Cumbria County Council Logo


Top of page

Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility

5.1.4 Permanence Policy and Practice Guidance

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

All staff have a responsibility to ensure the decisions effecting children’s lives are expedited appropriately and efficiently.

Management oversight will ensure that:

  • Drift does not occur;
  • Activity is measured against quality targets and performance indicators;
  • Compliance with the National Adoption Standards is regularly monitored;
  • Senior managers and the QA team will regularly scrutinise information related to permanence planning for children including adoption, fostering and rehabilitation.
  • The Adoption and the Fostering Panels will play an active role in monitoring achievement of permanence plans for children.

RELATED CHAPTER

Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure

RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

Statutory Guidance on Adoption: For local authorities, voluntary adoption agencies and adoption support agencies 2013

The Adoption Agencies (Panel and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2012

This should also be read in conjunction with Permanence Options Grid.

AMENDMENT

In February 2016, Section 9.5, Special Guardianship Order was updated with a link to the Department of Education’s publication on Special Guardianship Orders, experiences, challenges and outcomes. 


Contents

  1. Application
  2. Permanence Policy Statement
  3. Context and Definitions
  4. Principles
  5. Our Commitment
  6. Delivering Permanence
  7. Permanence and Local Planning
  8. Permanence Outcomes and Twin Tracker or Parallel Planning
  9. Practice Guidance – Options for Permanence
  10. Practice Guidance – Planning for Permanence
  11. Family Group Conference
  12. Permanence Planning Meeting
  13. Contact with Birth Family Members and Others
  14. Good Practice
  15. Responsibilities


1. Application

This procedure applies to all children who are Looked After by the authority, whether by agreement with parents (see Section 20 of The Children Act 1989) or by court order (see Section 31 or 38).

However children and their families will usually have had contact with Children's Social Care and its partners prior to becoming Looked After. It is therefore important that all aspects of assessment and intervention are informed by an awareness of permanency principles.

Where the Department is considering Care Proceedings and invites parents to a Pre-Proceedings Meeting under the Public Law Outline, issues regarding permanence planning must be considered.

Where a child is aged 0-2, the social work team should consider whether concurrent planning involving a foster to adopt or concurrency placement may be appropriate.

Permanency is thus a guiding principle for all services working with children and their families.

Permanence for a Looked After child means achieving, within a timescale which meets the child's needs, a permanent outcome which provides security and stability to the child throughout his or her childhood.

Wherever possible, permanence will be achieved through a return to the parents' care or a placement within the wider family but where this cannot be achieved within a time-scale appropriate to the child's needs, plans may be made for a permanent alternative family placement, which may include Adoption, Child Arrangement Order or Special Guardianship

By the second Looked After Review, the Care Plan for each Looked After Child must contain a plan for achieving permanence for the child within a timescale that is realistic, achievable and meets the child's needs.

Team Manager oversight, decision making and endorsement of care planning for children looked after is central to ensuring ownership and accountability for good quality and timely planning for looked after children and young people

Permanence can be achieved through the following routes: (See Option Permanence Grid)


2. Permanence Policy Statement

Permanency planning is based on the philosophy that every child has the right to a permanent and stable home, preferably with his or her own family. The primary focus of permanency planning is to prevent children drifting in care (Brydon, 2004).

Cumbria County Council, as corporate parent for Children Looked After, will work diligently to find permanent, safe homes for children in care, in a timely manner. The best possible care involves giving children security, stability and love through their childhood and beyond.


3. Context and Definitions

Permanency is described as a:

"Framework of emotional permanence (attachment), physical permanence (stability) and legal permanence (the carer has parental responsibility or delegated parental authority, for the child) which gives a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment and identity (Care Planning Guidance, 2011).”

Children's Needs Related to Their Developmental Stage

Planning for children is an individualised process; therefore permanency must be seen in the context of the child's age, developmental stage, existing relationships and overall life experiences. It is also important to acknowledge that progress in achieving plans needs to relate to a timescale that is meaningful for a child: every six months spent in a temporary or unsatisfactory placement represents over 3% of a person's childhood from 0-16.

Infants under 2 years of age must have the opportunity to form a secure attachment to a parental figure able to meet their needs to a reasonable level of competence: where the birth parent is unlikely to make swift progress to establishing both the relationship and the competence needed it is important for the child's future development to move as quickly as possible towards providing a permanent substitute parent with the legal security of adoption.

Children under 7 have the same needs for a secure attachment but are more likely to have suffered the ill-effects of disrupted attachment and of poor parenting. They may also have developed significant relationships with siblings and with other family members; there may also be positive elements in their relationship with their parents. All these factors need to be taken into account in planning for them and may affect the feasibility of adoption as a plan; however the aim should always be that if they cannot return to their parents they should ideally be adopted. In practice it may be necessary to consider other permanency options including the need to maintain existing relationships; they should not however remain in the care of the authority on an indefinite or long term basis

Children between 7 and 10 years are more likely to be part of a sibling group, to have had experience of being cared for by several carers, to have emotional and behavioural problems and to have significant existing relationships which may not always be compatible with adoption. These factors make it more difficult to find suitable carers, as well as necessitating direct help and support both for the child and for the current and potential carers. While legal security with carers through Adoption or Special Guardianship (Special Guardianship and Residence Orders/Child Arrangement Order) should always be aspired to it is likely to be more important that they are cared for in a secure and continuous manner than that a specific legal framework is sought at all costs.

Children of over 10 years may have mixed feelings about joining a new family as permanent members and any planned placement for children in this age group is more likely to be for long-term fostering than for adoption, though this option may arise later on the basis of a positive attachment and commitment between the carer and child. The priority for children in this age group is for stability while they develop through the adolescent years and they will need an environment providing support and encouragement to make the educational progress and to develop the social and emotional skills on which their future prospects and relationships depend.

The common theme of all of these arrangements will be that the carers will give a commitment to the child to provide a home for them through their childhood. This should be clearly understood by all. Clearly, in the case of adoption, this is a lifelong commitment. It is helpful to understand the different circumstances for each individual child but the need for stability and security is common to all.


4. Principles

With the child at the centre of our thinking and our work, Children’s Services believes that there are a number of principles that underpin permanency for a child:

  • Family solutions: If it is not possible for the child to be cared for by her/his birth parents then options within the extended network of family and friends will be considered as a priority;
  • Belonging: develop a feeling of belonging to someone who is parenting a child on a daily basis;
  • Security: A feeling of security and being loved as a member of a permanent family or care setting;
  • Stability: The child expects the placement to continue and be stable;
  • Voice: The child’s wishes and feelings along with her/his age and understanding must be taken into account in planning for permanence;
  • Identity: To be consistent with or fully able to support her/his ethnicity, language, religion and culture. Note that due consideration no longer has to be given to a child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background when matching a child and prospective adopters;
  • Life story: The child understands her/his birth family and history and her/his parents are encouraged and supported to provide information about themselves and about the child’s birth and early life;
  • Family and friends: The child is a member of an ‘extended family’ and part of a wider long term network of family and friends. The carers should nurture and promote the child’s ability to build long term friendships and relationships with their peers and other adults;
  • Contact: The child has positive on-going contact with parent(s), family and friends where appropriate. The purpose of the contact should be clearly defined in the child’s plan and demonstrate how it will benefit the child;
  • Siblings: children will be placed together whenever possible unless the individual needs of children indicate that their needs will be better met placed separately;
  • Learning: Stability in educational provision and training;
  • Self-confidence: Positive engagement in sports, hobbies and interests in order to promote their resilience and build self-confidence;
  • Independence: The child is assisted and supported into independence when s/he chooses and this is safe and appropriate;
  • Staying put: the child feels a sense of commitment from their carers as (s)he moves into adolescence and adulthood; belonging does not end at the age of 18 years;
  • Timeliness: Decision-making must be within the child’s time scales in order to prevent drift;
  • Twin track or parallel planning: including concurrent planning, may provide a means to securing permanence at an early stage for some children;
  • Early planning: A child’s permanence plan should be established at the four month review and recorded in the IRO Decisions Report;
  • Review: where a child remains looked after in care then planning should be subject to continuous assessment and review.


5. Our Commitment

Understanding that the routes to permanent arrangements will be different for the circumstances of each child, the Children’s Social Work Service is committed to considering the range of options available depending on the age and individual needs of the child and young person:

  • Cumbria County Council would always look to the family to care for a child in the first instance providing it is safe to do so and it does not compromise their development and safety. A legal order may be required and may be a Supervision Order or a Family Assistance Order. It would be exceptional to place children at home under a full Care Order;
  • Relatives and other people with whom the child has a connection will be actively encouraged and supported to provide alternative care wherever parents are unable to look after their children;
  • Where parents and relatives are not able to provide long term permanent care the planning for the children will include consideration of securing the child's future with alternative carers through adoption or special guardianship at the earliest possible stage where appropriate;
  • Whilst long term foster care can meet many children's needs it will only be considered as the preferred permanent option based on robust exploration of alternatives and ultimately a decision based on the best interests of the child;
  • Wherever meeting a child's needs requires placement in residential settings these arrangements will usually be part of a time-limited rehabilitation to their own or another family;
  • Cumbria County Council also recognises the importance of working with partners and parent/carers who play a key role in the lives of looked after children. Parent/carers and all professionals involved with the family will inform and be part of decision making for children looked after.


6. Delivering Permanence

The service will strive to deliver the commitments outlined in this policy by providing the following:

  • High quality and timely assessments of a child's needs;
  • Any assessment of the child/young person’s experience will always refer to the factors outlined in the principles as outlined above. This will help to ensure appropriate planning and the focus of practice to best help the child/young person achieve as strong a sense of permanence as possible;
  • Clear plans; with identifiable outcomes, service provision and actions to meet those needs;
  • Multi-agency commitment and effective joint working processes to ensure that the services necessary to support children in permanent family placements and /or prevent their breakdown are prioritised and delivered;
  • Where there are concerns that a child may not be able to remain with their birth parents/carers without statutory intervention a family group conference will be held to fully explore the options for the child to remain safely within the extended kinship network;
  • Robust case reviewing arrangements for the early identification of the need for permanent arrangements and to prevent drift;
  • The opportunity for the voice of the child to be heard and evidenced in the plan and to include their views and feelings;
  • Effective communication pathways to ensure that family, carers and other individuals who the child considers to be an important part of their life are able to express their needs and feelings and are aware of the plans for the child and their role in these plans where appropriate;
  • Policies and services that support all children placed within the range of permanence options;
  • The permanence panel will consider all plans for permanence following the four month review. The panel will make decisions regarding matches for long term fostering and special guardianship arrangements. The panel will consider significant changes of care plan and will review section 20 arrangements on a regular basis. This will ensure effective oversight and monitoring of all plans for permanency for children and young people.

Practice Guidance Note: Permanence planning must include the following:

  • Team Manager oversight that acts as the ‘permanence thinker’ from the first point of discussing a child/young person becoming looked after, thinking about and planning permanence must be a common feature;
  • A timetable for introducing the child to the placement that ensures that both child and carers have a mutual understanding and commitment to the move;
  • If the plan is for a residential placement, the desired aims, objectives and outcomes of the placements must be clarified;
  • Plans for life story and more specific therapeutic work to take place before and after the placement; (foster care and residential placement);
  • Arrangements for contact, if appropriate, that are based on the needs of the child and the priority of achieving stability and permanence in their lives.


7. Permanence and Local Planning

It is important that the child has access to the friends, family or community within which they were brought up and which form part of their identity and their long term support network. For these reasons children should be placed in local provision wherever possible in order to provide a wraparound service locally.

Any decision to place a child away from his or her community should be based on the particular needs of the child, and considered within the context of a Permanence Plan.

Where an alternative family placement is sought in the area of another local authority, the likely availability and cost of suitable local resources to support the placement must be explored. In the case of an adoptive placement, this will be required as part of the assessment of need for adoption support services (see Adoption Support Procedure), but should be carried out in relation to any permanent placement.

Cumbria County Council is committed to expanding the availability of local placements. The plans for this are set out within the Sufficiency Strategy 2015-2018.


8. Permanence Outcomes and Twin Tracker or Parallel Planning

The emphasis on early consideration of permanency plans and avoidance of drift has led to the development of twin track or parallel planning for children, where efforts are made to rehabilitate but the necessary information is gathered ready to put in place an alternative plan e.g. adoption, if this fails. Social workers are expected to work to this model; working towards a child's return home where appropriate, whilst at the same time developing an alternative Permanence Plan, within strictly limited timescales.

Where children's plans are before the court in Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure, the Court require twin track or parallel planning to be reflected in the Care Plan - see also The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015) and Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline (PLO) Procedure.

See also Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure


9. Practice Guidance – Options for Permanence 

There are various options to consider in a plan for permanence for a Child Looked After and young person. Achieving each type of permanence will present different challenges for all parties.

It will depend upon:

  • The capacity of the parents/carer to understand and meet the needs of the child;
  • The level of attachment the child experiences with their parent/carer;
  • The quality of the intervention and support provided by professionals working with the child and their family;
  • The level of cooperation of all involved in the permanence planning.

The permanence options are provided on the Permanence Options Grid. The following provides a summary of each permanence option and information about the relevant support, financial support and available legal orders regarding each option.

ICS: LAC Work Flow - For Care Plan/ Part 1 and Part 2 - see Documents Library 

9.1 Reunification/Staying at Home
9.2 Placing Children with Connected Carer
9.3 Adoption
9.4 Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
9.5 Special Guardianship (SGO)
9.6 Long Term Fostering
9.7 Permanence Residential Care
9.8 Leaving Care Procedure
9.9 Private Fostering

9.1 Reunification/Staying at Home

a. Staying at home offers the best chance of stability for children. Efforts should be made to maintain and develop working relationships with parents and extended family so that contact and rehabilitation are possible. This should be reviewed by the IRO at every CLA Review. Family are the first line of approach as long as there is no risk of harm to the child(ren);
 

Practice Guidance Note:

  • A Family Group Conference will be arranged prior to any planned requests for accommodation. A clear rationale for not having a FGC will need to be agreed with the Team Manager and recorded on the children’s ICS case file, as a Manager’s Decision Record by the Team Manager;
  • An edge of care family support plan must be clearly evidenced within the child/young person’s case record, as part of either a CIN plan or a child protection plan;
  • Where reunification is the plan the IRO will raise the need for a Family Group Conference as part of the child/young person’s plan. The IRO and Team Manager will discuss where a Family Group Conference is felt not to be helpful. The outcome of this discussion will be recorded by the Team Manager, as a Managers Decision Record (MDR) within the required recording policy timescale of 48hrs. However where a key decision is made to alter the plan /direction for a child/ young person this needs to be on the child’s case record within 24hours;
  • Any unplanned change of plan resulting from a CLA Review will be immediately shared by the SW with the Team Manager. The IRO will also communicate this by email to the Team Manager confirming the change and reasons.
b. Where a child cannot remain safely at home and intervention is necessary which means that the child(ren) needs to be looked after then the focus of work should be on reunification;
c.

For reunification to be successful research shows that a number of factors are relevant to achieve a safe and appropriate return:

  • Thorough multi agency assessments;
  • Good support identified from extended network of family and/or friends including the use of a Family Group Conference;
  • Clear written expectations have been set for the parent(s) to meet before the child could return home and within what timescales;
  • Problems which led to the admission to care have been addressed;
  • Following assessment return to other parent or parent has a new partner who makes a difference;
  • Appropriate support plan and any specialist support has been provided and parents engage with this;
  • There is good preparation of parent(s) and child(ren), including life story work;
  • Good oversight monitoring of the child(ren) before and after return.
d.

If a child is subject to care proceedings and an Interim Care Order and the assessment work indicates that reunification should be attempted, then:

  • Wherever safe, time within the care proceedings should be used for this;
  • Placement with Parent regulations (see Placement with Parent Procedure) can in limited circumstances be used to support placement at home with parent(s) if subject to interim care orders;
  • If, at the final hearing in the care proceedings, it is proposed that the plan for permanency should be for the child(ren) to live with a parent or parents then proportionate use of the court orders available should be used, including use of supervision order or no order where safe and appropriate to do to so;
  • The key point is to ensure that arrangements are in place to provide multi agency support the parent(s) and child(ren) through a clear and appropriate plan;
 

Practice Guidance Note:

  • As part of a step down approach a child in need plan or a supervision order, should be reviewed and chaired independently from the allocated social worker.
 
e. It will be necessary to ensure that there is Twin Track or Parallel Planning alongside efforts in reunification so that alternatives for care, e.g. possible solutions provided through the Family Group Conference or adoption are also considered;
f. For reunification with parents, if there is a Care Order, the plan must consider the discharging of the Care Order, where it is identified that  support may still be needed a Supervision Order might be considered.

Support available to enable this permanence option:

  • A clearly written support plan including support from within the family - this is multi-agency support identified through a child in need plan;
  • Cumbria County Council has the discretion to provide support on a one-off or regular basis under section 17 Children Act 1989 – Child in Need support.

Available legal orders to support this permanence option:

  • Supervision Order.

9.2 Placing Children with Connected Carers

When a child cannot safely return to their birth parents then every effort must be made to seek a suitable placement with relatives or friends. It is very important to establish at the earliest possible stage of a child coming into care which relatives or friends might be available to care for the child, in order to avoid delays in planning for permanence. The Family Group Conference as outlined within the Practice Guidance Note at 8.1(a), should already have identified this option.

Research indicates that children can have increased commitment from connected carers in providing stability and have an enhanced opportunity to develop their identity. In some circumstances connected carers have already had some experiencing of caring for the child/ren. However, research also states that good assessments of connected carers need to be completed in order to assess the quality of the care to be provided as this leads to better outcomes for children. Placements need to be well supported as connected carers can be older, can have poorer health and less support than foster carers.

Routes to permanence for children placed with connected carers need to be considered at an early stage. If children are not able to return to their birth families, ideally their placement within the extended family or with friends would be supported by a Child Arrangement Order or a Special Guardianship Order or through adoption. It would be unusual for children to remain on Care orders when placed safely with relatives and for the carers to remain therefore as formal connected foster carers.

Contact in connected carer arrangements can often be more complex and this needs to be addressed in the Care Plan. A Supervision Order may assist connected carers in feeling supported during the first year of a connected placement, rather than the child remaining on a care order.

Support available to enable this permanence option:

Available legal orders to support this permanence option:

  • Child Arrangement Order;
  • Special Guardianship Order;
  • Supervision Order;
  • Adoption Order.

LAC Work Flow - see Documents Library and Placements with Connected Persons Procedure 

9.3 Adoption

Practice Guidance Note: Read Placement for Adoption Procedure for detailed procedure and practice

In many cases where a child cannot safely be cared for by their birth parents the permanence plan is that of adoption. Cumbria is committed to adoption as a legal and emotional permanence option which can be considered for all children.

Research strongly supports adoption as a primary consideration and as a main factor contributing to the stability of children and has good outcomes.

Adoption transfers Parental Responsibility for the child from the birth parents and others who had Parental Responsibility, including the local authority, permanently and solely to the adopter(s). The child is deemed to be the child of the adopter(s) as if he or she had been born to them and the child takes on the surname of the adoptive parent Change of Name of a Child Looked After Procedure

The child's birth certificate is changed to an adoption certificate showing the adopter(s) to be the child's parent(s). A child who is not already a citizen of the UK acquires British citizenship if adopted in the UK by a citizen of the UK.

This legal status applies into adulthood and is therefore a lifelong legal commitment, unlike any other legal permanence options.

Adoption has lifelong implications for all involved and a comprehensive support service will be provided in partnership with other agencies. Adopters may be supported, including financially, by the local authority and will have the right to request an assessment for support services at any time after the Order is made. See Adoption Support Procedure for detailed procedures.

The expectation is that contact is maintained with siblings placed separately and some form of contact will be maintained with the birth family throughout the child’s life if this is safe and actively benefits the child. Research indicates that openness in adoption is key in adoptive placements and offers continuity when contact is not possible.

The service is committed to preventing delay for children and supports fostering for adoption where appropriate in order to prevent delay for the child. Family finding should begin as soon as adoption is under consideration, and before the Agency Decision Maker decides that the child should be placed for adoption or a Placement Order is made.

Support available to enable this permanence option:

  • A clear multi-agency support plan;
  • See Adoption Support Procedure for the range of support available, including financial support.

Available legal orders to support this permanence option:

  • Adoption Order.

ICS Adoption Work Flow – see Draft Example / Document Library – full set of documents

9.4 Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters

The Children and Families Act 2014 imposes a duty to consider placements with carers who are approved as both adopters and foster carers.

Practice Guidance Note: Read Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters Procedure.

9.5 Special Guardianship (SGO)

Special Guardianship Order provides an alternative legal status for children that provides greater legal security and commitment than long term fostering, but without the absolute legal severance from the birth family that stems from an Adoption Order (Special Guardianship Guidance, DFES, 2005). It is a legal route to permanence for children for whom adoption is not appropriate.

The Special Guardian will have parental responsibility for the child and may exercise this to the exclusion of all others with parental responsibility, apart from another Special Guardian. There are limits to the decisions a Special Guardian can make, for instance they cannot change the child’s surname or take them out of the country without the permission of the court or the agreement of all of the people with parental responsibility. The birth parents also retain the right to consent or not to adoption.

Special Guardians may be supported, including financially, by the local authority and will have the right to request an assessment for support services at any time after the Order is made.

Practice Guidance Note:

  • A formal assessment at the point of the completion of the Schedule 21 court report will be required to establish the support plan in place for Special Guardians.

While there is limited research on the impact of Special Guardianship to inform practice the following link offers an overview from the Department of Education’s publication on Investigating Special Guardianship experiences, challenges and outcomes which colleagues might find useful.

However, in Cumbria over two thirds of the special guardianship arrangements are kinship placements and therefore the research regarding kinship placements can be considered. The complexity of these arrangements regarding contact and support needs close attention to detail to ensure that special guardians are equipped to meet the on-going needs of the children or young person throughout their childhood.

Support available to enable this permanence option:

  • A clear multi-agency support plan;
  • A range of support is available, including financial support.- (Read SGO Procedures).

Available legal orders to support this permanence option:

  • Supervision Order;
  • Section 8 Orders.

Procedure/Pathway/Work Flow - see Documents Library

See Applications for Special Guardianship Orders

9.6 Long Term Fostering

This option should be considered for older children who retain strong links to their birth families. It can also be a positive option for those children who have emotional and behavioural difficulties due to the impact of past adversity and have high levels of support needs.

It is critically important that the local authority formally agrees to the placement becoming permanent and that these decisions receive the same scrutiny and support as other decisions for permanent placements.

Where long term fostering was not the original plan the rationale for a change should set out:

  • Why the original plan is no longer viable;
  • What efforts have been made to find an alternative long term option in the birth family;
  • How the proposed carers meet the child’s profile of needs;
  • Consideration of any legal orders in place.

Practice Guidance Note:

Decision Making/Approval Process Permanence Panel

Research indicates that promoting stability and quality of care in long term foster care is key in achieving positive outcomes. Research also indicates that where foster care is stable with a good quality of care and strong support, a positive outcome is similar to the pattern for adopted children.

A permanence placement should be a planned placement and not be the result of unresolved planning. Cumbria is committed to offering the best possible opportunities for children in long term foster care and as such children should be matched to a family. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to provide a short term placement with a view to this becoming a long term arrangement. Prior to placement the carer’s capacity to be permanent carers and meet the needs of the child is established.

Contact within a long term fostering arrangement needs to be based on the child’s evolving needs and reviewed over time.

When a pattern of trust, respect and security has been established between the carer and the child(ren) then consideration should be given to securing an alternative legal permanence through special guardianship or adoption as the basis for a committed and enduring relationship.

Where a child/young person is placed within an Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) and a change in care plan is made to long term fostering the same questions identified at 9.6 will be tested. Where the proposal is that a child/young person continues within an IFA as a long term fostering placement approval for funding must already have been agreed by the senior nominated officer before going to the Permanence Panel

Practice Guidance Note: Read Staying Put Policy

  • Staying Put as a principle should be considered for children/young people currently placed in both foster care and residential settings.

Support available to enable this permanence option:

  • A clear plan of support as outlined in the care plan and the placement and support plan. This should be reviewed regularly at the child’s care review;
  • The foster carer will have an allocated supervising social worker from the fostering service and will have access to a range of support and training;
  • Weekly allowance is paid to meet the costs of caring for the child;
  • Foster carer payment is paid according to the Payment for Skills Mechanism;
  • For those children placed with Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA) the costs for the child’s placement are agreed between the IFA and Cumbria County Council and confirmed on the Individual Placement Agreement (IPA).

Available legal orders to support this permanence option:

  • Care Order.

CLA Work Flow and CLA Review Work Flow - see Documents Library

9.7 Permanence and Residential Care

For most children a placement in residential care should be identified in their care plan as a short term transition with the aim of preparing, enabling and supporting the child to return to live in a family setting. Long term residential care may better meet the needs of small numbers of children and young people and lead to better outcomes if it is a clear decision made on assessed needs.

The needs of older children and young people must be considered in relation to achieving permanence in their lives. Some young people may not be able to live with birth parents, nor wish to be in a foster home but prefer to live in a residential children’s home. However, the care planning process must identify adults such as wider family and friends, other connected people and Independent Visitors who can provide a long term trusting relationship and emotional support and which will provide continuing support, particularly during periods of transition.

Research states that good quality work with families can help the young person build bridges back to his/her parents or other family members who may be able to provide that support even though it is not possible for the young person to live at home for a period of time.

It is essential to support young people to make the transition towards independence with the provision of high quality leaving care support.

CLA Work Flow and CLA Review Work Flow - see Documents Library

9.8 Leaving Care Procedures

A local authority cannot unilaterally decide to cease to look after a child who is subject to a care order or interim care order. Such an order must be discharged by the court.

Cumbria County Council will, when considering no longer caring for a child/young person as looked after, assess the suitability of where the child/young person will live, how they will be cared for and what support they might need after they cease to be a looked after child.

Where children are returning home, this assessment will include any support their parents might need if reunification is to be successful. There is also a requirement for the nominated officer (a senior member of the local authority nominated by the Director of Children’s Service (DCS)) to approve this decision.

Before putting the arrangement in place the nominated officer must be satisfied that the proposed arrangement will safeguard and promote the child welfare

Support available to enable this permanence option:

  • Set out in the child’s care and placement plan and reviewed regularly through the child care review;
  • The costs for the child’s placement are agreed between the residential care provider and Cumbria County Council and confirmed on the Individual Placement Agreement (IPA).

Available legal orders to support this permanence option:

  • Care Order.

Work Flow – In draft ICS working with PA’s in CLA Teams - see Documents Library

9.9 Private Fostering

A private fostering arrangement can be a permanency option where the parents make their own arrangements for someone other than a close relative to care for their child long term.

A private fostering arrangement is a private arrangement (without being instigated by a local authority) for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative, with the intention that it should last for 28 days or more.

The private foster carer becomes responsible for providing the day to day care of the child. Overarching responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child remains with the child’s parents or other person with parental responsibility.

There is a requirement that all private fostering arrangements must be notified to the local authority. The local authority assesses the suitability of the arrangement and arranges visits on a regular basis.

The Children Act 1989 requires parents and private foster carers to give the local authority advance notice of a Private Fostering arrangement. It also places specific duties on local authorities with responsibilities for children’s services. The Children Act 2004 Section 44 placed a further duty on local authorities to promote public awareness of the notification requirements.

For such arrangements to fall under the Private Fostering Arrangements parents have to be in agreement with the identified placement and it has to be a placement that is going to last 28 days or more. Parents and Private Foster Carers will enter into a written agreement.

When assessments are being undertaken consideration also has to be given to any children living within the proposed foster placement and all those children should be spoken to and their wishes and feeling should be considered and any potential impact upon them.

Arrangements where a child may be visiting the UK on an exchange programme for six week and more will fall under the Private Fostering Legislation and Regulations. Local Collages should be reminded of their responsibility to notify the LA when such plans for children coming to the UK are made to ensure that assessments and appropriate agreements between parents and proposed careers are completed.

While there is no maximum duration to which a child/young person can be in Private Fostering arrangements a discussion regarding permanence must take place, as part of the social work readiness assessment.

Practice Guidance Note:

  • Case work responsibility for managing and overseeing Private Fostering sits within the District Teams.

The allocated social worker will carry out specific and appropriate assessments in relation to the child and the private carer. Regular reviews of the placement and all assessments will take place to ensure that the placement is in the interest of the child and can meet the long-term needs and foster positive relationships.

ICS Work Flow - see Documents Library: full guidance and document set


10. Practice Guidance – Planning for Permanence 

Planning for permanency is an important aspect of work with looked after children for social workers and their managers, and for IROs. To be effective it requires co-ordination across a number of areas: the legal process, whether or not there are current proceedings; looked after children review process; fostering and adoption regulations and ongoing professional and legal responsibilities governing work with Looked After children.

10.1 The ICS Child and Family Assessment
10.2 The Legal Process
10.3 Where Care Proceedings are Current
10.4 Where Children are Accommodated under the provision of Section 20
10.5 A Child/Young Persons Looked After Review
10.6 ICS Care Plan
10.7 Arranging a Child/Young Person’s Initial looked After Review
10.8 Child/Young Person’s Review – Part 1
10.9 The Child/Young Person’s Looked After Review – Part 2
10.10 The Child’s Care Plan

Practice Guidance Note:

  • This practice guidance is to be read alongside the work flows and pathways as outlined within ICS (Liquidlogic Children Services LCS).

10.1 The ICS Child and Family Assessment

  • The Child and Family Assessment is key to all further planning and review, in that it should provide an understanding of: the child's basic needs and the extent to which they are being met; the capacity of the parents to meet these needs; and an idea of the overall family and social network including all known adult members. All three 'sides of the triangle' are essential for effective future planning and it is therefore obligatory to have a recent or updated Child and Family Assessment completed or updated for all newly Looked After Children.

Practice Guidance Note:

  • To be completed before the child is accommodated or as soon as possible afterwards: ASAP should be agreed in supervision between the SW and Team Manager with an end date by which the work must be completed and recorded as a Managers Decision Record (MDR)on the child’s case file.

10.2 The Legal Process

  • The authority's future plans for the child are a key consideration in any care proceedings and the court will be influenced not only by their manifest content but equally by the judge's and guardian's estimation of the authority's ability to implement this within the stated timescale. The importance of timely and professional presentation to the court cannot therefore be overstated;
  • The court process is essentially one of negotiation in which the judge is the ultimate arbiter; it is important therefore that all parties are kept abreast of thinking and planning and have an input into the Review Process. The Care Plan as presented in court should not be seen as separate to the planning that takes place in reviews - the Child's Care Plan should be influenced by the issues and considerations raised by the Guardian and parents while the Final Care Plan as presented to the court should encapsulate the current child's care plan.

Practice Guidance Note: Read the Public Law Outline 2014 (26 weeks) Flowchart which sets out time scales and processes governing the management/oversight of care proceedings.


Practice Guidance Note: The Permanence Tracker Form MUST be completed at the initiation of PLO or by the 2nd Review

10.3 Where Care Proceedings are Current

  • During the permanency planning process it is essential that both elements are managed in co-ordination. In particular, where adoption is being considered the AD is responsible for decision making at the SHOPA stage. The child will then be presented to the Adoption Panel in order to secure a best interests decision, Family Finding is undertaken, and, where feasible, a potential match with prospective adopters can be identified and progressed once the Placement Order has been granted.

Practice Guidance Note:

  • The planning and co-ordination of both these elements of a child’s care plan is a matter for support/challenge as part of case management oversight

10.4 Where Children are Accommodated under Section 20

It is important to ensure that recognition of parental rights and responsibilities does not lead to drift in planning. Where parents place their children in accommodation on account of their serious individual or social problems these are seldom quickly resolved. While it may be acceptable for secondary school age children to be fostered on the basis of a written agreement with their parents this is not the case for younger children who need to have reliable and predictable arrangements, within which the chances of disruption are minimised.

Practice Guidance Note:

  • Every looked after review for a child of primary school age or younger must consider whether care proceedings need to be initiated in order to provide an appropriate legal framework. A clear rationale must be recorded.
  • It is important that parents understand the obligation of the Authority to make permanent plans for Looked After Children in a timely manner. They should be supplied with written information concerning this obligation.

10.5 A Child/Young Persons Looked After Review

  • Planning for Looked After Children takes place within the recording framework of the ICS- LCS (LiquidLogic Children’s Services) Children Looked After Reviews Procedure;
  • This section summarises the elements of that process most relevant to children in need of permanent family placement: it does not repeat areas such as the Placement Plan/Placement Information Record which are common to all Looked After Children and must also be followed; it also highlights those elements of the process that are essential to ensuring permanency and is not therefore a comprehensive guide to all aspects of the review process.

10.6 The ICS Care Plan

  • This key document sets out plans for the child; Part 1 - the overall plan for the child's future i.e. to return home, to be adopted etc. This can only be changed at a Looked After Review and Part 2 setting out the child's needs and how they will be met.

Practice Guidance Note:

  • Part 1 is to be completed as soon as it is known that the child will be accommodated.

10.7 Arranging a Child/Young Person’s Initial looked After Review

  • The Independent Reviewing Service must be notified that a child/young person has been or will be accommodated and the date/time for the initial looked after children review secured within 5 working days. The date of the initial looked after review meeting will take place no later than 28 days after the period of accommodation begins.

Practice Guidance Note:

  • Aide Memoire to be Followed ‘Who to Notify when a child becomes Looked After.
  • The social worker must ensure that all relevant people are invited to the meeting and that the child and parents are consulted with and prepared for the meeting. Where there are care proceedings the child's Guardian must always be invited to the Looked After Review.

10.8 Child/Young Person’s Review – Part 1

  • This is the social worker's report for the review meeting and should be built upon the child's areas of need and strengths as identified in the Child and Family Assessment. It is essential that the possibility of a return home to the parents is evaluated, that the preconditions for this to be accomplished are laid out, and that there are clear timescales for this;
  • Where further assessment is required it is important to be specific as to areas where further information is needed and which will therefore be the focus of further work;
  • Where, as can be the case, there are significant doubts as to whether the parent will be able to make the necessary improvements within an appropriate timescale the report should also indicate what other avenues to permanency should be explored and if so how e.g. through a Family Group Conference.

Practice Guidance Note:

  • Read Practice Standard for CLA Reviews - This sets out actions and timescales within which tasks are to be completed for both initial looked after child reviews and all subsequent reviews of a child/young person’s care plan. Quality Assurance completed by the IRO will measure performance against these key Practice Standards.

  • The child's review is the forum in which the child's Care Plan is formulated, developing from the outline care plan within the Review Report Part 1.

10.9 The Child/Young Person’s Looked After Review – Part 2

  • The Independent Reviewing Officer's evaluation of embryonic plan from which the child's Care Plan emerges. A change of Care Plan can only be agreed through the review process. The IRO must always be informed of other meetings taking place as part of this process, including Permanency Planning Meetings or Family Group Conferences;
  • A review should also be held whenever there is a breakdown in established arrangements for the child in order to make an interim plan while future options are considered.

10.10 The Child's Care Plan

  • The child’s care plan should be amended and updated as necessary following the initial Review;
  • National Adoption Standards are that a plan for permanency should be in place for all Looked After children by the time of the second review. Where adoption is being considered, even when other plans may be being pursued in parallel an ICS Adoption Plan should be completed for the second (4 month) review. The Adoption Plan runs together with the child's Care Plan until such time as it is agreed that alternatives to adoption should be discontinued, when the Adoption Plan replaces Part 2 of the child's Care Plan;
  • These plans should inform the Child's Permanency Report which is the format for presenting a report to the AD.

Practice Guidance Note:

  • To be completed following the third (10 month review).
  • Children who remain Looked After for this length of time will have a comprehensive reassessment of their needs reflected within their care plan.


11. Family Group Conference

Family Group Conferences (FGCs) are part of a model of intervention with extended family networks aimed at empowering families with responsibility for coming up with solutions to their problems. Family Group Conferences Procedure: Principles and Practice (to follow) outlines this approach.

They are NOT primarily a means of 'nominating' family members to become carers for Looked After children and should not be seen in this way. It is however possible that from a reflection upon the issues which have led a child to become accommodated, ideas as to how they may be cared for within the extended family will emerge.

It should be noted that where a placement of a child who is in care with a family member is proposed this will be subject to the proposed carer being eligible for consideration as a foster carer (see Placement with Connected Persons Procedure) or to the agreement of the Court. Where a child is accommodated under Section 20 it is it is important that the parent agrees with or accepts the arrangement. Please note that a placement under S20 will not usually be a satisfactory legal basis for a permanent placement, though may be appropriate for some older young people where it is enshrined in a written agreement between all parties.

FGCs may have a useful function in terms of helping the network to come to terms with a child's situation, to consider how contact arrangements may best be made and to support a parent in overcoming the difficulties that prevent them resuming care of a child.

FGCs are a specialised model of intervention and problem solving requiring a skilled independent chair.


12. Permanence Planning Meeting

Permanency Planning Meetings (PPMs) are the means by which work towards achieving permanency for a child is co-ordinated and progressed following a Review decision to pursue a permanency option or options.

PPMs can be held at any time as there may be occasions where it is known that that a permanent placement will be needed shortly after or even prior to birth. The PPM in these instances can undertake some preparatory work but cannot make final or binding decisions, which are within the remit of the review.

PPMs must always be held for children under the age of 2 who remain accommodated at the first Review, unless there is a clear return home date.

PPMs must always be held in respect of children of under 10 years who remain accommodated at the second review, unless there is a clear 'return home' date, and may be held regarding older children where this is appropriate in the view of the IRO.

Role of the Permanency Planning Meeting

The Review should set the overall direction of the plan; the role of the PPM is to undertake the detailed work in implementing these plans and in particular to ensure:

  • That there is effective ongoing communication between the professionals involved;
  • That a sense of urgency is maintained and timescales adhered to; and
  • That momentum is not unavoidably lost when changes of personnel occur.

Where it becomes clear within the PPM that a particular option is not feasible or is unlikely to meet the child's needs this should be fed into the reviewing process. The PPM cannot however change the child's Care Plan.

Where there are significant differences of opinion between key professionals the PPM should clarify these and identify a process for resolving this. This may include the involvement of more senior managers as necessary. Where it is necessary to refer an issue to a senior manager for decision the PPM should identify available options and evaluate the advantages and feasibility of each.

Who Attends a Permanency Planning Meeting?

A PPM is chaired by the District Team Manager, the allocated social worker is responsible for completing the decision and action sheet. Included in the PPM are the following:

  • Child's Social Worker and their Team Manager/Deputy Team Manager;
  • Child's Guardian invited where involved;
  • Fostering and Adoption;
  • IRO where appropriate.

Agenda for an Initial Permanency Planning Meeting

  1. Identify which permanency options are being pursued for the child(ren) and in what order;
  2. Confirm agreement of parties and other significant 'stakeholders' to the overall plans being pursued: where there are actual or potential areas of difference clarify what these are and how these can be minimised;
  3. Outline overall responsibilities and specific tasks to be undertaken - Form F, child's profile for circulation etc;
  4. Where differing care plans are being developed for siblings, to identify the implications of these;
  5. Set timescales in relation to key dates (court, Adoption Panel, forthcoming reviews etc.). A date for the Adoption Panel should be set that links to any Proceedings to ensure that there is no delay in Court dates;
  6. Arrangements for contact, with parents, siblings (if needed) other family members, people of importance (See Section 13, Contact with Birth Family Members and Others);
  7. Set next PPM date.

Agenda for Subsequent Permanency Planning Meeting

  1. Check on completion of agreed tasks;
  2. Identify any changes or developments that might affect that plan;
  3. Follow agenda as above from Items 2 onwards;
  4. Where there appears to be delay in pursuing the plan to consider whether the matter needs to be escalated to Senior Manager CLA or Assistant Director CLA.

Oversight of Permanence Planning Meetings

The Senior Manager, Children Looked After and the Service Manager of the IRO Service will meet regularly to oversee the Permanence Planning Process for all children who are subject of such meetings.

The Meeting will consider drift and delay in care planning and all newly Looked After Children and whether a Permanence Planning Meeting is required.


13. Contact with Birth Family Members and Others

Contact must always be for the benefit of the child and not the parent or other relatives. Plans for contact must be included in the permanence plan.

Contact may take place with birth parents, siblings and other people who help the child maintain and enhance their identity Where the plan is one of adoption, early planning is needed to ensure that contact with birth family members is reduced/ended in a timeframe that does not delay the progression of a match and placement with adopters.

See Contact with Parents / Adults and Sibling Procedures.


14. Good Practice

Good practice guidance about permanence is embedded throughout this chapter.

Research materials are available here which provide further information and confirm the need for permanence for every child or young person:


15. Responsibilities

Social Workers at all stages of work with children and families are responsible for promoting and supporting effective parenting that will meet children's needs throughout their childhood.

Social Workers who conduct the Child and Family Assessments and who work with children and families in the community, while seeking to maintain children with their parents wherever possible are also responsible for assessing the need for children to be removed from harmful or inappropriate parenting. Within this work they are also responsible for exploring the child's family, Connected Persons and social network and identifying adults within this network who may potentially be able to care for the child.

Social Workers who work with children who are already Looked After are responsible for developing and implementing timely plans to provide children with permanency, as outlined below. At all stages in the process an ability to communicate with children including undertaking direct work where necessary is an essential skill. It is important that children are helped to develop a realistic understanding of their personal and family history and present situation: life story work undertaken by their social worker is a key element in developing this.

Team Managers and Advanced Practitioners are responsible for supervising and supporting Social Workers in developing and implementing these plans, including providing a critical overview and recommending legal action where necessary; for minimising disruption and delay when case responsibility transfers; for ensuring compliance with internal procedures as well as relevant regulations and legislation; for facilitating access to the resources necessary to implement these plans and for negotiating with internal and external partners and other parties in order to progress the plan. For these reasons it is essential that they play a full part in the planning process including attendance at the second Looked After Reviews and Permanency Planning Meetings regarding children are responsible for.

Service Managers are responsible for maintaining an overview of their District's workload based on data generated by ICS (liquid logic), with particular reference to ensuring effective case planning and the presentation to court of coherent and effectively resource care plans; for promoting permanency in a timely and cost-effective manner; for providing professional support and guidance to staff, for anticipating and resolving areas of actual or potential conflict and for ensuring good customer care.

Senior Managers are responsible for the operational oversight and strategic management and development of their Service/District. The senior manager is the single line of accountability and decision making for both operational and strategic issues specific to their Service /District. Cumbria County Council is a learning organisation which encourages systems leadership across key area of delivery, as such senior managers will hold thematic leads across Children’s Service as a whole as part of their portfolio. Permanence is a theme held and owned across all tiers of management and practice, from the first point of contact to beyond adoption and return home, and is at the forefront of all decision making. 

Independent Reviewing Officers are responsible for chairing looked after children's reviews in line with statutory timescales. Their roles and responsibilities are set out in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and in the Review of Children's Cases Regulations 2004 and IRO Handbook 2013. These include:

  • Chairing the review in a manner that both focuses on the needs of the child and which enables the child or young person to participate in the process to the fullest possible extent;
  • Visiting the child between their looked after reviews and overseeing the progress of the child’s care plan;
  • Monitoring the authority's performance of its functions with respect to the review; and in particular ensuring that problems are resolved within a reasonable timescale;
  • Referring the matter to court via CAFCASS if they consider there has been a breach of the child's human rights - this is as a last resort where it has not been possible to resolve an issue through line management.

The Fostering and Adoption Service is responsible for identifying foster carers and adopters (including the assessment of Connected Person) able to meet the needs of Looked After children; and for working co-operatively with children social care teams in order to contribute to the development and effective implementation of an appropriate Care Plan.

This involves permanency planning for specific children through Permanency Planning Meetings as well as attending Looked After Reviews. Carers may be identified through in-house or inter-agency resources. Where children are placed with independent agency carers the service is responsible for negotiating with providers regarding individual children's needs and plans as well as maintaining an overview of agencies' performance in meeting children's needs.

The Commissioning Service is responsible for developing a framework for providers, both Independent Fostering Agencies and residential units, that promotes and encourages the stability of placements. This may involve financial arrangements, preferred provider status, or the sharing of training or other resources.

Central Placements Team: is responsible for finding all foster and residential care placements, including those placed ‘in-house’ and those being placed with IFAs and in private residential homes. This extended remit has taken place so that cost-effective and appropriate placements will be made through:

  • The CPT having oversight and knowledge of all placement providers, and are able to advise on both fostering and residential placements within the local authority and externally. This should lead to the right commissioning decision being made regarding the child’s placement, following their needs assessment;
  • Building upon relationships with purchased providers to ensure that Cumbria commissions strategically in this area, using high quality and, where possible, local provision. Costs will be kept as low as possible through negotiating on-going placement costs;
  • An up-to-date picture of the provider market in the North of England, and particularly within Cumbria;
  • Using a list of preferred independent providers to make sure that quality placements and packages are used;
  • Only placing children in residential care who are the most challenging, damaged or have complex, specialist needs that cannot be met through foster care;
  • Implementing Cumbria versions of the National Fostering and Residential contracts. Contracts have now been signed up to by IFA Providers and include Individual Placement Agreements (IPAs).

End