There is a growing movement by government to place more children with carers who could become their permanent family at the earliest opportunity.
This is supported by evidence which shows this can be effective in reducing delay and improving outcomes for children in care. These early permanence schemes are known as fostering for adoption (FfA) and concurrent planning. They are mainly aimed at babies and young children aged 0-2 years whose future is being decided by the courts.
Child Centred Care
There are significant benefits for a child placed on either scheme where the courts decide that adoption is the agreed plan.
- It removes the uncertainty and waiting these children can often experience in foster care whilst decisions about their future care are made
- If the courts decide the child should not be returned to family then the carer/adopter will continue to care for that child as an adopted child. As the status of the carer that changes and not the placement disruption is minimised
- Being placed with one carer from the start puts the child/ren first at every stage and supports their emotional development
Whilst Fostering for adoption and concurrent planning are both examples of early permanence, they are different because of the status and preparation of the carers as explained below.
Fostering for Adoption
Fostering for Adoption is where children are placed with their potential permanent carers on a fostering basis while the local authority seeks a placement order from the courts.
Carers are firstly adopters who are then temporarily approved as foster carers for a specific child (under regulation 25 (A) of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 (as amended 2013).
These types of carers are expecting to be able to adopt the child placed with them and although they will be fully aware of the legal uncertainties of that until the finalisation of Care Proceedings, it is likely that only children where there is very little chance of return to birth family would be placed with such carers.
In what situations would fostering for adoption may be considered as an appropriate course of action for a child?
1. Parents who have previously had children placed for adoption or another permanent placements and their circumstances have not changed. As such, any unborn children face the same level of risk and the local authority does not have a proactive plan to rehabilitate the child with its birth parents following birth
2. The first child where the circumstances of the parents and the risk to the child mean that there is no proactive plan for the child to be return to its birth parents or any other family members
3. Where parents have indicated that they wish their child to be adopted but have not given formal consent
4. Other circumstances where placing a child with a dual approved carer may be in the best interests of the child. Concurrent planning is an example of this
Concurrent planning is where there is a plan for the child to be rehabilitated to its birth parent/s but they are placed with carers who are dual approved as both foster carers and adopters (and who support the idea that the child may return to its birth family).
Given this difference to fostering for adoption, it is likely that concurrent carers could take a child where there is slightly more risk that the child might return home to birth family.
If the courts decide the child should not be returned to family then the carer/adopter will continue to care for that child as an adopted child. The status of the carer then changes to adopter.
Issues to consider:
- There will be issues around continued contact while the courts decide on the child's future which carer need to support
- Preparation for the child returning to family is still a consideration up to the point where the judge agrees the child cannot return home
- Because of the risk of disruption carers need to be resilient and be able to put the needs of the child first. However, careful planning for all outcomes is required to ensure all parties receive the necessary support
I am interested, what are the next steps?
We welcome enquiries from prospective adopters interested in fostering to adopt or concurrent planning. There are no restrictions on who can apply in terms of age, marital status, gender, sexuality or ethnicity.
If you are interested in either scheme please let us know when you make an enquiry.
As you'll be formally trained and approved to foster/adopt the information you receive during the initial stages of your enquiry, the assessment process and training will be different to that which our mainstream adopters receive. We'll work with you to develop a detailed support plan that takes into account your ability to care for a child under such circumstances.
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