What is a Stability Meeting?
What is a Stability Meeting?
As Carers we have many different meetings to attend, most will be entirely centred around the child and their needs while in care, however, there are some meetings that are carer centred. Often when there are difficulties with a placement it will focus on the carers ability to manage complex situations, we understand that it can be difficult for carers to express the impact a child’s behaviour can have on the home and others in it. We are here to support you with strategies to manage behaviour and to provide mentors who will go through the various processes which can be triggered when things go wrong.
A Stability Meeting is a mechanism designed to provide early intervention when a placement is at risk of breakdown. It is usually a result of concerns from either the child’s or supervising social worker and is meant to provide an opportunity to resolve situations in the interest of the child.
Social workers are expected to follow procedures if as a result of a stability meeting they identify concerns or any difficulty affecting the child, carer or the fostering service which may lead to disruption of the placement.
Ultimately the aim of a stability meeting is to provide early intervention and avoid disruption (placement breakdown).
When does a Placement Stability Meeting happen?
A Placement Stability Meeting should be arranged when a Care Placement is considered to be at risk of disruption.
This could be if:
- A child or young person has made it known they wish to end the placement.
- The review process has raised a concern.
- Where a complaint or allegation has been made.
- The child or young person is regularly missing (absconding) or absent from placement on a regular basis.
- Carers have expressed concern that they are struggling or feel they can no longer care for the child.
- The relationship between the child and carer (foster or residential) gives cause for concern that the placement may break down.
- The child or young person’s Social Worker or other professionals raise concern that the young person’s needs are not met by the placement.
A stability meeting should always be an opportunity to explore how the issues can be resolved however for carers it can feel that this is the result of not having appropriate support and often comes too late.
The word ‘support’ is often used we encourage carers to ask for support when they need it but to also understand specifically what this will involve, how it will be delivered, and by who.
By the time a stability meeting has been arranged it is often the case that carers have not had support and by identifying what the need looks like, for example, if a child is repeatedly missing and this is impacting the carer taking other children to school, support could be in the form of other arrangements for school transport or agreement for respite to give the household a break.
Each situation is different and there is not one answer but being clear about what can be done to stabilise a placement is an essential outcome of the meeting.
How do you plan for a Placement Stability Meeting
Meetings can be a cause of anxiety for carers, particularly when they are already battling with the feelings that are involved when things are not going well. We understand that carers never start out with the intention of a placement ending.
You need to present your account as a professional, being factual about what is happening, the effect it is having, and what needs to happen for this to change. This can sometimes not feel achievable especially when emotions are running high and carers are exhausted but it is important to always remain professional, calm and be open to suggestions.
Accept support but question how this will be delivered, there is nothing more frustrating than attending a meeting and being told you will be supported but having no clear breakdown of how this will happen.
Consider the influencing factors that could in the future result in the disruption of the placement.
Social Workers are not responsible for solving all placement difficulties on their own but are often the best source of information to assist their teams and managers to come to a team decision and course of action.
The child’s Social Worker and the Supervising Social Worker should make any notes which may assist discussion at the meeting:
- To gain an understanding of the quality of the child/foster carer or child/residential relationship.
- To identify the areas of difficulty.
- How best to support the placement to prevent breakdown.
- To decide if continuing the placement is considered to be in the best interests of the child.
Whose role is it to call a Placement Stability Meeting?
When it is evident that there is a stability concern the Supervising Social Worker should request a stability meeting and this should be chaired by a Team Manager. They will also invite any other professionals that may be relevant to the meeting, for instance, if the instability is due to a child being excluded from school it would make sense to have a representative from school present to understand the strain the placement is under and have their opportunity to suggest how they can help. This may involve an alternative education provision that meets the child’s needs better.
Who attends the PSM?
Ideally, the team around the child would include, the carer, Supervising Social Worker, Fostering Team Manager, Child’s Social Worker and Manager. Other professionals may include the IRO, CAMHS, an advocate for the child and school.
It is good practice for the meeting to have minutes taken and circulated to those present which outlines an effective chronology of what has happened and the responses to interventions.
Outcomes of the Placement Stability Meeting
The meeting should produce a documented course of action detailing what is needed, who is responsible and timescales.
When a carer is considered to be responsible for the placement instability it is usual that either training or a structured plan of work is set to help improve the situation and this will also be included in the Carers Annual Review.
If it is a more serious concern regarding a carers’ practice it is likely that further assessment will be required and possibly presented to the panel. For example, if a carer failed to report a child missing as they are regularly absconding this would become a Standards of Care issue.
It must be understood that at times it is not possible to prevent a placement breakdown and that this may lead to a Disruption Meeting.
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