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11.2.8 Family and Friends Policy and Guidance

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Family Rights Group - Initial Family and Friends Care Assessment: A Good Practice Guide

AMENDMENT

In July 2017, a link was added in the Relevant Guidance Section to Family Rights Group - Initial Family and Friends Care Assessment: A Good Practice Guide. This guide sets out best practice as to how viability assessments should be conducted. It lists what factors social workers conducting the assessment need to consider, including when undertaking assessments with family members overseas. It also includes research evidence, a schedule and example template and an information sheet for a family and friends carers.


Contents

  1. How Children Come to be Cared for by People who are Not their Parents
  2. Status of Children Living with Kinship Carers in Relation to the Local Authority
  3. Legal Orders which can Support the Kinship Arrangement
  4. Arrangements Made without the Involvement of the Local Authority
  5. Arrangements Made where there has been Involvement of the Local Authority
  6. Arrangements for Children Living with Kinship Carers and are ‘Looked After’
  7. Situations Why a Child may be Deemed as ‘Looked After’ by Nottinghamshire County Council


1. How Children Come to be Cared for by People who are Not their Parents

There are a number of ways in which children can live with people other than their parents and there are many different reasons why a child may be raised by a kinship carer, e.g. parental death, imprisonment, mental illness, substance misuse and separation of parents.

The majority of Kinship Carers are relatives of the child as defined by section 105 of the Children Act 1989 or have acquired Parental Responsibility for the child through a court order and there is no requirement to notify the Local Authority of the arrangement. (The definition of “relative”, in relation to a child, means a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or [by marriage or civil partnership)] or step-parent.”).

Many of these arrangements remain entirely private without the need for the involvement of Nottinghamshire County Council, although where support is needed Kinship Carers are encouraged to get in touch with Children’s Services where help and advice is available.


2. Status of Children Living with Kinship Carers in Relation to the Local Authority

Children have the following status, as far as their relationship with the Local Authority is concerned, when living with kinship (family and friends) carers:

  • A child who is not ‘looked after';
  • A child who is a privately fostered child (private fostering);
  • As a “looked after” child (this includes those children in care pursuant to an order or who are accommodated under s20 Children Act 1989).

Where the child is ‘looked after’ by relatives or friends, we will refer to the carers as kinship foster carers (when the carers have been assessed and approved as Local Authority foster carers).


3. Legal Orders which can Support the Kinship Arrangement

A child may be living with kinship carers without a legal order to support the arrangement. However, there are legal orders than can be applied for by the carer. These orders are:

  • Child Arrangements Order (formerly known as Residence Order), this can also cover arrangements for contact;
  • Special Guardianship Order;
  • Adoption Order.

These are private law applications, but can also be supported by the Local Authority when the child has either been in care or, as an alternative to care. This could include assistance with legal costs and advice on making the application. The carer may also be able to apply for legal aid, but only in certain circumstances.


4. Arrangements Made without the Involvement of the Local Authority

Where kinship carers have stepped in to protect and care for the child without the involvement of the Local Authority, parental responsibility remains with the parent(s) but day-to-day parenting tasks and decisions are delegated to the kinship carers. It is good practice for an agreement to be drawn up between the carer and the parents, so that everyone knows the arrangements for the care and protection of the child.

The carer may do what is reasonable to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare (s.3 (5) Children Act 1989) but should be supported to refer back to the parent or other person with parental responsibility about significant decisions.

Some arrangements may have been formalised by the court and in these cases the parental responsibility, delegated to the carers is much more clearly prescribed. The carer will share parental responsibility with the parent(s) and the extent of their authority will depend upon the nature of the order in place.


5. Arrangements Made where there has been Involvement of the Local Authority

The Council has a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are ‘in need’ and to consider how such children can live with their families and friends before considering any action that may result in them becoming ‘looked after’.

Where Nottinghamshire County Council are supporting a child in need and it is clear that they cannot continue to live with their parents, either on a short term or long term basis, then we will broker or assist the family in discussing their care by a close family member or connected person. Nottinghamshire County Council will seek to support family arrangements where it is inappropriate and unnecessary for the child to become looked after and for the carers to have to undergo a fostering assessment.

There is an expectation that a Family Group Conference will be held as soon as possible to help identify any potential carers or family support.

In most cases this assistance will involve support in making decisions about whether or not legal orders are required and whether on-going financial support and social work support is available and how it can be accessed. This could include offering the family financial support.

This type of assistance will be provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and so does not constitute a placement by Nottinghamshire County Council.

In some circumstances Nottinghamshire County Council will play a major role in facilitating and supporting the arrangement. This may happen when there is concern that the child may be at risk of significant harm and if an arrangement is not made for care for the child by a close family member or connected person, then the child would become looked after by the Local Authority. The basis of support being offered by Nottinghamshire County Council will always be clarified in writing to the parent and the proposed kinship carer. In some circumstances the involvement of the Local Authority will mean that the placement is in fact a looked after placement and where there is doubt about the legal status, legal advice should be sought.

It is essential that everyone has a clear understanding of the status of the arrangements, is in agreement and that this is recorded in writing with a copy given to parents and carers.

The social worker should discuss with both the carer and the parent the following:

  • This is to be a family arrangement. Transparency is vital and the parent must understand that they will still hold and be able to exercise parental responsibility. An exploration of practical day to day matters and how decisions will be made would be helpful in avoiding confusion;
  • The Local Authority’s plans for involvement with the arrangement e.g. visiting frequency;
  • Contact with relevant people. The agreement of the adults regarding who should have what contact should be explored and recorded;
  • Financial arrangements. The parent and proposed carer should be encouraged to agree any contribution to be made, who is to claim benefits for the child etc. Much will depend on what duration is envisaged for the arrangement;
  • Financial support from the Local Authority. An explanation must be provided that this will be discretionary and will take into account any benefits etc. being received for the child BUT that in order to support the placement Nottinghamshire would look to ensuring the carer is not treated any less favourably than a foster carer in a similar situation;
  • Ask parties concerned to record their agreement and the discussion in writing, with a signed and dated note of the conversation and the outcome.

The suitability of the arrangements to meet the child’s needs and the range of support, including any financial support to meet the child’s needs, will be reviewed via Nottinghamshire County Council’s Child in Need or Child Protection review procedures.

If the assessment is that the child may need to remain with the carers, particularly if the parents don’t agree, or the child’s contact with parents needs to be supervised or restricted by the Local Authority, then legal advice for all parties will be appropriate to assist with the decision making regarding status of placement.


6. Arrangements for Children Living with Kinship Carers and are ‘Looked After’

Definitions of a looked after child

A looked after child is ‘in care’ or ‘accommodated’ by the Local Authority under s20 Children Act 1989. To be ‘in care’, the court has made an order in respect of the child giving the Local Authority the power to remove the child from the care of their parents. These orders are:

  • Interim care order;
  • Full care order; or
  • An emergency protection order.

A child is ‘accommodated’ by the Local Authority pursuant to s20 of the Children Act 1989 with the agreement of the parents / others with parental responsibility and there has not been one of the above orders made.

This may include the situation where the Local Authority has played a major role in making arrangements for the child to live with a relative because they are concerned about the child’s safety.

In both cases, children may be cared for by family and friends only if the carers have been approved as Local Authority Foster Carers under the Fostering Regulations 2011 and where they meet the requirements of the National Minimum Fostering Standards 2011. Children may also be placed in an emergency, by approving the kinship carer on a temporary basis under Regulation 24 of the Care Planning Regulations 2010.


7. Situations Why a Child may be Deemed as ‘Looked After’ by Nottinghamshire County Council

  • Birth parents may not agree, or may be inconsistent as to their agreement for their child being cared for by family and friends carers;
  • There may be a concern that an arrangement for a child to live with family or friends carers may be seriously disrupted by a birth parent, whose behaviour may have been assessed as being potentially dangerous, or as posing a significant risk to the child or family;
  • A birth parent may be untraceable, or incapable of giving agreement to the child being cared for by family/friends carers;
  • Nottinghamshire County Council assesses that it needs to share parental responsibility with the birth parents in order to promote and safeguard the child’s welfare and secure the placement.

Where a child is looked after, and it is the most appropriate placement, the person will need to be assessed as a Foster carer under the Fostering Regulations 2011.

The child can be placed with a kinship carer on an emergency basis under Regulation 24 to grant the carer temporary approval as a foster carer for a period of 16 weeks. During this period of time, a full assessment of the carer and the arrangement is undertaken. This temporary approval can only be extended in exceptional circumstances for a further 8 weeks. In this context the carer is referred to as a Connected Person.

The assessment and approval process for family and friends who apply to be kinship foster carers for a specific looked after child will be the same as for any other foster carer except that the timescales for the assessment are different where a child is already in the placement as indicated above. In all other respects the requirements are the same as for any other potential foster carers and the National Minimum Standards for Fostering apply, in particular Standard 30 refers directly to kinship foster carers. The aim of the assessment is to help the Local Authority decide whether to approve the prospective carer as a kinship foster carer and to consider what support needs the carer may have when caring for the child.

See Placements with a Relative or Friend (Connected Persons) for full procedure.

End