Early Permanence: Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters
National Early Permanence Practice Standards (Coram Centre for Early Permanence) - the key aim is for 'the standards to be used as a tool to enable local authorities, regional adoption agencies and voluntary adoption agencies to progress and secure consistency and coherence in the early permanence offer to children within their governance and partnership arrangements'.
AMENDMENTIn November 2023, this chapter was revised and a link added (above) to National Early Permanence Practice Standards (Coram Centre for Early Permanence).
This procedure deals with placement of a child with carers who are dually approved, i.e. approved both as prospective adopters and as local authority foster carers.
The advantage of this type of placement is that the child can be placed with foster carer(s) who, subject to a Placement Order being made, or parental consent being given, are able to go on to then become the child's adoptive family. The child therefore benefits from an early placement with their eventual permanent carers and therefore having the opportunity to develop a secure attachment from the earliest possible age. Any Delay in finding a permanent family for a young child who has already experienced neglect early on in their life may have a profoundly damaging effect on the child's later development. This type of placement has the potential to significantly reduce this delay and any resulting damage caused.
These placements are foster placements. The placement will only become an adoptive placement where the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) has decided that the child should be placed for adoption and either a Placement Order has been made, or parental consent to the child being placed for adoption has been given.
It is possible that such a placement may not lead to adoption, for example because the child's plan changes where rehabilitation with the birth family is successful, because suitable relative or friends carers come forward, or because the court does not agree to make a Placement Order. This may mean that the child returns home or is moved to another permanence arrangement. However, for the vast majority of children in such placements, progression towards adoption will be the ultimate outcome.
Local authorities need to ensure that applicants who are willing to care for a child in this way are fully aware that the placement may not lead to adoption, and that they are given appropriate information and training so that they understand their role and legal responsibilities as foster carers and receive ongoing support once the placement has been made.
Concurrent planning is an established practice for placing children with dually approved carers.
In 2013, the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 were amended to also enable approved prospective adopters to be given temporary approval as foster carers for a named child.In July 2014, the Children and Families Act 2014 imposed a duty upon local authorities to consider placement with dually approved carers whenever adoption is being considered and in particular where the decision has been made that the child ought to be placed for adoption, but where the agency does not yet have authority to place the child for adoption through either a placement order or parental consent.
2. Examples of Situations Where Placements with Dually-Approved Carers may be Appropriate
- Where parents have had one or more child(ren) previously placed for adoption or via other forms of permanent placement and the evidence strongly suggests that their circumstances have not changed and that they therefore pose the same risks as they did to the previous child(ren);
- The local authority does not have a proactive plan to rehabilitate the child as the circumstances of the parents are such to pose a serious on-going risk;
- Where this is the first child, the circumstances of the parents and the risks to the child are such that there is no proactive plan to return the child to the birth parents or to other family members;
- Where parents have indicated that they may want their child adopted, but have not formally consented.
The local authority should not consider such a placement where the child is Accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and there is a reasonable likelihood that the child will be able to return to their birth parents or to be placed with relative or friends carers.
3. Concurrent Planning
Concurrent planning is usually used in cases where rehabilitation with the birth family is still being attempted, but it is expected that adoption will become the plan for the child should the rehabilitation not be successful.
Concurrent planning requires the identification and delivery of a detailed rehabilitation plan while the child is placed with carers who are approved for both fostering and adoption but who are able to support that plan. If the rehabilitation plan proves to be unsuccessful, the carers can then go on to adopt the child once Care Proceedings, the Placement Order application and the necessary matching process are completed.
It involves placing a Looked After child with approved foster carers who, as well as providing temporary care for the child, support the child to have regular supervised contact sessions with their parents and other relatives. In addition, the carer may spend time with the child's parents during contact sessions, to update them on their child's progress. This enables a relationship to develop which is supportive to the child's parents. The agency provides focussed support via a contact supervisor whose role is to advise the parents and to help them to change their lifestyle and improve their parenting skills with the aim of enabling their child to return home to them. If this is the outcome, the child will have maintained contact with their parents and have sustained their attachments through this contact. However the carer(s) are also approved as prospective adopter(s) so if the rehabilitation plan is not successful, the child's placement with the carer(s) can convert to a placement for adoption, thus supporting a continuity of attachment.
4. Fostering for Adoption
4.1 Duty to Consider Fostering for Adoption Placement
Under the Children and Families Act 2014, where the local authority are considering adoption for a child (see Section 4.2 Considering Adoption for a Child) or is satisfied that the child ought to be placed for adoption but is not yet authorised (either by consent or by Placement Order) to place the child for adoption, the authority must consider placing the child with a relative, friend or other Connected Person who is also a local authority foster carer or, where the authority decides that such a placement is not the most appropriate placement, consider placing the child with a local authority foster carer who has been approved as a prospective adopter.
In such a situation, the requirements under the Section 22 of the Children Act 1989 to ensure that placements allow the child to live near the child's parent(s)' home, be placed within the local authority area, remain at the same school and to be placed together with sibling(s), do not apply.(The carers may be dually approved by being fully approved adopters and foster carers for any child, or they might be approved prospective adopters who have been temporarily approved as foster carers for a named child under regulation 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 - see Section 5, Temporary Approval of Approved Prospective Adopters as Foster Carers).
Such a placement must be approved by the Service Manager Children Looked After & Permanency upon application from Adopt Thames Valley who must:
- Be satisfied that:
- The placement is the most appropriate placement available for the child and will safeguard and promote their welfare; and
- The child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration (having regard to the child's age and level of understanding), and the IRO has been informed; and
- If their whereabouts are known, notify the child's parent(s) and/or guardian(s) of the proposed placement.
Should the proposed placement be agreed the Service Manager Children Looked After & Permanency (or in their absence the ADM for Adoption) will confirm the arrangements and return the signed forms to Adopt Thames Valley for processing. It is the responsibility of Adopt Thames Valley to support the carers and they will inform the Service Manager Children Looked After & Permanency when the arrangement converts to an adoptive placement.
Swindon Borough Council will be responsible for payment of any fostering allowances due (see Monitoring and Supervision of Adoptive Placements Procedure).
Examples of when a local authority may be considering adoption include:
- Where the local authority is trying to rehabilitate the child with the birth parent(s), there are no suitable relative or friends carers and adoption is the best option for the child if rehabilitation does not succeed;
- Where the local authority has decided at the permanence planning stage that adoption should be the plan for the child. The local authority must be able to demonstrate to the ADM and the court why the child should not return home, why the child has not been placed with a relative(s) or friend(s), why no other permanence plan is appropriate for the child and why adoption is the right plan for the child;
- In cases where the birth parents have indicated that they are likely to consent to the child being placed for adoption, but have not yet consented;
- A Fostering for Adoption placement can also be made after the ADM has made the decision that the child should be placed for adoption, but the local authority does not yet have authority to place the child for adoption.
Examples of where a local authority will not be considering adoption include where:
- The child is likely to return home;
- The local authority is aware that there are relatives or friends who can provide appropriate care for the child;
- A permanence placement other than adoption is more appropriate for the child.
If, at any point during the planning of a Fostering for Adoption placement, or, when the child is already in such a placement, there is any change to the circumstances of the prospective carer(s) or significant new information comes to light regarding the child or their birth family background, a planning meeting should be convened at the earliest opportunity. This should include the participation of the Fostering for Adoption carer(s) and all the involved professionals so that the new information can be given due consideration an, both the local authority and the carer(s) can make an informed decision about their position in light of the change in circumstances.
Where a decision is made to place a child in a Fostering for Adoption placement Adopt Thames Valley will take responsibility for the placement, working in partnership with the child's social worker and must:
- Notify the prospective adopter in writing;
- Explain the decision to the child in an appropriate manner, having regard to the child's age and level of understanding;
- Explain the legal implications to the birth parents (which includes fathers without Parental Responsibility) and to any legal guardian(s) for the child.
On those occasions where the child is voluntarily Accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act, the notification should remind the birth parent(s) of their right to remove the child from the local authority's care and should provide advice on access to legal advice and appropriate advisory bodies.
The parents should be informed that the local authority cannot pre-judge the outcome of Care Proceedings and only the court can authorise placement for adoption if the parents do not consent to their child being placed for adoption.
5. Temporary Approval of Approved Prospective Adopters as Foster Carers
Approved prospective adopters can be given temporary approval as foster carers under Section 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. This temporary foster carer approval process can be carried out at the same time as the adopter approval process.
This temporary approval can be given for a named Looked After child, where the local authority consider that this is in the child's best interests.
Before giving such approval, the responsible authority must:
- Assess the suitability of that person to care for the child as a foster carer; and
- Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the responsible authority, the proposed arrangements will safeguard and promote the child's welfare and meet the child's needs as set out in the Care Plan.
The temporary approval period expires when:
- The placement is terminated by the local authority due to a change in the child's care plan;
- The applicant's approval as a prospective adopter is terminated;
- The prospective adopter is approved as a foster carer;
- The prospective adopter(s) give 28 days' written notice that they no longer wish to be temporarily approved as foster carer(s) in respect of the child; or
- The child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopter(s).