Long Term Foster Care


Permanence Planning Guidance Procedure

Staying Put Supported and Staying Put Lodgings Carers Procedure

This chapter was added to the manual in October 2016.

1. Long Term Fostering Policy Statement

Bedford Borough Council believes that all children have a right to grow up safe and free from harm, with opportunities to maximise their potential to develop and grow and to feel secure and will provide services to promote and secure the upbringing of children by their birth families wherever possible and when in the best interests of the child.

Bedford Borough Council believes in the fundamental right of every child to belong to a family which can meet its needs during childhood and beyond, family and Connected Persons need to be considered first. If no family or connected persons deemed suitable, the preferred option for all children is adoption, especially for under 10's but if not possible, SGO's and long term fostering should be the alternative option.

The child's welfare, safety and needs will be at the centre of this procedure.

The child's wishes and feelings will be actively sought and taken into account in the implementation of this procedure.

Any individual need of a disabled child or a child with special needs will be taken into account when decisions are made in connection with this procedure.

For reference please see Bedford Borough Council 'Looked After Children' Strategy.

2. Placement Options for Permanence

When birth parents are unable to look after and bring up their children they may be able to make secure suitable arrangements for them through Private Law applications or through adoption within the family, or by an informal arrangement with another family member.

In these circumstances the child will not become Looked After and this procedure does not apply to those children.

Where a child has become looked after by Children's Services (Social Care), it may become clear that the child will need alternative care which will last into adulthood and beyond.

A safe and sustainable plan which removes the need for the child to be Looked After long term will usually be the preferred care option for the child.

Wherever possible this will be sought and identified within the wider family in a Connected Person arrangement, and will be achieved through the making of an Adoption Order or more probably a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order. When the Friends and Family or Connected Person Foster Carers become the long term foster carers, the arrangement does not need to be considered at the Fostering Panel re: Matching as such issues will have been addressed at the Fostering Panel.

When placement within the wider family is not an option the child's needs for legal and emotional security (permanence) may be obtained through adoption by adopters not known to the family.

Foster carers may also seek a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order in order to share Parental Responsibility for a child or young person they are caring for and to end the period of being Looked After for the child.

However, it is understood that for some children none of these alternatives will be available, for any of a number of reasons, and they will remain Looked After by the Council.

Security, continuity and stability may be provided for these children through a long term fostering placement which can meet their needs into adulthood. Potential long term foster carers will be made aware of BBC's Staying Put Policy and be prepared to consider this if it becomes appropriate to do so.

In order to maximise opportunities for these placements to be sustained and secure for the child/young person they must be well planned. The strengths and vulnerabilities of both the child and the proposed long term carers must be assessed with particular regard to their ability to manage the relationship between the child and the birth parents safely and any support needs of the child or the carers must be explicitly addressed.

When considering how best to provide a sense of permanence for a young person plans must take account of the strengths of existing relationships, the young person's sense of identity, views about themselves and their preferences, and how best to provide continuity as well as permanence.

All plans for permanence for a child who is Looked After should have their permanence plans presented to the agency decision maker (ADM). If the permanence plan changes, the ADM needs to be notified. For cases in care proceedings the plan must be agreed by the ADM before it is finalised and presented to the court.

3. Criteria for Long Term Fostering

Long term fostering will be the preferred placement option where:

  • A Family Group Conference has been held and assessments of family members have not been successful in identifying potential carers to meet the needs of the child or young person. A permanency planning meeting has looked at the options for the child's best interest and concluded that long term fostering is the best option having ruled out the alternatives i.e. adoption, connected persons and SGO's;
  • The Permanence Plan must recommend that placement within the family is not possible; or
  • A child or young person has had a previous adoption placement which has disrupted.

    The Permanence Plan must recommend that further attempts to place for adoption are inappropriate.

    The adoption agency decision maker must be asked to re-consider the suitability of the child for adoption; or
  • A child is over the age of 10 years.

    The Permanence Plan has recommended that adoption is not appropriate; or
  • A child is under 10 years old, has frequent contact with family members and has a strong sense of identity with the family.

    The Permanence Plan must have recommended that adoption is not appropriate for a child in this situation; or
  • Where a child is under 10 years old and adoption has been agreed by the adoption agency decision maker as the most appropriate plan for the child, but all reasonable attempts to identify potential adopters for the child have failed, both within the county and externally.

    A revised Permanence Plan must recommended that further attempts to place for adoption are inappropriate (delay in securing permanence).

    The ADM must be asked to rescind their Best Interest Decision;
  • Some children will be long term fostered by children with Friends and Family/Connected Persons Foster Carers, who have already been approved as a match with the child. The preferred Permanence Plan for such children is SGO or Adoption.

Whatever the circumstances, the statutory review for the child must endorse the plan for long term fostering as the appropriate Care Plan for the child, and a review should be brought forward if necessary to avoid delay.

Where there is a sibling group of children who are Looked After, planning decisions about long term placement of choice will be made on a case by case basis, considering the needs of each child individually and making decisions about best possible outcomes for each child. Plans to separate siblings can only be agreed at Head of Service level or above.

4. Long Term Fostering

Decisions about long term fostering will be made in order to meet a child's physical and emotional needs and to provide a sense of permanence and identity, which are crucial to the development of the child's sense of self worth and ability to form satisfying relationships in the future.

It is intended that a long term fostering placement will last throughout childhood and into adulthood, including Staying Put, as appropriate for that young person.

'Long term fostering' as a term will be restricted to care planning for permanence.

A child under 14 years old will be considered for long term fostering unless other circumstances dictate otherwise.

5. Procedure for Long Term Fostering

This section does not apply to children placed with Friends and Family/Connected Persons Foster Carers.

The recommendation for long term fostering as the placement option of choice for any child will be made as part of the Permanence Planning Meeting. This should be attended by the fostering team, the child's social worker, the current foster carers and or family finder if available. The meeting will be chaired by the Permanency Team Manager.

Following this recommendation, a Placement Request Form should be completed and sent to the Fostering Team, identifying the need for a long term fostering placement. The recommendation of the Permanence Plan for long term fostering must be confirmed at the child's CLA review as it may represent a change in the Care Plan. The review should be brought forward if necessary to avoid delay in implementing the plan.

Long term fostering placements are planned, individually considered, and matched placements. Requests for a long term placement should be made to the Fostering Team with a copy also sent to the Placements Team. In order to begin Family Finding the Fostering Team will need:

  • A new referral form
  • The Child's Permanence Plan;
  • The amended Care Plan, if appropriate;
  • The most up to date Looked After Review;
  • A profile of the child prepared by the current carers and supported by their supervising social worker;
  • The Child's Permanence Report prepared by the case holding social worker.

The Fostering Team will identify a worker to take on the Family Finder role for the child, and will begin to look for potential long term carers for the child, initially from within the Boroughs' known foster carers expressing an interest to offer long term care. This piece of work may include a family finding meeting to further identify the child's needs; ethnicity, geographical etc.

When a possible family (or families) is/are identified general information about the child (which does not identify him or her) will be provided to the potential carers by the child's social worker and/or the family finder social worker.

This information will include factual details about age, gender, any health considerations or disability, any educational needs identified within the young person's PEP for example.

The supervising social worker, of the potential carer, and/or the Family Finding social worker and the child's social worker will meet any/all potential carers together to answer any questions and to provide further information about the child's needs.

The potential carers should also have an opportunity to meet and hear about the child from the current carers, supported by their supervising social worker, unless deemed inappropriate in any particular situation.

If after 3 months no Bedford Borough approved carers are identified as suitable carers for the child/young person, resources can be made available via BAP to try and attract and access potential carers from outside the council's own pool of approved carers.

6. Matching Meeting

This section does not apply to children placed with Friends and Family/Connected Persons Foster Carers.

A 'needs and matching' meeting will be held to discuss the child's assessed needs, and the alternative long term fostering placements available, to identify the carers most likely to be able to offer secure and sustainable care into adulthood.

When potential carers are identified a matching meeting needs to be arranged.

The Supervising social worker of any possible identified carers must complete the matching form. This identifies the skills and competencies of the potential carers in relation to the child seeking a long term placement. The Matching Report and Support Plan - to follow is completed at this meeting and if the long term carer is a match this report an support plan forms part of the bundle which is presented to the fostering panel, to be considered as a match. If it is not agreed, then reasons need to be clearly documented and shared with the potential long term carer(s). This may be the case if there are 2 or more families being considered.

The social worker for the child will provide the Child's Permanence Report which should provide comprehensive information about:

  • The current and predicted needs of the child;
  • The child's experiences to date;
  • The nature of the child's attachments;
  • The child's behaviours, responses to particular situations, likes, fears, favourite things and activities;
  • Anything else that will assist the carers to understand the day to day needs of the child.

Contributions from other professionals or the Child and Family Assessment or any other assessment can be included.

Where there are developmental or health issues that may impact on the child's future needs, it will be good practice for the prospective long term foster carers to be given an opportunity to meet with the Medical Advisor for the Panel.

The better informed the carers are, the better able they will be to consider including the child in their family and of meeting the child's changing needs.

The 'needs and matching' meeting will be chaired by the Team Manager of the Fostering Team.

People attending the meeting should include:

  • The child's social worker;
  • The Team Manager for the case holding team;
  • The Fostering Team Manager of the child's current placement;
  • The supervising social worker for the current carers;
  • The worker with the Family Finding role for the child.

The current carers and the professional assistant who may be working with the child may also be invited, as may others, where it seems appropriate to help decision making and planning for the child.

The meeting will consider the options available and will make a recommendation about the preferred long term foster carers.

If the preferred carers are not yet approved as long term carers, the recommendation will be 'in principle' pending their approval.

The proposed match will need to be presented to the next available Fostering Panel for recommendation, and be approved by the agency decision maker.

7. Approval of New Carers

Where the preferred prospective long term foster carers are not currently Bedford Borough Council carers, they will have to be assessed as new carers for the Borough and be approved a long-term carers by Fostering Panel.

When the Friends and Family or Connected Person Foster Carers become the long term foster carers, the arrangement does not need to be considered at the Fostering Panel re: Matching as such issues will have been addressed at the Fostering Panel re: Approval.

This assessment will follow the assessment process for all applicants and will include attendance at 'Skills to Foster' workshops, evidence of competencies etc. Their assessment and training may be focused around the specific needs/experiences and behaviours of the particular child.

When the selected carers have been approved as long term carers by the Fostering Panel, formal 'matching' with the child can be presented to Fostering Panel for consideration.

The approval as long term carers and matching can take place at the same Panel meeting, so long as carers are recommended for approval before any recommendation for matching.

8. Change of Approval from Short Term to Long Term

This section does not apply to children placed with Friends and Family/Connected Persons Foster Carers.

If carers who are currently approved as short term carers for Bedford Borough Council seek to be approved as long term carers they must be re-approved by the Fostering Panel. The panel will need the matching report and minutes from the Panel meeting when the carers were initially presented for approval.

If carers who are approved by another agency as short term carers seek to be approved as long term carers they must be re-assessed and approved by Bedford Borough Fostering Panel as long term carers.


New medical assessments will be required of carers from other agencies who seek to become long term carers for Bedford Borough.

Where the carers are approved as short term carers for Bedford Borough Council the Medical Adviser should be informed of the carers' intentions to seek re-approval.

This will allow consideration of any possible impact of any medical condition on the carers proposal to change to long term carers.

An up to date medical will be required if the previous medical was completed over one year ago.

9. When Current Short Term Carers offer a Long Term Placement to the Child Seeking Permanence

In some situations, foster carers form a close attachment to a fostered child and when the plan changes to long term fostering the current short term carers may ask to be considered as long term carers for the child. See the Long Term Fostering Flowchart.

Such placements may promote the security of a child and encourage further development of attachments to the carers and their family.

In some cases foster carers may wish to share Parental Responsibility for the child and will seek a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangements Order and the child will cease to be looked after.

Where carers seek to remain as foster carers and change their approval to long term foster carers in order to continue caring for a child in placement with them each case must be considered individually, bearing in mind:

  • The current and likely future needs of the child;
  • The availability of alternative approved long term foster carer;
  • The length and quality of the current placement, the quality of the attachments already formed;
  • The risks to the child in a change of placement;
  • The contact plans (if parents and family members are aware of the current placement, will there be additional risks if the placement becomes the plan for permanence);
  • The plans of the carers in respect of other short term placements and the impact of these on the child needing permanence via long term fostering.

The matching report must be completed by supervising social workers, and a matching meeting needs to be arranged with the case holding social workers assistance, for carers approved as short term carers who wish to become long term carers.

The foster carers review and recommendation for change of approval needs to acknowledge the different tasks and roles for carers when caring for an individual child until their independence and beyond.

The capacity to be able to provide the young person with the sense of permanence and to more fully integrate the child into the carers' family needs to be evidenced.

The proposals as to how the family intends to meet any identity, cultural or religious needs of the child need to be explicit, and put forward for Panel's consideration where the placement is not a cultural match.

The supervising social worker needs to ensure that the carers have considered the impact on themselves and different members of their family of a decision to commit themselves to the long term care of this child.

The child's social worker needs to consider how the skills and competencies of the known carers can be harnessed-if they can-to meet the changing needs of the child through the rest of his or her growing up.

The advantages of maintaining existing relationships (if of quality) and existing networks that contribute to resilience (school, leisure activities) should be balanced against risks associated with age or health issues for example.

The Panel will need this form together with the minutes of the Panel when the carers were originally presented for approval if within the last five years.

10. Independent Agency Short Term Carers

Where the current short term carers for a child are approved by another agency, and there is evidence that the placement is the most likely to meet the long term needs of the child the carers must be encouraged to become Bedford Borough Council carers. If the carers do not agree to become Bedford Borough Council carers, an application should be made to BAP regarding funding and movement.

Where it is agreed that this provides the best care and placement option for the child the carers must be approved as long term carers by their own agency panel.

Once approved as long term carers the 'matching' must be done by Bedford Borough's Foster Panel.

It will be a condition of approval as long term carers that no other child will be placed without the prior knowledge and agreement of Bedford Borough Council.

11. Panel Procedures for Matching

If the Foster Carers are approved by Bedford Boroughs' Foster Panel (i.e. in-house foster parents) the panel will need:

  • Carer's review Short Term - Long Term;
  • Updated medical in relation to Long Term;
  • Child's Permanence Report on each child;
  • Matching Report on each child;
  • Permanency Planning Meeting - summary sheet.

If the foster carers are approved by an Independent Fostering Agency

The Placements Team should obtain confirmation that the carer(s) are approved as long term foster carers. If they are not, the foster carers must first have their status, as long term foster carers, approved by the Fostering Panel of the Independent Fostering Agency.

Then the Bedford Borough Fostering Panel will need:

  • Up to date carer's review (within last 3 months);
  • Review to address understanding of difference between short term and long term;
  • Why carers want long term for these children;
  • Evidence of relationship with children in placement, managing behaviour;
  • Ability to manage children into adulthood;
  • Short report from independent fostering agency manager that they agree with recommendation;
  • Confirmation that all checks are up to date, including a new medical update in relation to long term;
  • Child's Permanence Report on each child;
  • Matching report on each child;
  • Permanency Planning Meeting - summary sheet.

12. After the Panel Meeting

It is considered good practice to mark this event in the life of the child.

The agency decision maker will be invited to send a letter to the child/young person confirming the long term placement decision.

A placement planning meeting should be convened as soon as possible after the recommendation for 'matching', in order to plan in detail the work to be completed with:

  • The child making sense of their story, more work on wishes and hopes for the future planning goodbyes working out contact checking and rechecking that the child is 'moving' emotionally;
  • The child's family continuing support planning contact, dealing with any conflict checking and rechecking that they understand the plan and its' implications;
  • The current carers and their family continuing support planning introductions and move considering any other children in placement and impact considering carers' children and impact;
  • The long term carers and their family work with the carers and their children continuing work around contact preparation for managing changing relationships.

Appendix 1: Long Term Fostering Flowchart

Click here to see Appendix 1: Long Term Fostering Flowchart