Camden and Islington guidance about FGCs in Care Proceedings. Interesting. ...Had to copy in text let me know if you want a pdf copy email@example.com
Care Proceedings Project
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Special Guardianship Assessment
Best Practice Guidance – Family Group Conferences (FGCs) and Care
The Principles of Family Group Conferences (FGC’s)
The Family Group Conference (FGC) model was developed in direct response to the increasingly
disproportionate number of New Zealand Maori children in out-of-home care. The children were
isolated from their families and communities and often experienced multiple placements over long
periods of time. FGCs offer family’s a process for decision making and strengthens the immediate
community around children. An emphasis on family decision making empowers families to make
good decisions for their children and promotes the atmosphere of partnership in the protection of
children. The earlier the family network can galvanise support for children and parents the more
likely it is that they will take control and avoid matters escalating into child protection or care
Decision Making within the Child’s Timescales
The Public Law Outline (2013) prescribes that care proceedings conclude within 26 weeks and
prescribes a high degree of preparation for first hearing. The entire timetable for the proceedings
will be set down at this hearing, including connected person assessments. The court will scrutinise
the efforts made by the Local Authority and the family to parallel plan for the child before
proceedings commenced, particularly if recommending separation from their parents. Social
workers are expected to have offered an FGC from early stages of intervention and be able to
evidence that they have revisited the offer of this service if parents do not consent.
It is difficult to catch up if FGCs and Connected Person Assessments are not considered early on. The sequencing of the assessment process means the cumulative time required to explore family options can be 18 weeks or more, which if undertaken after proceedings begin can be a significant cause of unnecessary delay.
The court is recommending just 10 weeks for Connected Person Assessment.
Pre-Proceedings - Early FGCs
The optimal time for FGCs to occur is pre-proceedings. Early FGCs can decrease the use of foster care placements and increase the child’s chances of staying at home or in the family network.
If FGCs are not held pre-proceedings the family may lose the opportunity to explore support and
alternative care options for their children. If matters escalate and children need to be placed
outside of the home, they may be placed outside of the family into foster care.
Timing is everything with FGCs. Knowing the right questions to ask at the right time is crucial. It is
never too early to ask who will look after the child in an emergency or if respite is needed. Even
families subject to Child in Need Plans should be asked these questions. If matters are escalating to
Child Protection, PLO Pre-Proceedings or Care Proceeding the family must consider who might be a suitable alternative carer for their children in an emergency, short term or even long term. Please see Appendix A for sample Questions for Family Group Conferences that families can explore at different phases of intervention.
Connected Persons Assessment
If cases progress to Care Proceedings there is an expectation that all possible alternative placements within the child’s network have been explored and the Connected Person Assessments are completed. Wherever possible a Special Guardianship referral or assessment should be underway.
If Connected Person Assessments have not been completed the timescales for completion is
between 2-6 weeks of the first hearing.
Late FGCs typically result in late Connected Person assessments and delay in decision making for children. The judiciary are taking a firm stance on FGCs and assessment of Connected Persons. If a family member has been aware of the child’s circumstances but has not previously come forward to be assessed this may have an adverse effect on the outcome of their assessment. Often extended family members do not come forward because they believe:
. It will affect the chances of the parent to resume or retain the care of their child,
. They don’t want to become enmeshed in the parent’s difficulties,
. They want to wait for an outcome before committing themselves or becoming involved, or
. They are not clear on the Local Authority or Court processes and decision making.
While social workers are responsible for this final point, the first three should be explored to
determine if the person being assessed is able to prioritise the child above those of the parent and
work cooperatively with the Local Authority care plan. Social workers and FGC co-ordinators need
to ensure that the child is at the centre of decision making and emphasise the need for early FGCs
and Connected Person Assessments.
FGCs are a voluntary process and parents’ consent must be obtained 1) for an FGC to occur and 2)
for the information in the report to be distributed to attendees in accordance with the Data
Protection Act (1998).
There are many reasons why parents do not provide verbal or written consent, including
. Privacy: they don’t want their information or circumstances shared with other people;
. Relationships: they may not have any, or few, family or friends, or their existing
relationships are damaged, fractious, unsupportive, inappropriate, or distant;
. Denial: they may be in denial about the seriousness of their circumstances,
. Understanding: they might not understand the consequences of not taking action or be
suspicious of the Local Authority’s intentions;
. Shame: they might feel ashamed of their circumstances and be reluctant to share this with
. Resistance: this may be additional evidence of a pattern of resistance and poor cooperation;
Social workers should be mindful of the feelings that arise from sharing personal information and
support parents to work through these issues. If parents are still unsure about an FGC a co-
ordinator can make contact with the parents to explain the process and help them to understand
the independence of the process and any other aspect that may be acting as a barrier to their
What if parents still won’t consent to an FGC?
While parents often have good reasons for not wanting to provide consent, this needs to be
balanced with the child’s right to be placed with family wherever possible. If parents have not
provided consent for an FGC by the Case Management Hearing (first hearing) then consent should
be sought via their solicitor during the Pre-Proceedings PLO phase or at the first hearing.
Please consider the following directions for the Case Management Hearing (first hearing):
. Ms X to provide the name and contact details of family and friends that she wishes to attend
the FGC within 3days;
. The Local Authority will convene an FGC within 4 weeks (of the first hearing);
. Ms X to provide the Local Authority with a prioritised short list of names and full contact
details of people she wishes to be assessed as alternative carers within 3 days and to have
discussed her request and have the consent of the person being nominated;
. The Local Authority will complete Viability Assessments of the first 1-2 people within 2-6
weeks of receiving the full contact details. If any of the persons assessed receive a positive
assessment the most suitable person will be offered a Special Guardianship Assessment
which will be undertaken within 10 weeks of the referral.
If parents have not provided consent to share the social work report, seek consent via their solicitor during the Pre-Proceedings PLO process or take it to the first hearing.
The Bottom Line
The FGC referral is accompanied by a Social Worker Report (also known as the Information for the Family) which provides the family with a synopsis of the issues of concern, outlines the questions to consider, and clearly states the bottom line. The FGC co-ordinator will help you to write the FGC Social Worker Report but you will need to get the parents’ consent to share it.
In the interests of transparent practice the social work report should clearly state the bottom line.
Care proceedings are a decision making process that determines a parent’s capacity to care for their child in the short and the long term. Parents often report that they were not aware that ‘things
were that serious’ or were in denial about the potential outcomes. The bottom line should be clear
and set out the possible implications for the child if the parents do not make changes, and if there
are no viable alternative carers.
Social workers need to be satisfied that parents understand the potential outcomes of Care
Proceedings and decisions about permanency will be made, which include Remaining at Home,
Reunification, Permanent Placement with Connected Person or Foster Carer, or Adoption. While
these conversations can be difficult to have it is important that parents are aware of the potential
outcomes if they are not able to make the recommended changes. Please see Appendix C – for the
Key Messages to Remember
. Early FGCs are ideally held pre-proceedings and the court will scrutinise the Local Authority’s
. Late FGCs lead to children being placed outside of the family network and unnecessary delay
in care proceedings;
. Delay accumulates across the assessment phase of family members (Timescales for FGC +
Viability Assessment + Special Guardianship Assessment);
. Social Workers should explore the themes that are acting as a barrier to parents consenting
to an FGC and their understanding of the bottom line;
. Consent for an FGC and to share the Social Worker Report can be obtained via the parents
solicitor during the Pre-Proceedings PLO process or at Case Management Hearing (first
. An FGC co-ordinator can speak with parents and help them to understand the FGC process;
. Each day in care proceedings equates with a day of uncertainty or unnecessary interim care
for the child;
. Final decisions about permanency are made during Care Proceedings (26 weeks).
APPENDIX A – Questions for Family Group Conferences
Early Back Up
Enabling families to ‘parallel plan’
A - Support for current carers
B - Back up family care options
Child in Need or at risk of Child protection Plan
A - Who from **** friends and family is able to support the children
with their care on a day to day basis, both now and in the future? Who is willing to do what, when are
they able to do it and how often?
B - Who in the family can offer to care for the children sometimes so that whoever is caring for *****
and ***** for the majority of the time is given a break? Please be specific about when and how this
Child Protection Plan or at risk of Care Proceedings (Including Pre-Proceedings PLO)
A - Who from the friends and family is able to support **** with the care of the children on a day to day
basis, both now and in the future? Who is willing to do what, when are they able to do it and how
. Help with household chores or DIY
. Help with household budgeting
. Help with transport to and from appointments or with shopping.
. Emotional support
. Advice on child care
B - If for any reason ***** was unable to care for ***** is there a family member or close friend who
would put themselves forward to be *****’s main carer in an emergency; or for the longer term if
Pre-Proceedings PLO or at risk of Care Proceedings
A - What extra support does **** need from the family to be able to care for their children? Who will
be offering this support and how will this be put in place?
B - If it was considered in the future that ***** could not provide full time care for her children, are
there any family members who would be willing to put themselves forward to be assessed as **** &
***** long term carers?
During Care Proceedings
A - What extra support does **** need from the family to change and be able to care for their
children? Who will be offering this support and how will this be put in place?
B - If the Court decides that **** cannot return to ****’s care are there any family or friends who would
be willing to be considered as long term carers for the children?
APPENDIX B – THE BOTTOM LINE
Child In Need
The Local Authority will continue to work with the family and provide support and affect change. If the family is not able to make the recommended changes, or the concerns escalate then the Local
Authority may initiate a Child Protection Plan or, potentially initiate Care Proceedings. A Child
Protection Plan sets out clear goals for change to safeguard Child and encourage positive change to the care she receives. Final decisions are made during care proceedings, including whether Child should remain at home, or be looked after permanently by a connected person, foster carer, or adoptive parent.
Child Protection or at Risk of Care Proceedings
The Local Authority will continue to work with the family and provide support and affect change. If the family is unable to achieve the required changes for the child the Local Authority will seek legal
advice, which may result in care proceedings. If Care Proceedings are issued Child may remain at home or be placed in out of home care. The court will oversee the assessment process and make a judgement about who is best placed to care for Child. Final decisions are made during care proceedings, including whether Child should remain at home, or be looked after permanently by a connected person, foster carer, or adoptive parent.
Interim Supervision Order
The Local Authority will continue to work with the family and provide support and affect change.
Where ever possible Child will remain in the care of Parent, however, in order for this to happen the Court must be satisfied that Parent is able to provide a safe and stable environment until Child is 18 years old. The Local Authority has set out a plan of work to make positive changes for Child. If the Court is not satisfied that Parent is able to make these changes or provide safe and stable care they will consider whether someone else should look after Child. The court would like to know the answers to the questions posed in this document to be able to make their judgement.
Interim Care Order
The Local Authority will continue to work with the family and provide support and affect change. The Local Authority has issued Care Proceedings and needs to decide if Parents are able to provide care for Child. Wherever possible Child will be returned to the care of Parent, however, in order for this to happen the Court must be satisfied that Parent is able to provide a safe and stable environment until Child is 18 years old. If the Court is not satisfied that Parent is able to provide this care for Child they will consider whether other connected people can provide this care. In order to do this the court will consider the assessments of any connected person that has put themselves forward. If there aren’t any connected people who are in the position to provide this care, then as a last resort, the Local Authority will look for care outside of the family from a long term foster carer or an adoptive parent. The court would like to know the answers to the questions posed in this document to be able to make their judgement.
APPENDIX C – OUTCOMES FLOWCHART
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