A foster carers guide to the Permanence Plan
Introduction to a foster carers guide to the Permanence Plan
As a foster carer you will often hear of the Permanence Plan, or Permanency Planning when looking after a child, you will hear it and see it in Looked After Child Reviews, or the Care Plan, or speaking with social workers.
The aim of the Permanence Plan is to provide a child with a feeling of security, safety, and continuity, to provide them with a secure base to support their physical and mental health and a place from which they can flourish and reach their full potential.
There is meant to be some kind of Permanence Plan in the Care Plan by the time the child has it’s second Looked After Child Review.
The aim is to think about this long term planning so that they can prevent children ‘drifting’ in the care system and create placement stability and prevent breakdowns and disruption.
What are the Permanence Plan options?
Permanence options for children include: returning home to their families; living with kinship carers, including special guardians; living with adoptive families; living with long-term foster carers; or living in residential care. They also include where an existing short-term placement is being made permanent. DfE
- Reunification – returning home to birth parents
- Kinship care – being placed in the care of relatives or friends
- Long term foster care
- Residential home until independent
- Fostering to adopt, child placed in a fostering setting where the plan is to adopt the child
The first option is always reunification and it’s the local authority’s duty to try and achieve this. However this is not always possible for many complex reasons and other permanence options will be sought.
Children’s own wishes and feelings must be taken into account around permanency.
Planning for Permanency
A clear plan should be prepared by the second Looked After Child Review, these plans will be clearly detailed in the Care Plan, it should be reviewed at each Looked After Child Review.
If the permanence plan is not reunification with parents, then all other options should be explored, extended family, child’s current carers, friends or anyone with a significant relationship with the child or young person.
If the permanence plan is for adoption an adoption plan will be prepared. Where adoption is not considered appropriate a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) maybe.
A clear plan should be prepared by the second Looked After Child Review, these plans will be clearly detailed in the Care Plan.
It should say:
- What the permanence plan is and what kind of permanence
- How that permanence will be achieved
- What the timescales are
- Who is responsible for what and what legal orders are needed to support the permanence plan
The responsibly of roles in the Permanence Planning
The Permanency Planning is the responsibility of the child’s social worker, our role as foster carers is to support and promote the plan.
What the Government’s says
Below we outline the government’s document ‘Knowledge and skills statement for achieving permanence.
It is vital for foster carers to understand the roles of those around them in permanence planning so they can fully understand the process, and advocate for their child if the process is not fully being delivered or children are not being heard or their needs not being met.
Here is the full statement.
The DfE also have another document ‘Improving permanence for looked after children’:
- They must decide on the best permanence option
- Eliminate drift for children by reaching the right decision within a timeframe which meets the child’s best interests.
- Build a strong knowledge of all permanence options, so as to effectively explore all realistic options concurrently to secure a good outcome.
- Change direction if it becomes evident that the proposal being pursued is not in the child ’s best interests.
- Confidently defend decisions under scrutiny, effectively deploying evidence to demonstrate why a preferred option is favoured.
- Use research to draw evidence-based conclusions about the best permanence option for a child.
- Consider a range of realistic permanence options and the strengths and risk factors of each.
- Use research on the outcomes of different options and knowledge of child development to weigh up the pros and cons of the options available.
- Draw on research that is relevant to an individual child’s specific circumstances and use it to inform how their short and long term needs, including their sense of identity and belonging, can best be met.
- Recognise that some children may require a placement with therapeutic treatment provision before a successful permanent home can be found. Maintain a focus on the rights, safety, needs, health, wellbeing and developmental recovery of the child and the circumstances that promote this.
- Produce high quality case records about the child’s permanence process which are well argued and sensitively presented.
- Cite any research which has been influential. Draw on lessons learned locally on placement breakdowns, adoption breakdowns and long-term care outcomes.
- Assess the child’s current and future needs by building effective relationships with children and families, any current or previous carers, professionals, including health and education professionals and social workers, and others directly involved in their care.
- Draw on the views of those who have knowledge and experience of the child, such as family members or foster carers. In the case of unborn children, conduct a good quality pre-birth assessment.
- Address complex questions where the needs and circumstances of a number of people, organisations and institutions are in conflict with each other.
- Assess the impact of trauma, abuse, neglect, separation and loss on a child’s development, and how this affects their capacity to build and maintain relationships.
- Take account of the child’s developmental stage and the likely impact of different transitions, as well as the support the child may need along the way.
- Identify and harness the wider services the child may need to recover from previous experiences and to achieve stability. Take into account: the age of the child, recognising the different challenges that older children face and understanding the impact of adolescent neglect; the importance of existing relationships (including the positive and negative impact of these relationships) including friendships; and the potential benefits of maintaining peer relationships for a child’s sense of identity and belonging.
- Acknowledge how adversity, inequality and limited life chances may impact on the plans for the child’s future, and ways in which the impacts may be mitigated.
- Encourage the child to express their views, wishes and feelings with regard to permanence.
- Listen sensitively to the child to understand their preferences and involve and engage them when making decisions about their future.
- Assess the risks of a return home for the child.
- Ensure that parents have received the support they need and, where necessary, have demonstrated the changes required to care for the child throughout their childhood.
- Assess: the parents’ capacity for further or sustained change; and the impact of placing siblings together or separately and in various placement types.
- Pursue the child’s best interests and identify ways to express their views even when contradictory to the views held by parents, family, other professionals, employers or other influential organisations such as the courts.
- Be prepared to provide feedback on processes and procedures.
TOP TIP: It is vital for foster carers to understand the roles of those around them in permanence planning so they can fully understand the process, and advocate for their child if the process is not fully being delivered or children are not being heard or their needs not being met.
- Negotiate the legal process
- Operate within the statutory framework and regulatory process for achieving permanence for individual children, and comply with the legal powers, duties and guidance related to pursuing particular permanence options.
- Help children find permanence without unnecessary delay
- Act purposefully to identify a permanent home for the child without unnecessary deliberations which cause delay, understanding the potential damage to a child as a result of delay.
- Recognise the effects of unconscious bias and risk aversion on decision making and utilise supervision to reflect on dilemmas about matching.
- Balance the ambition of finding the best home for the child with the need to achieve permanence. Give due consideration to the child’s preferences and ensure that where these cannot be acted upon, there is a clear rationale for that.
- Keep the child and their families informed and communicate clearly, openly and sensitively any decisions regarding their future.
- Social workers doing the permanence plans must recognise the extent to which carers will be able to act in the best interests of the child and promote their health and wellbeing; and the different qualities, capacity and support carers might need to look after a child who presents behaviours associated with negative early life and childhood experiences.
- Understand the legal entitlements to support for different types of carers.
- Listen to the child to understand their long term aspirations, and assess a potential carer’s abilities to support the child in achieving these goals.
- Provide a professional and high quality service where potential carers are treated with respect.
- Support children and families in transition
TOP TIP: You will see in the government document the importance put on transitions and maintaining the child’s connections to those who are important to them, preventing future attachment issues and poor mental health outcomes.
- Undertake sufficient direct work to help children, and current and future carers, prepare for a successful transition.
- Communicate clearly, openly and sensitively with children, their families and carers about the planning process for moving into a permanent home or back to their birth home.
- Ensure that the reasons for any move are communicated in a way that is appropriate to the child’s age and understanding, and that any questions or concerns the child has are listened to.
- Support children and carers to set realistic expectations and prepare children thoroughly for the different stages of that journey.
- Support carers to: promote a child’s sense of identity, self-worth and belonging; understand how best to share a child’s history and the events that led to previous and current care arrangements – for example, through life story work.
- Co-create with carers helpful strategies to meet a child’s needs, and in particular where carers may find behaviour challenging.
- Demonstrate professional expertise in managing potentially distressing transitions, recognising the complexity of family dynamics and the potential impact of loss and change.
- Provide support and advocacy to children, parents and/or carers, demonstrating sensitivity and empathy.
- Help current carers and birth families to cope with the transition, remembering that this may be a period of great loss and disappointment.
- Develop high quality plans to support the transition process. Work collaboratively with all parties (including multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary colleagues) to plan and deliver a smooth transition that causes as little distress and disruption to the child as possible.
- Recognise that for some children a stable transition should take place over a period of time to ensure that the best outcome is achieved.
- Where a child is not returning home, assess, plan and support the appropriate level of contact with their birth family based on the individual child’s specific needs.
- Support children, their siblings, carers and the child’s birth family to understand, engage with and contribute to plans for successful contact with each other.
- Recognise when contact is likely to be problematic, and provide appropriate support and review.
- Recognise the significance of a child’s support network to the likely future success of permanence arrangements, and take necessary steps to ensure sustained participation of that network in a child’s life.
- Develop high quality support plans that recognise the child’s current and likely future needs, the capacity of the carer to meet those needs and the additional support that might be required.
- Develop plans for delegated authority.
- Where the child is returning home to a parent or family member, develop support strategies that are flexible and responsive to changing circumstances and the individual needs of the child and their family.
- Assess both the effectiveness of the help provided and management of risk, taking action to provide additional support to families and protect children effectively.
- Support the placement, including managing disruption and breakdown
TOP TIP: This section is particularly important when a fostering family is identified as the permanency option, this is the government’s directive of the responsibilities of fostering services to the placement/fostering family.
- Identify the most effective types of support using the best evidence, and apply this to the provision of flexible, on-going arrangements.
- Build a professional network of expertise to help families get the short and long-term support they need.
- Know what therapy options are available and their application, and support families to identify accessible resources that will respond in time.
- Build helpful relationships with families that empower the parent, carer or child to ask for support when they need it.
- Work closely with family networks and professional networks, including Independent Reviewing Officers, to review arrangements and change these through consultation as the needs of the family change, addressing any escalating risks.
- Identify indicators and early warning signs that a permanent home is under strain.
- Work collaboratively, with respect and without blame, with all parties to plan and deliver services and interventions that will support the child’s network and may prevent family breakdown, including short out of home placements.
- Understand the different dynamics that each permanence option brings and how this affects a social worker’s ability to engage and intervene.
- Be clear and decisive in situations where children are unable to remain at home, balancing the short and long term impact of moving the child with the likelihood of future and irreparable breakdown of relationships if action is not taken.
- Where breakdown occurs, work collaboratively with all parties to understand the reasons for breakdown and the options for supporting alternative short or medium term arrangements that enable the child to maintain relationships with carers or parents in periods of crisis.
- Recognise that a move to a placement that better meets the child’s needs is positive. Make clear the need for the child to be safe and to have stability in their home lives, relationships and education.
- Be alert to: attempts by children to ‘test’ new arrangements and support carers and parents to access support from family, friends and community networks, where appropriate; and the potential vulnerabilities of children at the point of disruption, and apply strategies to fully support them through this transition.
- Where breakdown occurs, assess whether and how the relationship can be sustained.
- Working with your wider organisation, identify and apply any lessons learned.
As a foster carer you may be asked to provide permanency for a child, if you are then make sure it includes the amount of support you need for the children or young person in your care, make sure it’s the right option for everyone and ensure the child’s needs are at the centre of the planning.
Make a list of the questions you have and get everything in writing before agreeing to permanency.
If the permanency plan is reunification, extended family, friends or any other arrangement is is our job as foster carers to support that plan.
If you think the plan is not right for a child, or you feel the child is not being listened to, raise it through the correct channels, escalate if necessary and ask for the child to have an independent advocate.
See the FosterWiki page: Advocacy foster carers advocating-for children in care.
Foster Carer’s Comments on Permanency Planning
Our foster carer’s comments come from a wide and diverse cross section of foster carers from across the UK. We feel that genuine ‘boots on the ground’ feedback is vital.
Extended family are a greater support with more acceptance. I found certain behaviour issues became less. My experience is a positive one, fostering 3 boys from young, after a few years we went for permanency. The boys are happy and settled so they have more say, it’s not that easy to just move them for no good reason. It’s been nice just focusing on them after having a variety of children coming and going for many years. You get to invest more in them long term.”
especially when they are barred from any contact whatsoever with the carers who 2 weeks ago were their ‘forever’ parents.”
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