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At a glance guide
Permanent placement describes a range of family living arrangements for children and young people in care.
- Permanence is intended to secure and promote the child's welfare within their extended family or within a new family for the duration of their childhood.
- Permanent placements are made when it is not in the child's best interests to live permanently with their birth family.
- Permanency is a general term which covers a wide range of arrangements, including adoption, long term fostering and Residence Orders as well as placement with person(s) known to the child.
Adoption and Residence Orders are not simply placement arrangements, but are also legal arrangements through which Parental Responsibility (PR) is transferred either to the new family or shared between the new family and the child's birth parent/s.
The department will always consider whether Adoption or a Residence Order is in the best interests of a child before supporting any such plan for permanence. It is a requirement of legislation and guidance that adoption is always considered as a permanent placement option for looked after children unless the plan is primarily and solely for restoration to the care of the birth parents or those with PR.
- Adoption transfers PR for the child from anyone who already holds PR, including the local authority, permanently and solely to the adopters.
- The child is deemed to be the child of the adopters as if he or she had been born to them.
- The child's birth certificate is changed to an adoption certificate showing the adopters to be the child's parents.
- 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.
- A child who is not already a citizen of Guernsey or Alderney, acquires Guernsey or Alderney citizenship if adopted by a citizen of Guernsey or Alderney.
Research strongly supports adoption as a primary consideration and as a main factor contributing to the stability of children, especially for those under four years of age who cannot be reunified with their birth or extended family.
There are broadly three routes into adoption for children and their birth families:
- Where a birth mother requests adoption before or after the birth of her child.
- Where a child is accommodated, the plan for the child becomes permanent placement and those persons holding PR agree adoption would be in the child's best interests, following counselling on all placement options and future implications.
- Where the child is subject to legal proceedings and the subject of an interim Community Parenting Order or full Community Parenting Order and the department considers that adoption is in the best interests of the child. This route will not always have the support of those persons holding PR.
The department can only consider placing a child for adoption against the wishes of those with PR where there are grounds for seeking a Placement Order. An application for a Placement Order can only be made where there is a Care Order in place or where the threshold criteria for a Care Order are met.
Special Guardianship Orders
Introduced in December 2005 as an amendment to the Children Act (1989).
A Residence Order confers PR, to be shared more equally with the parents which in some cases may be a more appropriate arrangement.
A Residence Order may be used to increase the degree of legal permanence in a placement with relatives or friends, or a long-term fostering placement, where this would be in the child's best interests.
The following people may apply for a Residence Order:
- A parent or guardian
- A party to a marriage (whether the marriage is subsisting or not) where the child was brought up as a child of the family
- A person with whom the child has lived for three years (this need not be continuous but must not have started more than five years before or ended more than three months before the making of the application)
- A department foster carer with whom the child has lived for one year
- Where a Residence Order is already in force, a person who has the consent of those in whose favour the Residence Order was made
- Where the child is in care, a person with the consent of the relevant local authority
- In any other case, a person who has the consent of those with PR
A person who applies for a Residence Order can also apply for financial support from the local authority, and a financial assessment will be completed before any commitment is given.
It is essential that any applicant has their own legal advice.
Placements with Connected Persons
Definition of a connected person is a relative, friend or other person connected with a child. The latter is someone who would not fit the term 'relative or friend', but who has a pre-existing relationship with the child. This could be someone who knows the child in a more professional capacity such as (for example) a child-minder, a teacher or a youth worker.
Where the department is satisfied that the most appropriate placement of a child is with a connected person (as long as the connected person is not approved as a department authority foster carer), but no assessment as to long term suitability has been completed, the child may be placed for a temporary period not exceeding 16 weeks.
If a child is placed for the 16 week period, the authority must first undertake an assessment (known as a Regulation 24(2) assessment) that looks at:
- suitability of accommodation
- suitability of any other members of the household aged 18 and over
Essentially the placing team need to be sure that the child's welfare will be safeguarded and promoted.
The placement must be agreed by the authority's nominated officer. This period can be extended for up to a further eight weeks if the nominated officer agrees.
In urgent circumstances, a child may be placed prior to the Regulation 24 assessment. Urgent checks must be completed and the placement agreed by the divisional director. The Regulation 24 assessment must then be completed within five working days of the child's placement commencing.
During the assessment period the connected person is entitled to receive fostering allowances at the base rate payable to any foster carer. This will then be reviewed once the plan for permanence is confirmed.
Permanent or long-term fostering
Permanency through long term fostering should only be considered when it is either not possible or in the child's interests to secure permanency through the making of an Adoption or Residence Order.
Long term fostering should not be considered for any child under five and only in exceptional circumstances for a child aged between five and 11 years of age. Where adoptive placements may be difficult to find, long term fostering should be the contingency plan to be pursued only after attempts to secure adoption within the agreed timescale have not been successful.
There are three routes into long term fostering:
- Where the child is subject to an interim or full Community Parenting Order and long term fostering is felt to be the most appropriate way of achieving permanence for the child. Ideally, those sharing PR should support and be in agreement with this plan.
- Where the agreed permanency plan of adoption has not been achieved.
- Where the child is accommodated and both the department and those persons with PR agree that a plan for long term fostering would be in the best interests of the child.
The option of considering a residence order for in favour of the child's long term foster carer should always be considered.
Initial discussions in relation to long term fostering being the preferred plan should take place at the child's CLA review.
- Child protection
- Youth Offending
- Children with Disabilities