Disruption Meetings (Permanent Placements: Fostering and Residential)

In February 2017, this chapter replaced one previously entitled Placement Agreement and Disruption Meetings. It applies to permanent placements, both fostering and residential.

1. Disruption Meetings

The term 'disruption' is used to describe an event otherwise referred to as a 'placement breakdown' or a 'placement ending' that was not part of the child's Care Plan, either in the ending itself or in the timing of the ending. Placements rarely disrupt as a result of the action of one individual but usually through a combination of several factors [1]:

  • Unidentified circumstances;
  • Misinterpreted circumstances;
  • Unpredictable circumstances.

Therefore, the objective of a Disruption Meeting is to look at the sequence of events and to learn from the experiences in order that:

  • The child's future needs, including for a permanent placement, can be met;
  • The carers can be appropriately supported to reflect and learn from the experience;
  • Through the identification of key learning points, practice can be consolidated or improved across all social work teams.

[1] Further Observations on Disruption: Donley 1981

2. Purpose of the Disruption Meeting

A Disruption Meeting will be held in the following circumstances:

  • Where a child was placed as part of a Permanence Plan in a foster (including Connected Persons) or residential placement, and the placement breaks down;
  • Where a child has had a number of short term or interim placements which have broken down, especially where three or more placements have disrupted in one year.

The purpose is [2]:

  • To enable participants to share information and feelings about the placement and the disruption without attributing blame;
  • To identify factors that have led to disruption;
  • To interpret the current needs of the child, the carers, the birth family and the agency or agencies;
  • To formulate future plans for the child based on what  has been learned from the disruption;
  • To highlight areas for development in policy and practice.

The Disruption Meeting should take place within 5-10 weeks of the disruption.

It is important to strike a balance between a meeting taking place too soon, when there may be a lack of clarity about key issues and too late, when issues may have become cloudy or distorted and momentum for learning is lost.

A Disruption Meeting would usually be agreed and convened by the child's Team Manager to be held between five to ten weeks (recommended by BAAF) following the disruption. Where this is not possible due to the availability of key attendees or other exceptional circumstances, this must be agreed by the Service Manager. 

If a disruption occurs because of a specific event, for example the illness of the foster carer, and it is considered that there would be limited value in holding a Disruption Meeting, the child's social worker and residential key worker/supervising social worker should prepare a report on the reasons for the placement ending and submit this to the child's Service Manager for a decision as to whether a Disruption Meeting should be held or not.

Disruption Meetings are not used as a substitute for other decision making forums (i.e. child's Looked After Review, Foster Carer's Reviews) though the contents of a Disruption Meeting may be used to inform these meetings.

[2] Dealing with Disruption Hedi Argent and Jeffrey Coleman BAFF 2006

3. Chairing and Convening the Meeting

Disruption Meetings are likely to be complex, detailed and time consuming if they are to be thorough and meet the objective.

The Team Manager for the child is responsible for convening the Disruption Meeting having established the availability of the chair. They are also responsible for the administration of the meeting including ensuring that a minute taker is available, a venue is booked, invitations are sent out and minutes are distributed after the meeting.

The Chair of the meeting will be an off-line Team Manager which will bring independence and rigour to the meeting.

In all cases, the child's social worker and supervising social worker or residential key worker/unit manager should be alert to any evidence or suggestion that a placement is becoming unstable. In these circumstances, it may be necessary to convene an early review in order to resolve the difficulties or to convene a Placement Planning Meeting. Where disruption occurs:

  • The child's Social Worker will inform the Child Care Team Manager;
  • The child's Social Worker will inform the Independent Reviewing Officer as this constitutes a "significant event";
  • The Supervising Social Worker will inform the Fostering Team Manager of any disruption within fostering.

The meeting will be attended by the foster carers' and their supervising social workers, the child's social worker or key residential staff, Social Care TM / ATM and Fostering ATM/TM and a minute taker. The child's IRO should be invited. The attendance of the child will be considered, if it is in their interest; the child's social worker will always ensure that the child's views and feelings are given to the meeting in the most appropriate way. The child should be asked whether they wish to have an advocate attend with them or on their behalf.

It is good practice to invite anyone who has been relevant to the placement so could/should include teachers, therapists, medical advisors, possible police officers, health visitors, GPs etc.

The Chair of the meeting will be expected to have accessed and reviewed all relevant material relating to the foster carer(s) or residential placement including a review of both the Form F or PAR and Child Permanence Report used for matching purposes, if appropriate. The Chair will also request specific brief reports and a chronology from the Social Worker or Team Manager is required. The reports should include:

  • A brief history of the child's care history;
  • The child's assessed needs at the time of placement;
  • The placement arrangements and support in order to meet the needs;
  • The history of the placement;
  • The circumstances of the disruption;
  • Current situation;
  • The views of the child and, where appropriate, family members.

The Supervising Social Worker or Residential Placement should have completed a report into the circumstances surrounding the disruption. Reports should be factual and evidenced (i.e. not relying upon individual's accounts or versions of events). They should also contain a professional analysis of what has occurred, which is again based on fact and evidence.

4. Agenda of Disruption Meetings

Core matters to be covered in the agenda of a Disruption Meeting are as follows:

In discussing each area; equality and diversity issues should be given consideration i.e. age, gender, disability, identity, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy / maternity. This will include whether diversity issues were identified or not, and how this may have influenced or destabilised the placement.


  • The child's progress in the birth family;
  • The child's care history;
  • The child's identified needs (evidence; Child Permanence Report / CLA Care Plan / Pathway Plan);
  • Review of the form F/PAR (if appropriate);
  • The permanent family's progress from application to matching;
  • Agency practice
  • Birth family involvement;
  • Introduction and transition process to the carers;
  • The placement including Placement procedures (including Risk Assessment, Placement Planning Meetings and matching assessments, LAC Review recommendations and chronology including placement history;
  • Disruption and subsequent events;
  • The present;
  • Key learning and decisions / recommendations;
  • Future plans.

Consideration should be given to the number of active participants and whether they need to attend the whole of the Disruption Meeting. The circumstances surrounding the child will also influence the number of people invited, i.e. age, health of child, parent(s) circumstances and other significant people.

Disruption meetings should be minuted and include any decision about further actions, key learning and recommendations for the child and / or carer concerned and wider practice improvement. The minutes will be saved within the child's ICS record and, relevant section on the carer's record.

The Team Manager for the child is responsible for convening the Disruption Meeting having established the availability of the chair. They are also responsible for the administration of the meeting including ensuring that a minute taker is available, a venue is booked, invitations are sent out and minutes are distributed after the meeting.

Minutes and Report of the Disruption Meeting

The minutes of the meeting will be prepared within 10 working days of the meetings and copies will be sent to all participants and invitees.

The minutes will be written using the same headings as the agenda and should include key information to inform future planning for the child.

The minutes should also be sent to the relevant Service Managers including the Service Manager for Children Looked After & Care Leavers.

5. After the Meeting: Learning and Improvement

Consideration should be given to whether an annual foster home review is required when a disruption has happened. Where it is required, the review will be presented to the Fostering Panel.

The IRO will ensure that the CLA review following a Disruption Meeting addresses any issues that are relevant with regards to changes in the Care Plan / Pathway Plan.

Where a disruption has occurred and the resource / placement is an external one to the local authority, consideration will be given about whether the provider should continue to be used.

Where complaints against carers have been made or emerged as part of the disruption process, reference should be made to the procedure for managing allegations, and where necessary, a separate investigation will be carried out.

Any complaint against a carer must be noted on their file.

In order to disseminate what has been learn from disruption, joint training might be offered for practitioners, managers and panel members to consider measures for preventing and dealing with disruption in the future.

'However painful the process of disruption inevitable is, it can be viewed as a stage on the path to stability for the child and no one need lose everything" [3]

[3] Models of Adoption support: What works and what doesn't – Hedi Argent London: BAAF 2003.

Flowchart: Disruption Meetings: Summary Process

Click here to view Flowchart: Disruption Meetings: Summary Process.