When you agree for your child to be looked after, your child’s social worker should consider:
- Whether your child’s other parent (if they live apart from you) is someone your child could live with; and if so, they should assess them to see if they are suitable. But if this is not possible or they are not suitable;
- If there is relative or friend in your child’s network who could care for your child and keep them safe. If there is, the social worker will assess that person and should arrange for your child to live with them if they are suitable.
- If there isn’t anyone in your family network who can care for your child, or the social worker is not able to approve the person you have suggested, then your child will normally stay with someone already approved as a foster carer or in a residential setting such as a children’s home.
Assessing friends and family
If you have a friend or relative who is willing to care for your child, Children’s Services will first need to check whether this is a suitable arrangement for your child. They will need to approve this person as a temporary foster carer either before, or shortly after your child goes to live with them. To do this, the social worker will carry out some checks, including:
- Looking at the home where your child is to live
- Speaking to other people who live there
- Making sure their home, and the care they will give your child, is safe
- Checking if the person (or anyone else living in their home) has a criminal record.
This person can be approved as a temporary foster carer for 16 weeks, with a further extension of 8 weeks if necessary.
For your child to go on living with this person, this person will have to be an approved foster carer. Once they are an approved foster carer, your child can remain living with them after the 24 week period. For more information see: advice sheet 11: Duties on Children’s Services when children are in the care system and advice sheet: 22 Family and friends care: becoming a foster carer.
The social worker should make sure that where your child lives causes as little disruption as possible to his/her life. For example, your child should be able to stay living with any brothers or sisters and keep going to the same school if at all possible. If you are at all worried about the plans for where your child will live, it is a good idea to get legal advice from a Children’s Panel Solicitor or Family Rights Group’s advice service straight away.
Important note about babies and very young children:
If your child is a baby (or very young), and the social worker thinks you or your relatives won’t be able to care for them long term, the social worker must consider alternative plans for your baby’s long term care. This may include plans for your baby to be adopted.
If the social worker is considering adoption for your baby, they are under a duty to consider finding a placement for your child with foster carers who are also approved as prospective adopters. This is called ‘fostering for adoption’. If you have agreed for your child to be cared for away from home, and there is no court order in place, you must be asked if you agree to this placement plan. If you give your agreement to a fostering for adoption placement, the social worker should explain to you that you could withdraw your agreement and remove your child from that placement at any time.
Before your baby can actually be adopted, Children’s Services would have to make an application to the court, and the court would have to agree that this is the best plan for them. But, if your baby is already living with the people who may adopt him, it can be very hard to argue that he should return to your family.
If a fostering for adoption placement has been mentioned in your case, it is essential that you contact a Children’s Panel Solicitor, or Family Rights Group’s advice service, straight away and that, if you have not already done so, you find out if there is anyone in your family who might be suitable to care for your child. If there is, tell the social worker immediately.