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6.1 Family & Friends Care


  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose of the Policy
  3. Key Principles
  4. Legal Framework
  5. Private Family and Friends Care Arrangements (non 'looked after')
  6. Public Family and Friends Care Arrangements (looked after)

    Appendix 1: Caring for Someone Else's Child - Options

    Appendix 2: Guidance on when it is an Informal Family Arrangement or if a Child should become Looked After

    Appendix 3: Financial Assessment of Kinship and Adoption Allowances form and Guidance Notes

    Appendix 4: Initial Assessment and Placement Approval for Family & Friends Carers

    Appendix 5: Standard Letters to Family and Friends Foster Carers of Looked After Children

    Appendix 6: BACS Form

    Appendix 7: Flowchart for Informal Family Arrangements

    Appendix 8: Flowchart for Family and Friends Foster Care - Emergency Placement

    Appendix 9: Flowchart for Family and Friends Foster Care - Limited Planning Time (around 6 weeks)

    Appendix 10: Flowchart for Family and Friends Foster Care - Planned Placement

1. Introduction

Children may be brought up by members of their extended families, friends or other people who are connected with them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different arrangements, these are sometimes referred to generically as ‘kinship care’ or ‘family and friends care’. Broadly ‘family and friends care’ is defined as the full time care, nurturing and protection of children/young people by a person other than the birth parent. Such care can be provided by a close or a distant relative, a friend or any other person connected with the child. These children do not fall into a single legal category.

This policy sets out the approach of Children & Families Service towards promoting and supporting the needs of children living with family and friends carers and covers the assessments which will be carried out to determine the services required and how such services will be provided.

2. Purpose of the Policy

The purpose of this policy is:

  • To establish guidelines and procedures for all in the Department concerning the different scenarios where family and friends may be caring for someone else’s child;
  • To outline the nature of services and financial support available to family and friends caring for someone else’s child;
  • To ensure that adequate measures and actions are taken to promote the interests and wellbeing of children who are being cared for in these different scenarios.

3. Key Principles

  • Consideration of children's welfare and best interests will be at the centre of all the work we do in relation to family and friends care;
  • Children’s wishes and feelings will be taken into account in all decision making;
  • Where possible parents should be empowered in decision making about where their child lives. The Department will only seek to  intervene with a parent’s authority to make decisions about where their child lives when it is necessary to safeguard the welfare of the child;
  • When a child cannot remain with, or return to, their birth parents, the preferred option is for the child to live with a member of their family and friends network, unless this is not consistent with their welfare;
  • Under Children & Young Persons Act 2001 26 (2) the Department has a legal duty unless it would not be reasonably practicable or consistent with his welfare, to make arrangements for a child whom it is looking after to live with – (a) a parent of him, or (b) another individual who has parental responsibility for him, or (c) where he is in the care of the Department and a residence order was in force with respect to him immediately before the care order was made, a person with whom he was to live under the residence order, or (d) a relative, friend or other person connected with him. This being the case strenuous efforts will be made to identify potential carers from within the child’s family and friends network where assessment has indicated that they cannot remain living with their birth parents;
  • Achieving stability in placements for children will be a key consideration for the Department where it considers the relative merits of a ‘family and friends’ placement for a child. Every effort will be made to support family and friends carers to provide a stable and, where necessary, permanent home for a child through provision of support services which take into account the individual needs of the child and the adults in the family;
  • The Department does not need to be involved in all living arrangements where children are cared for within their family network - some are established independently between family members. The Department would not ordinarily become involved with these arrangements unless it is deemed necessary to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
  • Where children living with family and friends carers have to become looked after, this should be seen as a temporary measure until permanence can be achieved either by a return to the care of their parents where this is consistent with their welfare or through the use of Residence, Special Guardianship, or Adoption Orders as applicable.

4. Legal Framework

The different types of arrangements that arise can be usefully sub-divided into two categories: private and public care. The broad distinction between the two is as follows:

  • Private family and friends care arrangements are placements made by a parent with or without a level of Departmental support or assistance. Children under this category are not looked after children.
  • Public family and friends care arrangements are placements made with respects to children ‘looked after’ by the Department.

The following legislation and guidance will apply to the situations described in this procedure:

  • Children & Young Persons Act 2001 (as amended by the Children & Young Persons Amendment Act 2011);
  • Special Guardianship Regulations 2014;
  • Placement of Children in Care with Parents etc. Regulations 2002;
  • Adoption Act 1984;
  • Children & Young Persons Act 2001 Guidance Volume C Chapter 5;
  • Private Fostering (Notification) Regulations 2002.

The Department has a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of Children in Need and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families. The way in which we fulfil this duty is by providing a range of services appropriate to those children’s assessed needs (Section 23, Children & Young Persons Act 2001).

There is no general duty on the Department to assess all arrangements where children are living with a close relative rather than their parents. The Department does have a duty where it appears that services may be necessary to safeguard or promote the welfare of a child in need.

Children in need may live with members of their family or friends in a variety of different legal arrangements, some formal and some informal. Different court orders are available to formalise these arrangements. For a detailed summary of the meaning and implications of different legal situations, the rights of carers and parents, and the nature of decisions which family and friends carers will be able to make in relation to the child, please see Appendix 1: Caring for Someone Else's Child - Options, which sets out the circumstances and responsibilities in relation to the various options.

5. Private Family and Friends Care Arrangements (non 'looked after')

5.1 Private Fostering

A privately fostered child is a child under 16 (or 18 if disabled) who is cared for by an adult who is not a parent or close relative, where it is intended that the child is to be cared for in that home for 28 days or more. Close relative is defined as ‘a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full blood or half blood or by affinity) or a step-parent of his. Privately fostered children are not looked after by the Department.

In a private fostering arrangement, the parent still holds parental responsibility and agrees the arrangement with the private foster carer directly. Private foster care arrangements should be notified to the Department in line with the Private Fostering (Notification) Regulations 2002. The Department then has a duty under the Children & Young Persons Act Part 7 (62) to satisfy itself that the welfare of children who are privately fostered are being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted and provide advice to those caring for them as appears to be needed. Please see Private Fostering Procedure for more information.

5.2 Informal Family Care Arrangements

Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, the family may make their own arrangements to have the child cared for by a relative i.e. grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt. This is an informal family arrangement. If the person is not a close relative but in the wider network of more distant family and friends and the arrangement lasts longer than 28 days it becomes a private fostering arrangement (see above).

Informal arrangements are those made between family members where the relative has chosen to take on the care of the child but does not have parental responsibility and the arrangement was made by the parent(s), not by the Department. In these circumstances the child is not a looked after child.

Families may need support to make their own arrangements, for example, with a Family Group Conference or other family meetings. Receiving such support from Children & Families Social Care does not necessarily mean that the child needs to be ‘looked after’. See Appendix 2: Guidance on when it is an Informal Family Arrangement or if a Child should become Looked After for more guidance on the factors to weigh when making the decision as to whether the child should be looked after or whether it should be viewed as an informal family arrangement. NB: This decision is made by the Chief Social Worker or Head of Statutory Social Work Services based on information presented by the allocated Social Worker/Team Manager.

Assessment and Support

The Department does not have a duty to assess informal family arrangements unless it appears that the child may be a child in need and services may be required to safeguard and promote his/her welfare. If this is the case a NARRATES should be undertaken to ascertain whether the informal family arrangement is appropriate to meet the needs of the child and whether support by the Department under Section 23 of the Children & Young Persons Act 2001 is required. If necessary a Complex Needs Plan will agree the practical support to be provided to the child and carer. In such plans the role and responsibility of the child’s parents should be clear. This is particularly important as neither the carer nor the Department has parental responsibility for the child in these circumstances. The carer may do what is reasonable to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare (Children & Young Persons Act 2(6)) but should refer back to the parent for significant decisions.

Many of these arrangements will be short term but if the arrangement continues and the Department remains involved via the provision of services under Section 23, the Complex Needs Reviewing process must ensure that the question of the suitability of the arrangement and length of time it has existed is addressed to secure permanence for the child and prevent drift. Carers may be given advice, guidance and support with regards to applying for Residence or Special Guardianship Orders under Private Law.

Financial Support

In such cases of informal family arrangements of non-looked after children, the Department does not have a duty to provide financial support. Any Financial Support to those in informal arrangements without an Order will be determined by a NARRATES under Section 23 of the Children & Young Persons Act 2001 and would be in the form of a ‘one off’ payment for specific costs or the purchase of specific items rather than regular ongoing payments.

Legal Status

Informal family and friends care arrangements have a different legal basis to family and friends foster carers where the child is looked after. The nature of the arrangement (i.e. whether it is an informal arrangement or whether the child is looked after and ‘placed’ by the Department with family/friends) must be explicitly addressed with the carers, parents and child (where appropriate) at the start of the arrangement.

Before, or when, they make a commitment to a child, carers should be provided with clear information about the level and type of support they will receive and for how long it will continue. It is acknowledged that private arrangements may be made in an emergency, with little or no planning, so it is vital that appropriate/timely assessments and plans are made so all parties are clear about the status of the arrangement.

6. Public Family and Friends Care Arrangements (looked after)

6.1 Children in Family and Friends Care who are looked after

Whether or not a child who is or will be cared for by a member of their family and friends network should be deemed to be ‘looked after’ by the Department will be a matter to be decided on a case by case basis. Professional judgement will be required. A key question will be whether the child appears to require accommodation for one of the reasons in section 25(1) (b): (i) there being no person with parental responsibility for the child; (ii) their being lost or having been abandoned; or (iii) the person who has been caring for him being prevented from providing him with suitable accommodation or care. It may not always be easy to determine whether a child who is cared for by family or friends requires accommodation for the purposes of section 25 or whether the child’s needs should be met by providing support under section 23 of the Children & Young Persons Act 2001.

Case law from England (R (SA) v Kent County Council) 2011 the Court of Appeal) found that a key issue was whether the arrangement was initiated and made by the local authority or whether it was initiated and made by family members with the parent(s). (See Appendix 2: Guidance on when it is an Informal Family Arrangement or if a Child should become Looked After for further Guidance).

Section 24 (3) places a duty on the Department ‘so far as reasonably practicable’ to ascertain and give due consideration to the wishes and feelings regarding a proposal to look after a child of: (i) the child; (ii) his parents; (iii) any other person who has parental responsibility for him and (IV) any other person whose wishes and feelings the Department considers to be relevant (which would include the prospective carers).

The analysis of the factors involved to determine whether the child should be ‘looked after’ or not will be presented with a recommendation to the Head of Statutory Social Work Services or Chief Social Worker by the Social Worker and Team Manager for decision. (This process would cover the agreement by a Senior Manager to a child becoming looked after see Decision to Look After and Care Planning).

Whenever a child has to become looked after, the Department has a duty (S.26 (2) CYPA) to identify carers from within the child’s family or friendship network or other connected person and will aim to empower the family to identify carers themselves. Family Group Conferences should always be considered as part of this process (a Referral for FGC to be facilitated can be made to the Community Intervention Service if required).

Where the Department has obtained an Order under Section 31, Children & Young Persons Act 2001 the child is ‘looked after’ and any placement with family or other connected person would therefore need to be regulated via the Family and Friends Foster Care arrangements.

When a looked after child i.e. those accommodated under Section 25 or those subject to a Care Order (Interim or Emergency Protection Order) is to be placed by the Department with family and friends the procedures below must be followed as the placement needs to become a regulated Family and Friends Foster Care Placement. This necessitates the carer becoming an approved a foster carer. If the child is becoming looked after under Section 25 the appropriate signed permission from the parent/s will be required. As a looked after child all the usual statutory processes around Care Plans, Reviewing via the Independent Reviewing Officers; Statutory Visiting; Personal Education Plans, Permanence and Legal Panel etc. will apply (see Sections 5-10 of Children’s Services Procedures Manual).

Family and Friends Foster Carers

Best practice dictates that where a child living with family and friends carers is ‘looked after’ by the Department arrangements should be made for the carer to become approved as a Family and Friends Foster Carer so that the placement is properly regulated.

The Placement of Children with Parents etc. Regulations 2002 deals with placements that are made of children ‘in care’ (i.e. those subject to a ICO, CO or EPO) who are placed with 2(1)(d) a relative of his (other categories are also covered e.g. parents). The principles regarding the information and assessment requirements will be extended to those who are ‘accommodated’ (under Section 25) and to carers from the friendship network as well as relatives. The Regulations allow for ‘cases of urgency’ to be dealt with differently so this procedure will deal with emergency placements and those where there is time to plan in advance.

NB: If the child is not already looked after, prior to proceeding to the following steps the Social Worker must follow the usual process for obtaining permission for making a child looked after and if a legal order is required (where you do not have agreement to provide accommodation under Section 25) the relevant procedures and permissions for instituting legal procedures must also be followed. If the placing Social Worker/Team Manager perceives the need for an emergency placement a discussion regarding the need for this or whether it is safe to wait for a short period of planning to be undertaken must take place with the Head of Statutory Social Work Services or Chief Social Worker when permission to make the child looked after is sought. The timing of the placement will be agreed in that forum.

Emergency Placements

The Department has a general duty to children it looks after to safeguard and promote their welfare under Section 24 (2) therefore the placement should be the most suitable of discharging that duty given the circumstances.

The placing Social Worker must ascertain as much information as is possible in the circumstances of the case. To safeguard looked after children who are being placed in an emergency situation with family and friends the placing Social Worker must carry out some basic checks and gather or provide basic information as follows prior to the placement commencing:

  • Ask the prospective carers about any criminal conviction and (with written permission) make a check with the local Police on all members of the household aged 16 and over;
  • Views of the child of the arrangements being made;
  • Views of the parent of the arrangements being made;
  • A brief assessment of the quality of the existing relationship between the child and all members of the prospective household (from both the child’s and carers perspective);
  • Check on Children & Families records (Protocol) to identify whether the prospective carers or their children are known to the Department;
  • Specific health and lifestyle issues (see pro forma);
  • Practicalities surrounding care of the child, including any specific needs they have;
  • Physical check of the accommodation and in particular the proposed sleeping arrangements;
  • Contact arrangements (if any) and how these will be managed.

These checks will be recorded on the pro forma at Appendix 4: Initial Assessment and Placement Approval for Family & Friends Carers. Once complete this pro forma will be signed off by the appropriate Senior Manager and uploaded to the child’s electronic case record. The child’s Social Worker will then send, suitably amended, the appropriate standard letter from Appendix 5: Standard Letters to Family and Friends Foster Carers of Looked After Children to the carers confirming the arrangements, a copy of which will also be uploaded to the child’s case record.

Once Senior Management approval for a child to become looked after and the legal basis to achieve that is in place, (i.e. there is a legal order or the parent/s has signed consent for a period of accommodation under Section 25), the placing Social Worker will:

  • Have the carer set up on Protocol via the Protocol Support Team;
  • Complete the Placement Plan;
  • Make the child looked after on Protocol;
  • Start to develop the Care Plan;
  • Make and record Statutory Visits made to the placement;
  • Refer to Fostering First (as soon as it is known that the placement is likely to be required longer than 6 weeks).

For details on recording this information see Case Recording Procedure and for the relevant timeframes see Appendix 1: Responsibilities to Complete Templates in Protocol.

Out of Hours - If the emergency situation occurs out of hours the Duty Social Worker must cover as a minimum the information required by Section One of the Initial Assessment and Placement Approval for Family & Friends Carers (Appendix 4: Initial Assessment and Placement Approval for Family & Friends Carers).

Arrangements must be made to follow up on the first working day to cover the remainder of the necessary checks. The Out of Hours Social Worker will seek permission from the Out of Hours Manager and Senior Manager On Call to:- a) making the child looked after; b) pursuit of an EPO if applicable; and c) the initial immediate placement with a family member on the basis of the information available and checks made at that point.

Financial Support - The carers will complete a BACS pro forma (see Appendix 6: BACS Form) to enable the Department to arrange the payment of the standard Isle of Man Fostering Allowance at the appropriate age related rate. Once complete the pro forma should be given to the Senior Management Support Secretary who will initiate the payment. If the placement ends (or when the carer receives temporary approval from Fostering First) the placing Social Worker will inform the Senior Management Support Secretary so that payments from the Department can be stopped (Fostering First take over making the payments when temporary approval is granted).

N.B. on Financial Support: at this early stage a conversation needs to take place with the Family & Friends Carers explaining that, whilst we have a responsibility to make the Fostering Allowance payment during this period of determining whether the child will be returning to its parents care, children should not be ‘looked after’ for longer than is necessary. Therefore, at around the 4 month point a plan will start to be made to secure permanence for the child. This may mean, depending on the circumstances, age of the child etc, that if they wish to offer the child a permanent home we would be supporting them to apply for a Residence Order or become Special Guardians thus obtaining parental responsibility. They need to be made aware that financial support under those arrangements is means tested via a Financial Assessment which is annually approved following an initial 2 year period. This advance information is important so when permanence decisions are being made it doesn’t come as new information that the current financial support they receive is not automatically going to continue if they wish to offer the child a permanent home. However, it also means positively that the child is no longer ‘looked after’ and they will have more freedom (particularly if they are Special Guardians) to make decisions for the child as they see fit without the involvement of the Department.

Note: There are specific provisions in the Special Guardianship Regulations 2014 giving the Department powers to provide financial support (see Special Guardianship Procedures). Any such support would be subject to Financial Assessment and review by the Department (see Appendix 3 Application and Guidance on Financial Assessment for Kinship and Adoption Allowances). The Department will extend the provision of financial support to those who obtain a Residence Order to prevent or remove a child from becoming or being looked after (on the basis of a Financial Assessment).

The initial assessment and approval process allows the placement to take place for a period of 6 weeks. If the placement is likely to exceed this timeframe the placing Social Worker must as soon as is practicable:

  • Forward the completed, signed Initial Assessment and Placement Approval for Family & Friends Carer to the Family Placement Service (Fostering First) with a Referral for them to undertake an assessment for Temporary Approval;
  • Hold a brief planning meeting with the Fostering Social Worker to plan the assessment and share information appropriate to the situation;
  • Arrange for a joint visit with the allocated Fostering Social Worker to the child and carer;
  • Ensure that the Fostering Social Worker is added to the list of those to be invited to the LAC Review.

The placing Social Worker will visit the placement weekly for the initial 6 week period to ensure the child’s welfare is being safeguarded. The child will be seen alone during part of these visits to enable them to speak freely regarding their wishes and feelings.

It is important that there is no delay in involving Fostering First where the placement is likely to exceed a period of 6 weeks. If it is not clear initially whether this will be the case, this will be discussed and a determination made at the first LAC Review (i.e. within 4 weeks of placement). In those circumstances the Departmental temporary approval will last for a maximum of 10 weeks to allow the 6 weeks Fostering First require to assess whether they will grant temporary approval. The placing Social Worker will visit weekly for that 10 week period.

From referral Fostering First will complete the necessary processes within 6 weeks so that the carer is given temporary approval as a Family and Friends Foster Carer. The child’s Social Worker will assist with the provision of any additional information required regarding the child and their family. Once this temporary approval is in place Fostering First will inform the child’s Social Worker and will advise the Department’s Senior Management Support Secretary of their first payment date so that payments from the Department can be stopped.

Fostering First will then undertake their full Family & Friends Foster Care assessment and approval process to be completed within 16 weeks from the date of the referral from the Department.

The standard processes for looked after children regarding care planning and review and planning for permanence will then apply.

When there is Disagreement over Approval

Statutory Guidance and research evidence exists in the UK regarding the differences that exist when assessing Family and Friends Carers and stranger carers. At any time during their assessment (either for Temporary or Full approval) Fostering First may receive information that is of concern when determining the appropriateness of approval as Family & Friends Foster Carers. These will be discussed initially with the child’s Social Worker and put into the context of the relationships and dynamics that exist within the family and the Guidance available from the UK. If no agreement can be reached at Team Manager level and Fostering First believe that the information materially affects their ability to give temporary approval or recommend full approval to the Fostering Panel the matter should be referred to the Head of Statutory Social Work Services who will convene a Panel consisting of the Chief Social Worker, Head of Statutory Social Work Services, Manager, Family Placement Service and Agency Decision Maker, Fostering First to which the child’s Social Worker and Fostering Social Worker will be invited to discuss the issues and come to a resolution.

Planned Placements

If either of the following situations is applicable the approval of potential family and friends carers as foster carers can be undertaken in advance of the placement:

  • The child is already looked after and is in a regulated placement and someone from their family or friends network comes forward to be considered to care for the child either on a short term basis whilst assessments and plans are being determined or to achieve permanence; or
  • The current living arrangements of the child with the parent are safe to continue to allow for assessment and planning of a placement with a family and friends carer (NB: permission to the child becoming looked after and pursuing a family and friends placement will be required).

If the child is already looked after the decision to pursue a placement with family or friends may come from Permanence & Legal Panel which would direct how that placement would achieve permanence for the child and whether a period of family and friends foster care will be necessary before the carers are supported to pursue a Private Law application for a Residence or Special Guardianship Order or whether one of these disposals would be recommended as the outcome of Care Proceedings. LAC Reviews would ensure that such decisions are actively pursued to prevent drift.

If a planned move to a Family & Friends Foster Carer is to be pursued the child’s Social Worker will make a referral to Fostering First for an assessment of the potential carers - this could either be for temporary approval if the placement is to begin within 6 weeks or for full approval which would take up to 16 weeks. As with emergency placements, a planning meeting would be held to plan the assessment and agree the information requirements and a joint visit with child’s Social Worker and Fostering Officer should take place to both the prospective carers and the child.

When the planned move to the Family & Friends Foster Carer occurs, ensure that the carer is set up on Protocol (via the Protocol Support Team) and the Placement Plan is updated to identify that a change of placement has occurred.

Long term Family & Friends Foster Care

Where the Permanence & Legal Panel decision is that long term Family & Friends Foster Care is appropriate, the reasons for maintaining the child as ‘looked after’ and not achieving permanence through a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order will be explicitly documented. Confirmation of the plan at the next LAC review will be made. Fostering First will then confirm these arrangements with the Fostering Panel via a short matching report using the reasons the Department has identified for the plan and the original Family & Friends Foster Care Assessment that they have already prepared.

For more information on Residence Orders please see Permanence Planning Guidance, Residence Orders.

For more information on Special Guardianship Orders see Permanence Planning Guidance and Special Guardianship Policy and Procedures.