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11.2.15 Placement Support and Disruption Meetings (Fostering and Adoption)

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter details the procedures to be followed for Placement Support Meetings and Disruption Meetings for foster care placements and Nottinghamshire children placed for adoption or Nottinghamshire approved adopters, where disruption occurs prior to the Adoption Order. This has amalgamated previous PPG's - Placement Support and Disruption Meetings (Foster Care) and Child Placement Disruption Meetings (Adoption).

RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011

Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 (Regulation 36(10))

Adoption and Children Act 2002 Guidance (2011) Chapter 5, paragraphs 31 - 41

AMENDMENT

In January 2019, this chapter was extensively updated and should be re-read throughout. A new Section 5, Disruption Meetings in Pre-Order Adoption Placements has been added.


Contents 

  1. Introduction
  2. Placement Planning Meeting for Foster Placements
  3. Placement Support Meeting
  4. Disruption Meetings in Foster Placements
  5. Disruption Meetings in Pre-Order Adoption Placements
  6. Convening a Disruption Meeting in Adoption Placements
  7. The Meeting and Preparation for the Meeting
  8. After the Disruption Meeting
  9. Safeguarding Children


1. Introduction

The prime aims of this policy are to:

  • Maximise placement stability;
  • Prevent fostering and adoptive placement breakdowns;
  • Ensure where placements do break down, this is managed in such a way as to minimise the damage experienced by the Looked After Child.

It is believed these aims will be best achieved if:

  1. There is a proactive approach to placement support, anticipating and planning for difficulties rather than reacting when they occur;
  2. Social workers and supervising foster care workers work together with shared priorities of maximising how a placement meets the child's needs and avoiding breakdown;
  3. The role and contribution of the foster carer is respected and supported and their views and concerns taken account of;
  4. Placement endings are planned rather than left to happen;
  5. We have a process for learning from placements which do break down.


2. Placement Planning Meeting for Foster Placements

2.1 Current procedures for Looked After Children direct that whenever a child starts a new placement a Placement Planning Meeting should take place as soon as possible after the placement commences (usually within 72 hours). Alongside its other functions this meeting should consider the support needs of the placement including the possibility of regular placement support meetings.


3. Placement Support Meeting

3.1 The purpose of Placement Support Meetings is to:

  1. Identify the current and future support needs of the placement;
  2. Plan how these needs will be met;
  3. Monitor and evaluate the provision of support.

3.2 Placement Support Meetings are likely to be particularly useful:

  1. When a long term foster placement is planned. Experience shows that a proactive approach in planning these placements and anticipating support needs greatly increases the chances of such placements being successful and not breaking down;
  2. When a placement is thought to be at risk of breaking down (but prior to crisis point), a Placement Support Meeting can help analyse the issues that threaten the placement's stability and produce a plan of action to address these.

3.3 Chair and Attendees

Placement Support Meetings will normally be chaired by the case responsible Team Manager. In addition the following should be invited to the meeting:

  • Social worker for the child;
  • Supervising Foster Worker;
  • Present Carers;
  • Child or Young Person (if appropriate);
  • Family Resource Worker (if involved);
  • Parents of the child or young person (if appropriate);
  • Anyone else who might usefully contribute to the goals of the meeting.

3.4 Attendance of Child or Young Person

A judgment will often be required about whether the looked after child should attend the meeting. This judgment should take account of the following:

  • The child's wishes and feelings;
  • The age and understanding of the child;
  • The likely conduct and content of the meeting and possible impact on the child;
  • A general presumption in favour of attendance unless there are good reasons against this;
  • Whether the child/young person attends or not, regard needs to be given to:
  • Maximising the child/young person's understanding of what is happening;
  • Ensuring the child's/young person's views are obtained and taken account of.

3.5 Attendance of Parents

Whether to invite parents will primarily be determined by a judgment as to whether their involvement will help promote the goals of the meeting. Workers and managers should also be aware that placement breakdown can sometimes initiate a return home for a child and where this is appropriate, encourage parental involvement. Again whether parents attend or not, regard needs to be given to:

  • Ensuring parents are appropriately informed about what is happening to their child;
  • Ensuring parental views are known and taken account of.

3.6 Preparation for the Meeting

Although helpful and desirable, preparation of a written report may not always be practicable in the timescale. As a minimum however the case responsible social worker should brief the chair before the meeting and provide them with copies of relevant background papers e.g. Last LAC review, Child and Family Assessments, Care Plan. All professionals also need to come to the meeting prepared to contribute relevant information and adopt a positive, problem solving approach to maintaining the placement.

3.7 Format of the Meeting

An agenda along the following lines is suggested:

  1. Introduction and explanation of the purpose of the meeting;
  2. General background (summary):
    • Family Background (summary);
    • Reasons for being Looked After;
    • Assessment of Needs;
    • Care Plan;
    • Placement History.
  3. History of Current Placement;
  4. What are the support needs of the placement;
  5. Events/Factors which may undermine stability;
  6. What has been done up to now to support placement/prevent breakdown?
  7. What can be done to support the placement and/or prevent breakdown?
    • Does the focus of social work intervention need changing or clarifying?
    • Does the work need to focus on particular problems or tasks e.g. school attendance, staying out at night?
    • Would some contract-based work help?
    • What other forms of intervention might help e.g. solution focused?
    • What additional support might be helpful e.g. enhanced fostering worker/social worker visits, some form of respite?
    • Would the involvement of a Support Worker assist / referral to another agency assist?

Whilst working through this agenda, care should be taken to ensure the child/young person's views are represented and taken account of.

3.8 Record of Meeting

The Chair should ensure notes of the meeting are taken and circulated. Detailed minutes are not necessary but the notes should include a clear record of the actions agreed at the meeting.


4. Disruption Meetings in Foster Placements

4.1

Disruption meetings have a similar function and agenda to Placement Support Meetings with the following differences:

  1. They should be convened when placements are at or close to breakdown which the Placement Support process has not succeeded in addressing;
  2. Whilst still endeavouring to prevent breakdown, where this is judged to be inevitable, the meeting should help to plan this in a way which minimises the damage to the child;
  3. The meeting will also aim to identify lessons for future practice.
To facilitate the above the meeting should be independently chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer.


5. Section 5, Disruption Meetings in Pre-Order Adoption Placements

This policy refers to the disruption of placements that have taken place pre adoption order and therefore where the child continues to be looked after.

The purpose of a disruption meeting is not to make decisions about the child’s future but to offer an opportunity for independent scrutiny of both the actions of the agency and the course and causes of events that surrounded the placement ending. This information will focus on the needs of the child and should then inform the agency’s decision making in reviewing the plan for the child as required by the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 and according to the Statutory Adoption Guidance (July 2014). Decisions about the child’s plan and especially decisions to change the plan should not be made prior to the disruption meeting taking place.

Disruption meetings can also offer an opportunity for the agency to review practice whilst being mindful of the nature of this perspective compared to all adoption placements that are made.


6. Convening a Disruption Meeting in Adoption Placements

The following process will set out how Nottinghamshire County Council will convene a meeting. However if this has been an inter-agency placement then discussion will need to take place as to which agency is taking the lead and consequently how the following responsibilities will be carried out. Any costs should have been agreed at the inter-agency meeting prior to placement.

 

6.1 As soon as an adoption placement is known to be disrupting, the child’s social worker or Team Manager should notify the Service Manager (Adoption). The Service Manager will make arrangements for one of the non-case holding Adoption Managers to convene a disruption meeting in due course, and confirm with the child’s social worker who they should contact.
6.2 As soon as the placement has disrupted, the child’s social worker should inform the named manager, who will be responsible for co-ordinating the disruption meeting and will act as adviser to the chair of the meeting when it takes place. The child’s social worker will need to complete the Social Worker’s report to the Chair of the Disruption Meeting so that this can be available when the chair and the adviser have their first meeting.
6.3 The timing of the disruption meeting should take into account the feelings and circumstances of those involved. If held too soon after the disruption, feelings can be too raw and people can be defensive. If held too long after the disruption, events can be rationalised and people may be less open to deeper emotional issues. The meeting needs to be timed to be valuable in informing the review of the plan for the child.
6.4 The agency adviser will identify a person to act as chair. This person must be independent of the child's plan and of the approval of the adopters. They should also be independent of the agencies involved. The chair must have sound knowledge of the needs of children, including an understanding of attachment issues and family placement processes. S/he must also be sensitive to the anxieties of personnel responsible for the placement. It is essential that the chair has experience and skills in chairing complex meetings. It is also desirable, though not essential, that s/he has had experience of disruption within her/his own practice.
6.5 The adviser will request that a worker from business support is identified to support the organisation of the meeting. This person may be required to minute the meeting.
6.6

The agency adviser will need to read the papers on the child and from this have sufficient understanding of the case in order to identify what reports and records the chair will need to have access to. The following are likely to be significant:

  • Relative to the child:
    • Child's Permanence Report;
    • Adoption Placement Report;
    • Minutes of adoption panel (Plan);
    • Minutes of adoption panel (Match);
    • Any other minutes of adoption panel re child;
    • Adoption Support Plan;
    • Adoption Placement Agreement (including timetable for introductions);
    • Minutes or case record of midway review of introductions;
    • Minutes of reviews since placement for adoption;
    • Any other information (e.g. case notes) that may be helpful.
  • Relative to the adopters:
    • Prospective Adopters Report;
    • Minutes of adoption panel (Application);
    • Any other minutes of adoption panel re prospective adopter/s;
    • Notes of any review/s of prospective adopter's approval;
    • Any other information (e.g. case notes) that may be helpful.
The chair will need to arrange to collect and read such papers. Access can also be set up for the chair to view papers on Mosaic.
6.7

An early meeting will need to be set up between the agency adviser and the chair in order to discuss the case and also to identify who should be invited to attend the meeting and who should be consulted separate to the meeting. This meeting can be better informed if some discussion has already taken place with the child’s social worker and/or team manager and the adoption social worker and/or team manager. 

Those to be considered will include the following ( S = Separately; M = to attend the Meeting):

  • Current social worker and team manager for the child; (M)
  • Current social worker and team manager for the adopters; (M)
  • The adopters who have experienced the disruption; (M/S)
  • Any previous social workers or team managers for the child or adopters who could make a significant contribution; (M/S)
  • Foster carer prior to the placement which disrupted; (M/S)
  • Foster carer's supervising social worker; (M/S)
  • Present foster carer, if different from above; (M/S)
  • Present foster carer's supervising social worker; (M/S)
  • Independent Reviewing Officer; (M)
  • Other professionals if significant (e.g. adoption support worker, teacher, therapist). (M/S)

The agency adviser and chair will need to consider whether participants are invited for the full meeting or for part of the meeting, consulting with relevant staff as necessary.

Finding a date and arrangement that can suit everyone is a challenging task. Consideration might need to be given to someone not attending in order to enable the meeting to go ahead within an acceptable timeframe. The chair can arrange to meet people separate to the meeting.

 

 

 

6.8

A judgment will be required about how the child’s voice can be heard in the meeting. The nature of the meeting and the age and understanding of the child may make it not suitable for them to attend a meeting. However all those attending should be keen to have the voice of the child heard, either through a specific person representing the child or by prior specific contact with the child.

If the child is invited to attend the disruption meeting or part of the meeting, the social worker must provide thorough preparation beforehand, and support the child during and after their attendance. In such circumstance the chair should consider meeting the child beforehand with the social worker.
6.9 Consideration will need to be given to how the prospective adopters are going to contribute to the meeting. The chair will need to consider this and be prepared to meet with the prospective adopters separately and before the date of the actual disruption meeting. The prospective adopters’ attendance at the meeting should not be absolutely ruled out but the way this may impact on the dynamics of the meeting as well as the way they may feel so soon after the disruption will need to be considered.
6.10 Meetings should be planned to take half a day in order to facilitate clear and focused discussion. Everyone needs to come suitably prepared so that this time can be used fully.


7. The Meeting and Preparation for the Meeting

7.1

The social worker will need to complete the Social Worker’s Report to the Chair for Disruption meetings. This report should give a summary of the background of the case. This report will be completed soon after the disruption and be available for the chair to read in order to have an initial understanding of the case as well as assist in determining both those to attend the meeting and the structure of the meeting.

There is a standard template for recording information prior, during and after the meeting. This is then a record of the meeting.

Prior to the meeting the following will need to be recorded:

  • Who has been invited to attend the meeting;
  • Any additional reports to be provided and included on the day;
  • The details of any meetings that have taken place prior to the meeting;
  • The topics that will need to be discussed and which will make up the agenda.

During the meeting the following will need to be recorded:

  • A list of who has attended or sent apologies;
  • Simple bullet points to highlight the content of each topic discussed;
  • Any new and significant information;
  • A summary from each person attending the meeting.

After the meeting the following will need to be recorded:

  • A summary by the chair;
  • The chair’s recommendations for the child and for the agency;
  • Any finding made by the chair relative to specific disruption topics.
7.2

The agency adviser and the chair will have had an initial meeting to set up the disruption meeting. They will need to determine what further meetings might be required in order to be fully prepared for the disruption meeting. They may choose to include other people such as business support or social workers and team managers if such support or information gathering will inform the agenda for the disruption meeting and result in better preparation.

The chair may at any time request any further reports or information or a meeting with other personnel if they feel that this is necessary prior to the disruption meeting taking place. The need for this should become clearer as they become more familiar with the case.
7.3

The adviser and business support worker will now need to organise the following:

  • Booking of a suitable venue and the organisation of refreshments;
  • The letter of invitation, including times and venue;
  • Completion of the relevant parts of the disruption template prior to the meeting;
  • Copies of the form outlining the purpose of a disruption meeting;
  • Feedback forms.
7.4

It is the responsibility of all professionals attending the disruption meeting to ensure that they have fully prepared and can contribute with accurate and constructive information.

Some workers may be both attending in their own right and supporting carers. Support to foster carers and prospective adopters if they are in attendance is the responsibility of their social workers. This will include enabling them to understand the reason for their attendance and contribution within the purpose of the disruption meeting as well as meeting them on the day and settling them for the meeting.

The chair and the agency adviser will decide if any additional support is necessary, which might include meeting with any people before the meeting starts. Social workers can make such a request in advance of the meeting but the decision will still be with the chair and agency adviser.
7.5

The Agenda

The challenge for the disruption meeting is to enable a thorough discussion to take place without this taking so long that people become wearisome and contribute less and less effectively as time passes. There will be no need to revisit the detail of past events but summaries might prove useful. Therefore some topics for discussion will be broad and brief. There will be a need for greater detail around understanding why the disruption has occurred and those events likely to have contributed to this. Therefore these topics are more likely to be more specific and involve finer detail.

On the day the chair will summarise the child’s history and alleviate the need for much of this to be discussed. They will then need to determine at what point the agenda should start in order to facilitate the best discussion and the best understanding of why the placement disrupted.

The following are possible and in some cases likely topics that will form the agenda:

  • The preparation of the child and those caring for the child;
  • The assessment and approval of the adopters;
  • Matching, introductions and the move to the adoption placement;
  • The adoption placement;
  • The time of the disruption, including events leading up to this;
  • The child moving out of the adoption placement;
  • The child now;
  • The adopters now;
  • Contact;
  • Individual summaries.
7.6

The Meeting

The length of the meeting will be determined by the chair in consultation with the agency adviser. The meeting needs to be long enough to enable full discussion. The meeting should not be so long however that such prolongation impacts on the quality of discussion. The likely length would be half a day.

The meeting is the responsibility of the chair. Support to non-professionals attending the meeting is the responsibility of their respective workers. However the chair will lead on responsibility for ensuring that a meeting that is likely to involve sensitive and sometimes challenging subject matter is conducted in a way that is both purposeful and friendly; keeps to time whilst enabling all to be involved and; allows opinion whilst respecting diversity.

The agency adviser will support the chair in any of the above tasks They may use professional judgement to assist in discussion but will always respect the independence of the chair and the meeting.

The meeting will have the agenda and the guide for those attending made available to all. Whilst these may have been sent out with the invites, copies should be made available on the day.

All those attending all or part of the meeting should have it made clear to them whether they will receive minutes or in what form their contribution will be shared with them. Advice on this is detailed later.

The agenda will start with the chair giving an outline of the case and their understanding of the child’s history. The previously agreed agenda items will then be discussed in turn. The meeting will conclude with everyone being given the opportunity to make an observation.

At the end of the meeting people will be issued with feedback forms which they will be asked to complete.
7.7

The Minutes

The minutes do not need to record the detail of the discussion nor information that is already known and will be recorded elsewhere. For each topic five or six bullet points should suffice so that the content is recorded. New information as directed by either the chair or adviser should be recorded. The summary that each attendee will be asked to make at the end of the meeting needs to be recorded and accounted to them.


8. After the Disruption Meeting

8.1 Draft minutes should be completed within two weeks of the disruption meeting taking place. These should be sent to the chair and to the agency adviser.
8.2 Approximately two weeks after the disruption meeting has taken place and having received the draft minutes the chair and agency adviser should meet to reflect on the process and content of the meeting, and begin to identify areas which the chair may wish to focus on in formulating his/her conclusions. They should also consider any feedback.
8.3 The chair completes the conclusions and recommendations to the agency, which is the chair's sole prerogative and should not be influenced by the adviser or anyone attending the meeting. These conclusions and recommendations will be the key findings from the meeting. These and the minutes recorded on the day then form the full report.
8.4 It should be recognised that the full report will contain information about several people, including looked after children, birth families, foster carers and prospective adopters. How this information is kept and shared out should therefore consider issues of confidentiality and also both informed learning for the agency and informed planning on behalf of the child. The usual plan for distributing the report will therefore be as follows and where a decision is made to restrict information or to share information more broadly this will need to be agreed by the adoption service manager.
8.5 Professionals attending all or part of the meeting will be notified when the report has been uploaded onto the child’s file on Mosaic. Foster carers and adopters who have attended all or part of the meeting will not be sent any information. It will be the responsibility of the professional supporting them to consider what to share with them from the contents of the report including any conclusions and recommendations that are relevant to them. They should not be given any minutes.
8.6 Service managers (usually adoption, fostering and permanence) will be notified once the full report has been uploaded onto the child’s file on Mosaic. This is for their professional oversight and for consideration of further training needs.
8.7 The primary purpose of a disruption meeting is to inform planning for the child. Therefore a full copy should be put on the child’s file. The adoption agency should also keep copies of the independent chair’s recommendations and conclusions from all disruption meetings. Supervising social workers and adoption social workers should use case notes to record the attendance of foster carers and prospective adopters at the disruption meeting and any significant contribution or learning that has relevance for them.
8.8 Some detail as well as outcomes and areas for learning and development from the disruption meeting are shared with central list members of the adoption and fostering panels. Where detail is shared this is more likely to be with panel members who heard the match. Broader learning is more likely to be drawn from several disruptions over time and to form part of training for panel members.
8.9 The agency will need to consider how it feeds back within the agency the learning over time that can come from studying disruptions. Key themes may be identified and practice changes acknowledged. On an individual case basis it will be the responsibility of social workers and team managers (typically adoption, fostering and permanence) who have attended the disruption meeting to consider how they will feedback any learning to their part of the service.


9. Safeguarding Children

If the meeting concludes that any issue from the disruption indicates that the prospective adopters or foster carers may be unsuitable to work with or care for children, this should be discussed urgently with the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO)/Team of Designated Officers. For further information see Managing Allegations / Concerns about Staff and Volunteers who Work with Children (including Foster Carers and Prospective Adopters) Procedure.

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