Sonia Johnson, Assistant Director, Children’s Social Care will give a presentation to members about achieving permanency (placements) for children and young people in Bracknell Forest.
Sonia Johnson, updated members about how the Council tried to achieve permanency for children who were no longer able to live with their parent/s. Often people associated permanency with Looked After Children but all children needed a permanent home.
Members were informed that:
· When a child was deemed unable to live with their birth parents the local authority would look at permanency, not just a house but a home.
· Permanency had three aspects: legal, psychological and physical.
· Options to achieve legal permanency included Adoption; Child Arrangement Orders (often where families separated, especially if father not on birth certificate); Special Guardianship (granted through courts – can be requested privately but most commonly through the local authority); Long Term Fostering (a permanent option for some children) and Special Guardianship Orders to Connected Persons (not family members).
· The local authority became the legal corporate parent under Long Term Fostering but the birth parent still has legal parental responsibility. Only adoption removed the birth parent’s legal parental responsibility.
· As of the end of May 2019 there were 155 Looked After Children in Bracknell, 22 of which were currently in Long Term Fostering placements. 8 children were made subject to Special Guardianship Orders and 5 children were made subject to Placement Orders (step before adoption). Staff looked at how to achieve permanency for the child until they were 18 and numbers were small in the Borough.
· It was noted a number of Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) had broken down when grandparents had come forward and judged fit to look after a child but this had not lasted. This was thought to be a national issue and work was being done with the judiciary to make sure a long term fit was sort in the first instance. This may lead to a rise in adoption and lowering of SGOs nationally.
· There were 53 families where the Council made financial contributions to help support the child, but no practical support given.
Following a discussion the questions and points below were raised:
· Members queried how many of the 155 Looked After Children were resident in the Borough and were informed a number lived outside of the area due to lack of provision locally but they remained the responsibility of the local authority.
· Sonia Johnson said she was pleased members had requested this paper as it had helped her to assess the number of permanently matched children in foster to the number of children in care proceedings at the moment. She would have thought the number in permanent foster care would be higher and had undertaken to look at this issue more closely.
· Members asked how long placement orders lasted and were informed things move at pace to find an adoptive family once a placement order had been granted. The average number of days from full care order to placement in adoption was 448 days.
· The Judge had more control over a child with SEND and can request the local authority find a positive adoptive match within 9 months.
· Members discussed how the profile of foster carers could be raised as it was such an important role.
· Sonia Johnson said the Council was intending to contest hearings where SGO was the likely outcome and they had taken some children back into Child Protection from SGO where concerned.
· Members asked how the team were ensuring consistency of social workers for children and were informed they had made it mandatory not to use agency staff in the Looked After Children team. When recruiting they also used a video made by Children in Care voicing their concerns about having different social workers which they showed potential applicants and asked them to choose a different team if they couldn’t commit long term to the LAC team. They were also looking at how they could support staff to have resilience to stay in the job and improve stability of the workforce.
· Members requested to see the video at the next Panel meeting. Sonia Johnson said she would check with the children who made it.
· Most successful adoptions took place between birth and the age of 4
· Intention was to bring another report to next meeting about another aspect of permanency.
· Sonia Johnson to bring another report on permanency to the next Panel meeting.
· Sonia Johnson to check if appropriate for the Children in Care video to be played at the next Panel meeting.