relation to family and friends foster care. This includes:
- Requiring local authorities to treat approved family and friends foster carers as they would mainstream carers, for example in respect of financial remuneration (allowances/fees), or access to support and training;
- Applying national standards to all types of foster care, intended to raise standards of care and promote positive outcomes for children.
Legal challenges to local authorities have been made by family and friends foster carers and others, and subsequent judgements made which reinforce the need for fair and equitable systems to support all types of foster care (for example Mr Justice Munby's ruling in respect of Manchester Council, 2001).
Some family and friends carers in Devon make a choice to apply for Special Guardianship Orders in respect of the children in their care. This has significantly reduced the numbers of approved family and friends fostering arrangements. Support packages are available for those taking out Special Guardianship Orders (discretionary). Such packages are agreed through the CAPP (see Children's Resource Panel Procedure).
Historically, Devon has sometimes flexibly used powers under Section 17 Children Act 1989 to support children's placements with family and friends. These placements have been subject to variable arrangements in respect of financial support, advice and information and direct social work intervention, and have continued for varying periods of time. It is the intention from the implementation of this policy to use Section 17 financial support to maintain the placement of the child within their extended family where appropriate. Regulations state that no child or young person should have to become looked after purely due to financial need of the family and friends carer concerned.
Family and Friends Foster Care is covered by the following legislation:
Children Act 1989
Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review 2010
Children Act 2004
Care Standards Act 2000
Fostering Services Regulations 2011;
National Minimum Standards for Foster CareOther areas of legislation may also impact, depending on the circumstances of the case, for example that related to information sharing, human rights and anti-discrimination.
The following statutory powers and duties provide the legal basis for local authority involvement in a range of family and friends care arrangements.
4.1.1 Children in Need
The Children Act (Section 17(1) CA 1989) placed a general duty on the Local Authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need and so far as is consistent with their welfare, to promote the upbringing of children by their families by providing a range and level of services appropriate to their needs.
4.1.2 Accommodation of Children
Local authorities shall provide accommodation for a child in need who appears to them to require it as a result of there being no person with parental responsibility for him, or because he is lost and abandoned, or because the person who has been caring for him is prevented from providing suitable accommodation or care. It is important to note that mother and babies who are placed together with grandparents/relatives and where the mother is actively parenting the child, the child should not be regarded as being accommodated under Section 20.
(Section 20 CA 1989)
4.1.3 Restriction on Duty to Provide Accommodation
A local authority may not provide accommodation under this section for any child if a person with Parental Responsibility is willing or able to provide accommodation for the child or arrange for it to be provided. The prohibition against providing accommodation does not apply if someone in whose favour a Residence Order is in force with respect to the child or who is a Special Guardian of the child agrees to the child being looked after by the Local Authority nor if the young person is aged 16 or above agrees to being provided with accommodation.
(Section 20 (7) CA 1989)
4.1.4 Provision of Residence Order Allowances
Where a child lives, or is to live, with a person as the result of a Residence Order, a local authority may make contributions to that person toward the cost of the accommodation or care of the child, except where the person is the parent of the child or the husband or wife of the parent of the child. (Children Act 1989 Schedule 1 Para 15). The decision regarding the payment of a Residence Order Allowance will be made at CAPP (see Children's Resource Panel Procedure).
4.1.5 Special Guardianship Orders and Allowances
Financial support may be provided:
- To facilitate arrangements for a person to become the special guardian of a child where the local authority consider such arrangements to be beneficial to the child's welfare; or
- To support the continuation of such arrangements after a special guardianship order is made. (Special Guardianship Regulations 2005, Section 2 (6)).
This applies to both looked and non-looked after children and the decision to grant an allowance will be made at CAPP (Children's Area Placement Process).
See Special Guardianship.
4.1.6 Private Fostering Regulations
Every local authority has a duty to satisfy itself that the welfare of children who are privately fostered within their area is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted and to offer advice to the private foster carers as appears to the authority to be needed. (Section 67 (1) Children Act 1989) Local authorities also have a duty to promote public awareness of the need to notify private fostering arrangements.
4.1.7 Temporary Approval of a Connected Person as a Foster Carer (Friends and Family Placement)
There will be circumstances when the most appropriate placement for a Looked After Child is with a Connected Person and the need for such a placement is immediate but it is not possible to fulfil all the requirements of the 2011 Regulations. For example, in approving the person as local authority foster carer before placing the child. Regulations 24 and 25 of the 2011 regulations set out arrangements for the temporary approval of a Connected Person as a foster carer, to allow an immediate placement.
This immediate placement can only take place once a viability assessment has been completed and temporary approval has been granted.
If this is a placement by DCC and is a formal arrangement because of significant concerns e.g child subject to a Child Protection Plan, they should be placed under an Interim Care Order or Section 20. The placement should not go ahead unless and until a comprehensive 'viability' assessment is completed covering the matters to be taken into account in Schedule 4 of the Care Planning Regs 2010.
In formal arrangements placing social workers need to ensure that at the point of completing the 'viability' assessment the carers are informed that there are substantial requirements to be approved as a foster carer for Devon. Fostering should be informed of the viability and can be contacted for advice in respect of the likelihood of the connected persons being approved as foster carers. Social workers employed by the fostering team should where possible be involved in visiting the prospective carer with the placing social worker. The fostering social worker will be able to talk to the carers in detail about the requirements of becoming a foster carer for DCC. They will also be able to make an initial judgement as to whether the carer is likely to be temporarily approved. Fostering social workers will be responsible for completing an initial visiting report.
The placing social worker send the completed viability to the Family & Friends Mailbox. The viability will then be sent together with the initial visit report from the fostering social worker to the Agency Decision maker for them to consider temporary approval. If the viability is comprehensive, there is a need to place urgently with the prospective carers and there are no contentious issues, the viability assessment can be forwarded to the agency decision maker for them to consider temporary approval prior to the fostering social worker visit. The viability should however have been considered by a manager within the fostering service prior to submission to the agency decision maker.
The assessment and approval have to take place prior to placement in order to fulfil the requirements of the legislation. Current practice has sometimes been to place first and then subsequently complete the viability within varying timescales. This is not acceptable and in these circumstances the child should first be placed with DCC foster carers pending completion of the assessment/approval.
If there is an agreement between the parents and relative that the relative should take on the care of the child, a clear decision needs to be made as to whether this is an informal arrangement or whether DCC is actually placing the child with the relative. If this is an informal arrangement there would be no requirement to complete a 'viability' and the child/arrangement could be supported under section 17. A core assessment will need to be completed to ensure that the child is appropriately safeguarded. If a mother and baby move in with relatives and DCC subsequently applies for an Interim Care Order, if the order is granted, Placement with Parents regulations will apply and need to be completed. If the court is not willing to make an order but it is directing the parent/child to stay with the relative, the court need to be made aware that this would not be under section 20 and will be regarded as an informal arrangement. Some placements with relatives have been made during legal proceedings under section 38(6) with parent/child being placed with relatives. There has been no requirement to register them as foster carers
It is important that options other than long term fostering are considered at an early stage if the child is unable to return to the parents' care. Legal orders such as interim residence orders/SGOs need to be considered if the placement is likely to go beyond the 16 week temporary approval and it is clear that approval as foster carers is not required or is unlikely to be approved. Fostering will only be fully involved after temporary approval and when there is a positive decision that the carers wish to become DCC foster carers and a full fostering assessment is required.
The local authority must always be satisfied that the placement is the most suitable means to safeguard and promote the child's welfare and that the placement cannot wait until the full approval process can be completed. Approval is made on a temporary basis for up to 16 weeks. A person approved under the 2011 Fostering Regulations is in all respects a local authority foster carer. Following the successful completion of the assessment and checks set out in Regulation 24.2, the Connected Person may be immediately approved as a foster carer.
Regulation 25 sets out the extenuating circumstances in which temporary approval may be extended, when the approval process has taken longer than the anticipated period. The temporary approval may be extended for a further period of eight weeks. If these time periods expire and the friend or family member has not been approved as a foster carer, the local authority must arrange for an alternative arrangement and remove the child from the connected person's care, in accordance with Regulation 25.6 so long as the child remains in the care of the Local Authority.
4.1.8 Provision of Accommodation and Maintenance by Local Authority for Children whom they are Looking After
It is the duty of any local authority looking after a child - when he/she is in their care, to provide accommodation for him and to maintain him in other respects apart from providing accommodation for him/her.
4.1.9 Duty to Place with Relatives and Friends
The local authority also has a duty to consider placing children with appropriate relatives or friends, as an alternative to stranger foster placements, (Section 23 (6) Children Act 1989), in this situation the child will remain looked after. Placement can only occur following completion of the Viability Assessment and full consultation with the Agency Decision Maker.
It is important to be clear from the outset (in writing for the family) about the legal status of the placement. Legal advice should be sought if there is any scope for misunderstanding.
Private friends and family care placements of children with friends or other persons not known to the child that last longer or are expected to last longer than 28 days fall within the remit of the Private Fostering Regulations.
The local authority has a duty to provide a defined level of monitoring and review of all placements under these regulations, irrespective of whether any directorate funding is provided.
In some very exceptional circumstances, an authority may make payments under Section 17 in respect of placements with family and friends carers under the Private Fostering Regulations. These will usually be one-off payments. In these circumstances, accountability will be continue to be shared but, if anything more than a one-off payment is made, it may reasonably be implied that with the decision to fund the department assumes a level of responsibility for the placement that is akin to the level of responsibility that it would have under public arrangements.
Workers should be mindful that if they involve themselves in the arrangements for children in such situations or instigate ongoing payments, the label private fostering may no longer apply, especially where the child would otherwise be accommodated. Where a child (usually a teenager) chooses to remain living with a family friend against the wishes of his or her parents, the parents may not make financial contributions to the placement. In turn, the private foster carers may be unable to maintain the placement without financial support. The child may be assessed as a Child in Need.
Legal advice should be taken regarding the status of any arrangement, and a letter written to the family at the start of any arrangement to ensure clarity of understanding of the nature of the placement.
6. Informal (Private) Family and Friends Care - Made by Parents with or Without a Subsequent Level of Local Authority Support and Assistance
There are two basic types of friends and family arrangement - informal (private) ones arranged by the child's parents and/or family in the absence of parents, where the child is not in the care of the local authority, and formal (public) ones where the child is in local authority care.
Children living with grandparents for example, or aunts, uncles or siblings under arrangements made between the parent and that immediate family member are described as informal (private) friends and family care.
Children placed under this general category are not looked after children.
Types of informal family and friends care include:
- Children placed with close relatives by parents at the parent's own initiative. The local authority would not, in this situation, be expected to have any on-going input or control over the child's care planning, other than possible financial and emotional support to the friends and families carers;
- Young people age 16+ who are living with a relative under their own volition.
Children and young people placed with friends by parents for a period less than 28 days. (If it exceeds this then the Private Fostering legislation is applied - see Private Fostering Procedure.
Such arrangements made lead on to varying legal routes, for example Special Guardianship or Residence Orders.
Clarity of accountability for children's placements requires that all parties have a clear understanding of the status of placements. Staff involved in facilitating the making of family and friends placements will need to ensure that parents and others fully understand their key role in making these arrangements. It is important to appreciate that private family and friends care placements can only be made by the parent(s) or others with parental responsibility.
If there are no child protection concerns, or any need for financial support, advice or assistance, the local authority has only a minor role in the sense of its general duty to protect all children.
Where financial assistance is required in the very short term, e.g. to enable benefits to be transferred from the parent to the carer, Section 17 payments may be appropriate.
If longer term financial support is required to enable the child to remain living with family or friends carers, consideration should be given to the status of the placement. In order to justify long term local authority financial involvement, the child must be in need of protection of some form, and the carers must be able to meet the standards under a full fostering assessment. If in any doubt regarding the status of the placement, or implications of local authority involvement, legal advice should be taken, via.
Where child protection concerns exist, careful consideration must be given to the legal framework being used to protect the child.
Children placed under formal (public) friends and family care arrangements are in the care of the local authority.
Children who are subject to interim or full Care Orders can only be placed under this category.
This category includes temporary placements with friends and family who have undergone a fostering assessment under Regulations 24 and 25 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (2010).It also includes carers who have been approved by a fostering panel, as permanent carers for a specific child.
As with all alternative care arrangements, consideration must be given to how well the carers are able to meet the child's needs - from basic care, love and nurturing suitable to their age and development, to cultural, religious and language needs, plus any special needs the child may have.
The family or friendship bond which exists between the child and his or her care giver should also be considered as part of the assessment, as this can create a platform on which to build placement stability.
Particular attention should be paid to the child's vulnerability, and how this will be managed in the context of extended family or friendships given the additional dimensions of family loyalties and shared histories.
Partnership with parents is best promoted through fair and open practice that takes account of individual differences, provides information to children and parents on their options and rights and treats all members of the community with respect as fellow citizens.In exercising this policy, a balance should be achieved between the local authority duty to ensure that children are safeguarded and the requirement that authorities do not intrude unnecessarily in family life (Human Rights Act 1998 and CA 1989).
All foster carers assessed and approved by the local authority must be able to demonstrate that they meet the national minimum standards for fostering, which includes, for example, reaching a required level of competence in child care (evidenced in a comprehensive work book) and attending support groups and training. Carers also need to have homes that are suited to the fostering task, where consideration has been given to health and safety and safer caring.
Family and friends offering a home to children under a family and friends fostering arrangement who are also smokers will be asked to comply with Devon County Council policy on smoking in foster homes. If family and friends are smokers a smoking management action plan must be completed. This is particularly important in relation to passive smoking, children under 5 in the home and children with medical conditions.
It is important to discuss all of these issues with the child's prospective carer(s) prior to any fostering assessment being undertaken, so that the prospective carer(s) have a full understanding of what is being asked of them over and above their role as the grandparent or relative of the child. Advice can be obtained from the Friends and Family Fostering Team to assist with this process. It may be that other legal routes are more appropriate, for example the seeking of a Special Guardianship Order.As foster carers, approved family and friends carers are entitled to the full Fostering allowance for the child(ren) plus a Tier 1 payment when fully approved by DCC Fostering Panel. There should be no occasion when a nominal figure is paid over a long period of time to support friends and family arrangements - if ongoing financial support is required and temporary approval is given, funding is paid via the fostering allowances and will require completion of a Devon Fostering Service Family and Friends Assessment and full, approval as foster carers. Carers, from the point of temporary approval, are entitled to full support and supervision, as would be provided to mainstream foster carers.
In the first instance when considering whether a family member is a possible carer for a child, a viability assessment should be undertaken by the child's social worker, following discussion with the family and friends fostering service social worker. This gives an early indication as to whether there are obvious issues that would preclude a potential carer, and conversely, recognises the potential strengths of the placement.
The social worker for the child completes the Viability form. (Devon Fostering Service Family and Friends Assessment parts A1, A3, B1, B3 (part of), B4 (part of), B7 (part of)).
Comprehensive information needs to be provided at this stage in a detailed document and the completed form will be returned to the social worker if insufficient information is given on the Viability Assessment. This is to enable the Agency Decision Maker to make a considered judgement as to whether the placement should be allowed to proceed.
An immediate local police check must be sought, at this stage, by the child's social worker on all prospective carers and adult household members. The child's social worker also needs to initiate a DBS check on all adults in the household over the age of 18.
The completed Viability Assessment is sent to the Agency Decision Maker together with the initial visit report and FF01 to record their decision. If the decision is positive, the child's social worker will arrange placement of the child and will need to set up the fostering allowance. The temporary approval will last for 16 weeks. If the placement is not agreed on a temporary basis the child either needs to move to an alternative placement or another care plan needs to be formulated, with another legal status for the placement identified.
The Agency Decision Maker will record their decision making on FF01, which is the filed copy of the Agency Decision Maker's agreement for all parties of the decision being made to agree the placement. This is to be sent to child's social worker and the family and friends mailbox. It is copied to the Manager of the Family and Friends service.
Following temporary approval, if a decision is made that the carers need to be fully approved as DCC foster carers for the child, the family and friends team need to be informed by the placing social worker. The Family and Friends social worker will undertake an assessment and will visit and leave a full family and friends application pack, and the BAAF medicals, with the potential carers.
If the family and friends carers during the course of the assessment decide they do not wish to be assessed as foster carers, the Family and Friends social worker will feed back to the child's social worker and practice manager that they do not wish to be a foster carer - and the fostering application goes no further. The child will need to placed elsewhere or an alternative legal status for the placement needs to be considered.
The Recruitment and Assessment Team social worker or Independent social worker is to undertake the Devon Fostering Family and Friends Assessment, and to book a slot on Fostering Panel via the Panel Administrator in order to take the assessment to panel within 16 weeks, and to invite the child's social worker to attend.
The Tier 1 Competencies, Health and Safety document and Safe Care Statement, dog questionnaire, farm assessment and swimming pool checklist are to be completed (as required), as part of the assessment, by the Recruitment and Assessment Team social worker or Independent social worker.
Medical Consent Forms need to be completed prior to the placement; the child's social worker needs to discuss prior to placement or placement agreement being signed giving 'delegated responsibilities' to family and friends foster carers at this stage, with the person(s) with parental responsibility.
The Carer will receive a full information pack, handbook, training book, rates and allowances book and recording log via their first formal supervision, post panel from the Friends and Family social worker.
The carers will be invited to attend 'Skills to Foster', and should be strongly encouraged to do so as part of the recruitment process.The Child's social worker will be required to contribute significantly to the assessment process outlined above, and specific arrangements agreed with the assessing worker.
All completed formal friends and family care assessments (Devon County Council Friends and Family fostering assessment) will be presented to the Fostering Panel (see Fostering Panel Procedure). The accompanying checks are identical to that of mainstream carers, as is the process of panel recommendation and Agency Decision Maker decision.
One area of difference between approved friends and family and mainstream carers is that family and friends carers have been assessed with a known child (or children) in mind, and so information should be presented to panel in relation to the child.
The registration for family and friends carers is specific to the named child - family and friends carers are not able to take stranger placements unless they undertake a further assessment and are approved on a mainstream basis.
Because the approval is specific to the child, it also ends at the time that the child reaches eighteen years of age, or leaves the placement. Whilst the carer approval automatically lapses at that point, it is still necessary to present the deregistration to the fostering panel as this ensures that the carer(s) name(s) are removed from the list of approved carers, and from associated lists (such as that relating to carer insurance, the Fostering Network and so forth). A report from the supervising social worker will suffice for deregistration purposes - it is not necessary for the carer to submit a letter of resignation as would be the case for mainstream carers.
If a placement does not proceed to full fostering assessment or circumstances change significantly, the Agency Decision Maker will need to be asked to formally withdraw the agreement previously given, for carers to carry out their temporary role. This will need to be recorded on a formal template document and retained on the child's file and that of the potential carer's, within the friends and family fostering team.
Appendix A: Family and Friends Foster Carers - Process Flowchart
Click here to view Appendix A: Family and Friends Foster Carers - Process Flowchart.
Children Act 1989
Children Act 1989
|Full Care Order
Children Act 1989
Children Act 1989
|Informal (private) family and friends care||Formal (public) family and friends care||Formal (public) family and friends care||Private Fostering|
The child is in need. There is an option for the child to be cared for by a member of his/her extended family. Assistance, advice and/or financial aid would prevent the child becoming looked after.Sect 17 Payments:
There is evidence to demonstrate that the child is in need of accommodation by the local authority.
Legal action has been taken to safeguard the child and an interim or full care order is in place.(Early consideration should be given to use of a supervision order as an interim arrangement if the carers can consider an SGO).
Should be an arrangement between parents and another person - not an arrangement 'brokered' by the local authority as an alternative to care. Parent needs to retain and exercise PR. But for teenagers who arrange their own placements - legal status of young person to be considered and confirmed.
Family arrangement not formal placement.
e.g. 'cooling off period' situation
e.g. to allow time for benefits or financial arrangements to be put in place(Note: Families can make informal arrangements for the care of children by immediate family members e.g. grandparents aunts/uncles without any need for local authority intervention, provided that there are no concerns)
If child under Sec 20:
Carer must be approved foster carer and satisfy fostering standards if child subject to interim or full care order.Consider SGO early as an alternative to care order.
|Where the placement is seen to be an alternative care - Sect 17 or Sect 20 should be fully considered.|
Social Work Actions
Social Work Actions to include:
Social Work Actions to include:
Social Work Actions to include: