Re: Contact Agreement

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HeartBroken
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Apr 29, 2021 12:04 pm

Re: Contact Agreement

Post by HeartBroken » Thu Jun 17, 2021 12:44 pm

Social services went to court on the 27th May 2021 for a Care Order of my granddaughter. The court ruled that I was to have contact with my granddaughter Once a Week for 1.5 hrs. I am still waiting for social services to set up contact, how long should I have to wait for this to actually take place. When I have contacted social services all I am being told is that they are short staffed and don't have anyone to supervise my contact.
Myself and my partner have also applied to social services to be assessed as Kinship foster carers for my granddaughter. We have filled out the initial questionnaire (for potential Friends and Family Carers) and on the 8th June we had my granddaughters social worker visit myself and my partner to do the Viability Assessment, however the social worker didn't complete the assessment (as she had to go to another appointment) she said she would ring us to finish the assessment over the telephone but so far we haven't heard back from her.
I was wondering how long should it usually take to do a Viability Assessment and how can this be completed over the telephone?

I have e-mailed my granddaughters social worker with regards to the Initial Questionnaire Form because when it was posted out to us there was no s.a.e provided so I asked for an address to send it to and also to whom I address it too, but I still haven't had a reply. We dated the form on the 8th June, unfortunately as we still had a couple of questions left to answers when the social worker was here we were not able to give the social worker the form while she was here.
So unfortunately I still have the Initial Questionnaire Form, but as I have stated I have e-mailed my granddaughters social worker and also her manager but still no replies from either, what can we do now?

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 754
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2011 11:25 am

Re: Contact Agreement

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Fri Jul 23, 2021 2:35 pm

Dear HeartBroken

Welcome to the Kinship Carers’ forum and thank you for your post. My name is Suzie and I am FRG’s online adviser.

I am sorry to hear of the difficulties you are experiencing with children’s services and contact with your granddaughter.

Contact
You have said in your message that the court has ruled that you should be having regular contact to your granddaughter, for 1.5 hours each week. If so, children’s services must comply with this order and facilitate the contact that the court envisaged when making the order. If children’s services are struggling to find people who can supervise this contact, they should be considering alternative contact options in the interim. We would suggest putting together realistic alternative contact options to the social worker. For example, suggesting a local park to meet your granddaughter that could be supervised by her current foster carers (with their agreement). Or at least that you should be able to have regular video calls, until such time as the supervision has been sorted out. Alternatively, it may be that once some of the initial assessments discussed below have been dealt with, you can ask that you have unsupervised contact.

As your granddaughter is subject to care proceedings, a contact plan should be set out in her interim care plan. You may want to ask the social worker if the arrangements for contact have been set out in a revised care plan since the last hearing. Children’s services have legal duties to maintain contact with family for children who are looked after in the care system. This table looks at the law and guidance about contact that applies when a child is looked after in the care system.

If children’s services continue to not comply with the contact order, you could possibly talk to the parents about this. It may be something that they can raise with their solicitors. And then the solicitor may be able to raise this with the lawyer for children’s services, or the court. Alternatively, you could try and talk to the children’s guardian about it. It is the job of the children’s guardian to represent the best interests of the child. Again, it may be that the children’s guardian can raise it with the court, through the child’s solicitor. Finally, you could raise this issue with the judge themselves, via email. You may be able to get the judge’s email address from the parent’s solicitor. You should make sure to include the case reference number and include the other parties’ lawyers in your email to the court (if you have their contact details).
As you are having some difficulty in contacting children’s services, we would also suggest looking at our ‘working with a social worker guide’ . This guide provides information and advice on how best to get the most out of your work with a child’ social worker. It contains some tips about how best to communication with social workers.

Assessment as a kinship foster carer
It would be helpful to know if the court granted the application children’s services made for interim care order in respect of your granddaughter on 27 May 2021. And to understand where your granddaughter is currently placed. If your granddaughter has been made subject to an interim care order, you may find it helpful as a first step to read this information about children’s services’ duties towards children who are looked after under a court order.

You have said that you are due to be assessed as a kinship foster carer for your granddaughter, but that this has been delayed. Children’s services should be prioritising this assessment, and trying to place your granddaughter with you, or another relative, as soon as possible. When a child becomes looked after in the care system, children’s services have a legal duty under section 22C of the Children Act 1989 to place the child with people in certain priority order. This means children’s services should:
1. See if a child can be safely cared for by their parent(s). If not
2. See if a child be safely cared for by someone else who holds parental responsibility for them
3. Next look at anyone who was caring for the child under a child arrangements order just before they came into the care system
4. They should next look at wider family, friends and other people already connected with the child – kinship care. Priority is given to family members already approved by children’s services as foster carers
5. Only where this is not possible, should children’s services go on to arrange for a child to live with unrelated carers. This could be foster care, or if not possible then in residential care (a children’s home).

This duty means that plans for where a child lives/who they are cared for should always be kept under review. So, even if a child in looked after in the care system by an unrelated carer, children’s services this should be regularly review. If a family member who may be able to care for the child comes forward, this should be explored.

As a grandparent, you will fall into a priority category. You have said that children’s services have started a kinship foster carer assessment but that this has not been completed. You may want to write to the social worker and team manager, explaining that you want them to urgently approve you as a foster carer for your granddaughter on a temporary basis . Some basic checks will need to be done first, but this should not delay matters significantly, and should allow for your granddaughter to be placed with you immediately.
A full assessment of you must then be conducted within 16 weeks of your granddaughter moving to their care. This may be extended for a further eight weeks in exceptional circumstances). The powers that children’s services have to approve someone as a foster carer on a temporary basis come from regulation 24 of The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

The full foster care assessment will be completed by a social worker. Children’s services will have their own process for assessing kinship foster carers. The full assessment is completed in two stages. The first stage is an information gathering exercise including information about the family home, information about the proposed carers health, and an enhanced criminal record checks. The first stage should be completed within 10 days. The second stage involves the social worker gathering more detailed information about the relative. The second stage will take longer because of the nature of the discussions. Our ‘becoming a kinship foster carer: the process advice sheet provides detailed information and advice about the full assessment and approval process.

If approved as a foster kinship carer children’s services must pay a kinship fostering allowance from the moment you take on care of the child. Kinship foster carers are entitled to a full fostering allowance, no less than the rate that children’s services pay to unrelated foster carers.

Viability assessment
In addition to being assessed as a kinship foster carer, you have mentioned that children’s services are looking to understand a ‘viability assessment’ of you. A viability assessment is also known as an initial friends and family care assessment. This assessment is different to a kinship foster care assessment, in that rather than being done to assess whether your granddaughter can be placed with you as a foster carer, it is undertaken to consider whether you might be a realistic option as a long-term carer for your granddaughter. It can be completed at the same time as a kinship foster care assessment, as part of the ‘parallel planning’ process. You can find detailed information about initial family and friends care assessment and how they should be completed by a social worker at page 38 of our ‘initial friends and family care assessments: good practice guide’.

It is good practice for an initial friends and family assessment to be completed between two to four weeks. However, there are no strict timescales. You have said that part of the assessment was completed at your home and that the social worker suggested continuing the assessment over the phone. This is normal practice and given the context of Covid-19, it is likely to be considered a reasonable adjustment to be able to complete the assessment.

However, it is important that this assessment is not delayed. We suggest writing to the social worker suggesting possible days in which both you and your partner are free to complete the assessment either in person or via telephone.
Once you have received the outcome of your assessments, we would suggest seeking independent legal advice about your options as grandparents in potentially caring for your grandchild. You can ask children’s services if they willing to fund legal advice for you. It is really important that you seek independent legal advice from a children law specialist who will be able to advise you on your options.

To find a solicitor, search using the ‘how to find a solicitor' function on the Law Society website. Look for someone who is a child law specialist. Or who has ‘Children Law Accreditation'. For information about finding a solicitor and working with them, please see our top tips guide ‘Working with a solicitor'


Family Group Conference
You could also write to the social worker and request that a family group conference is convened. A family group conference is a planning meeting led by the family and arranged by an independent person. The process ensures that families are at the centre of decision-making
If other family members have put themselves forward as potential foster carers for your grandchild, this could be an opportunity to discuss and nominate a family member or consider other care and support options that would be in your granddaughter’s best interests.
You can find detailed information about family group conferences here.

If you would like to discuss the situation further with an adviser please do call our freephone advice helpline on 0808 8010366; the lines are open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 3pm. Or reply to this post if you have further questions.

Best wishes

Suzie

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