- / Procedures
- / Children living away from home
- / Looked After Children and Leaving Care
- / Supporting children
- / Leisure and holidays
- / Overnight stays
When children are living at home, their parents are the ones who will decide whether they can sleep over at friends houses. The basis of this decision is not formal and does not need detailed assessments of the child and their family, nor looking at what information agencies hold about the family, but based in knowing the other child and their family and common sense.
Responsibility for agreeing ad hoc sleepovers will usually be delegated to the carers. The proviso to this is where the young person in care is known to present a risk to others (e.g. a sexual risk), where a higher level of planning will be required to ensure all children are safe.
Information required on placement Information on significant relationships (e.g. friendships) should be gathered when the child is initially placed in care.
The social worker should look to reach an agreement with the parents (in all cases where the child is accommodated and as a point of good practice in all other cases) about when the carer can agree to short stays without consultation. Parental permission does not, however, absolve the department from their duty to ensure that the overnight stay does not place the child at any risk. If agreement cannot be reached then this should be noted on the Placement Plan and each occasion will require agreement from the parents.
Ad hoc sleepovers ...
Ad hoc arrangements include stays away from home of up to 3 days.
- Sleepovers with friends
- Invitations to go out for the day with a friend's family where the family are unlikely to be back until late
- Invitations to join a friend's family who are going away for a weekend
- The foster carer's own children going to a relative or friend for up to 4 days and the child wishing to go as well
- A relative or friend of the foster family occasionally acting as babysitter where the usual arrangements have broken down or are not available
- School or other trips of up to 4 days away
- A child's authorised day visit with a friend or family being extended if the child cannot return due to bad weather or a car breaking down where there are no known restrictions to an overnight stay taking place
- In essence the question must always be, "what would I want for my own child?" The same level of decision making that would take place for a carers own children must be in place for the looked after child.The decision about whether to allow overnight stays needs to involve a process of assessment which should be similar to that which any good parent would make before allowing a child to stay overnight with other people.The assessment would include:
- talking to the child about the friend and relative with whom it is proposed they stay.
- speaking to the adults involved to check arrangements and be satisfied that the child will be safe and, with younger or less able children taking them to the house and collecting them.
- obtaining information about the parents and family.
- Finding out about the sleeping arrangements
- ensuring someone talks to the child when they return to check that they have not felt uncomfortable.
- taking into account the likely behaviour of the child.
- the influence the friend, their friends and their family may have.
- the risk the child may pose to others.
- the risks the child may face.
- the child's vulnerability.
- the child's own wishes and feelings.
- the views of the child's parents.
- The department should make a check on its own records where the young person is planning to stay if they believe that the visits may become frequent and they are not assured that the visit is safe.If a parent cannot be contacted the department may give permission for the overnight stay if it is consistent with the child's well being and reasonable informal enquiries have been carried out.
If regular sleepovers are planned then these should be considered at the placement planning meeting or next LAC review. This allows for the views of all involved (including the parents) to be sought, as well as allowing the recording of consent (or otherwise).
Regular sleepovers do require checks to be undertaken by the social worker (including a Criminal Records check).
16 / 17 year olds
Young people aged 16 & 17 will occasionally request sleepovers with friends where there will be no adult supervision.
The arrangements must be checked and confirmed, but in such circumstances only the social worker's manager can agree to such sleepovers and only in exceptional circumstances.
If the young person has a history of risk taking behaviour (e.g. alcohol or substance misuse / offending behaviour) then consent is unlikely to be given.
Overnight stays with boyfriends or girlfriends
Young People will often seek increased responsibility in decision making about their lives. Those adults caring for them will want to help young people develop appropriate increased independence and it can become more challenging for adults to set boundaries. It is important for young people to be clear about the reasons for agreements, including those about overnight stays, and to be aware of the implications of their actions, including potential risks, and risk management/protection.
Underage relationships (under 16) are unlawful and require careful consideration and management by the child's social worker, their line manager and carers. Decisions about overnight stays at the home of a boyfriend or girlfriend must be made by the social worker for a child under 16 years old.
Where permission for an overnight stay is refused , the social worker or carer will explain the reasons for this to the child.
Looked after children will be made aware, and given information about, the department's complaints procedure.
- Child protection
- Youth Offending
- Children with Disabilities