Placement Planning, Placement Stability and Placement Disruptions


In October 2020, this chapter was updated throughout to reflect local guidance.

1. Placement Planning Meetings

Placement Planning meetings should be convened as part of the process of identifying and placing a child - as set out in the Placements in Foster Care Procedure and the Placements in Residential Care Procedure. Before the child is placed, or within 72 hours if placed in an emergency, the child's social worker will arrange a Placement Planning Meeting after liaising with the carer and the foster carer's supervising social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency). This meeting will be chaired by the supervising social worker.

The purpose of this meeting is to confirm that the placement meets the child/young person's needs and develop plans for the placement. This is to include the date the placement will commence, completion of the remaining parts of the Placement Plan and discussion regarding delegated authority to the foster carer. Liaison with the Conference and Review Service will occur to ensure a date is set within 20 days of placement for the statutory review.

Where further issues arise which need to be resolved in relation to day to day arrangement for the placement, a further placement planning meeting should be held.

A Needs and Matching Meeting is required when a decision is made about matching, and the decision to progress to matching must be clearly recorded in the minutes. The Team Manager of the Fostering Team will chair this meeting.

The social worker and home manager/foster carers supervising social worker will agree the best venue for the meeting.

The people listed below should contribute to the meetings:

  1. The child’s social worker and/or other professional associated with the child e.g. Personal Adviser or advocate;
  2. The child;
  3. The child’s parents;
  4. For children in residential care, the child’s keyworker and, where appropriate the home manager;
  5. For children in foster care, the foster carers and their supervising social worker.

Before any meeting, the chairperson should obtain or be updated on the following, if available:

  • The child's Placement Plan;
  • Any work which has been undertaken in supporting the child’s placement;
  • If relevant: the child’s Care Plan, Personal Education Plan and Pathway Plan.

Where the proposed placement has the effect of disrupting the arrangements made for the child's education and training - see Education of Looked After Children Procedure.

The chairperson should also ensure that the child, parent(s) and others who have been asked to contribute understand the purpose of the meeting, how it will be conducted and are given the opportunity to put their views and suggestions.

If there are concerns about the suitability of the placement, consideration should be given to the following:

  • Whether it is possible to sustain the placement until the next Looked After Review by, for example, providing additional support to the placement;
  • Bringing forward the date of the next Looked After Review;
  • Ending the placement.

2. Placement Stability

The primary objective of all staff working with a looked after child is to ensure that the child is appropriately placed and supported in order to maximise stability and to develop strong attachments lasting into adult life.

Placement stability is critical to the emotional wellbeing and overall outcomes of children who are in our care. Educational progress will be impaired for looked after children with multiple moves and exclusions from education is often a key factor in placement instability.

Regardless of placement type, as corporate parents we must do everything possible to work together to ensure placement stability and minimise the risk of multiple placement moves.

There are often warning signs before a placement reaches the point at which a breakdown may occur. The Placement Support Meeting (PSM) is a means to respond to these warning signs, by bringing together the foster carer and all other professionals involved to identify the right support to the placement.

It is essential that all placements have the required level of support at the outset, to mitigate against unplanned placement moves.

The Placement Planning Meeting must be held at the outset of the placement to consider the support needs of the foster carer. A support plan must be completed by those present at the Placement Planning Meeting. This can be subsequently reviewed through a Placement Stability Meeting.

2.1 Purpose of a Placement Stability Meeting

The Placement Stability Meeting has a key role to play in ensuring that resources are identified and explored in order to develop creative responses to maintain placement stability.

The support may come from a range of services and be provided directly to the child, the carers or both.

Everybody has equal responsibility – a child or young person, a foster carer, children’s social worker, IRO, or a supervising social worker can request a Placement Stability Meeting.

2.2 Convening a Placement Stability Meeting

A Placement Stability Meeting should be convened by the Fostering Supervising Social Worker or the child’s Social Worker at the earliest warning signs of placement instability. Where a child or young person has experienced one unplanned placement breakdown (i.e. has had 2 placements in a 12 month period that have not been a planned part of their care plan) Placement Stability Meetings should continue at 4-6 weeks for the first three months of their new placement or until the child/young person, foster carers, parents, social workers and relevant professionals agree that the stability of the placement is such that the frequency of Placement Stability Meetings can be reduced.

For in house foster placements the Fostering Team Manager should chair the first meeting and for independent foster placements the first meeting will be chaired by the Team Manager for the child or young person’s social worker. Subsequent meetings will be chaired by the foster carers Supervising Social Worker. The child, where appropriate, child’s Social Worker, Team Manager and other professionals including the designated teacher should attend. The IRO should be sent a copy of the minutes and action plan.

This meeting is essential to placement stability and should be given priority.

Where a placement is clearly at risk of imminent breakdown, a meeting must be held within 1 working day, with additional home visits and telephone consultation offering immediate assistance. All PSM’s should be held as soon as possible with the urgency being dictated by the fragility of the placement.

The Manager of Looked After Children and relevant Manager for the child’s social worker will be alerted by the child’s social worker to all cases where a Placement Stability Meeting is being held, to provide additional monitoring and oversight of placement instability.

The agenda for the PSM should include/consider the following:

  • Purpose of the Meeting;
  • Analysis/identification of presenting problems, triggers;
  • Voice of the Child;
  • Views of child’s social worker, supervising social worker, foster carer and other Professionals;
  • Outcomes of recent (termly) PEP and results of SDQ’s;
  • Referral to CAMHS / other forms of counselling where required;
  • Direct support for the carers/child;
  • Respite and or day-care for the child to support the carers;
  • Practical support for the carers- help with cleaning, transport (where applicable);
  • Additional support from within fostering for the carers - buddies, “peer crisis support”, support groups;
  • Additional training needs of carers (e.g. gaps in learning, bespoke training);
  • The child/young person looked after should be invited to attend all or part of the meeting as appropriate. Any decision to hold a placement support meeting without the child present must be made between the children’s social work team, and the fostering service or fostering agency. All children/young people looked after must be made aware of support plans to address issues arising in the placement.

Invitations must go to any children’s social care staff and partner agencies believed to be relevant to contributing to knowledge around an appropriate support package for a child.

2.3 Outcomes of a Placement Stability Meeting

The outcome of the meeting is to establish a clear and effective Placement Support Plan, which offers targeted support. This should be regularly monitored and subject to review at subsequent PSM or LAC reviews.

The placement support plan will be placed on the child’s record. This document will also be scanned onto the foster carer file with the date of review.

Senior Managers will be made aware of placement stability issues to ensure that they have awareness of cases of instability that may require further intervention.

All professionals identified in the support plan will be responsible for agreed actions. The Fostering Supervising Social Worker should monitor actions agreed and escalate outstanding matters to Fostering Team Manager. Any support that requires extra resources will need to be approved by ARP.

If the placement is in house, the Fostering Supervising Social Worker is responsible for minutes. Fostering Business Support will then ensure that these minutes are uploaded onto the carers file and onto child’s file.

If the placement is with an Independent Agency, the child’s Social Worker is responsible for minute taking.

The child’s social worker is responsible for ensuring that the Placement Support Meeting record is on the child's Record.

3. Disruption Meetings

Consideration should always be given to convening a Disruption Meeting in relation to children whose placement has ended abruptly or on an unplanned basis.

For children whose adoptive placement disrupts, a Disruption Meeting must take place - see Disruption of Adoptive Placements Procedure.

Where an agency adoptive placement breaks down prior to the granting of an Adoption Order, a Disruption Meeting must be held to identify the reasons for the breakdown and to learn lessons from the events surrounding the breakdown.

The Disruption Meeting for a pre order adoptive placement will be held no sooner than 4 weeks after and no later than 6 weeks after the placement breaking down, and will follow a set agenda. For a post order adoptive placement or a long term foster placement it must be held no sooner than six weeks but no later than twelve weeks after the placement ending.

An Independent IRO will usually chair the meeting. In complex cases, however, consideration will be given to appointing an independent person as chair.

Those invited, or asked to contribute, should be:

  1. The child;
  2. The parents;
  3. The child's social worker and manager;
  4. The keyworker (for residential care) and home manager;
  5. The foster carer(s) and supervising social worker and/or the adopters, adoption social worker and family finder;
  6. The child's Independent Reviewing Officer;
  7. The child's current carers;
  8. Other relevant staff/professionals including adoption panel chair where appropriate.

The meeting will ensure the child (depending on his or her age and level of understanding) is given the opportunity to understand the reasons for and be supported with managing the transition.

Where appropriate, foster carers must be supported to maintain links with children who leave their care

If anyone who is thought to have an important contribution cannot attend the meeting they should send written notes of speak to the chair before the meeting to convey their views.

The child's social worker will also ensure that the child's views and feelings are given to the meeting in the most appropriate way.

3.1 Disruption Meeting Agenda

Disruption meetings will be chaired by an independent IRO (not the IRO for the child) but in complex cases, consideration will be given to appointing an independent person as chair. The Disruption Meeting agenda will cover the following as laid out in BAAF Good Practice Guide: Dealing with Disruption in fostering and adoption placements:

  1. The reasons/contributing factors for the breakdown and the lessons to be learnt from events surrounding the breakdown;
  2. The child's life in the birth family;
  3. The child's history in care;
  4. The permanent family’s progress from application to matching;
  5. Agency practice;
  6. The birth family’s involvement;
  7. The introduction;
  8. The placement;
  9. The disruption;
  10. Support to placement - including education, special/ additional needs and been hoped and planned for?
  11. Inter-agency working where the case involved more than one agency;
  12. The child now, his/her wishes and feelings about the disruption;
  13. The present and the future
  14. Key issues arising from the placement - what, if anything, might have helped? Is there anything that can be learned from this?
  15. Action plan for the future - including any contact between the child and the family.

Disruption Meetings provide an opportunity to explore and understand they are not held to apportion blame. They should highlight areas for development in practice and plan arrangements to help the child understand the reasons behind the disruption and to provide support with the transition.

3.2 Disruption Meeting Minutes

The Chair, supported by a minute taker, will produce minutes of the meeting which will be circulated to all those who attended and the following Manager for Looked After Children.

Minutes will be taken as per the agenda, including an action plan. The chair will distribute to participants and Manager for the child’s allocated social worker.

It is essential that a copy of the minutes is placed on the child's record. The responsibility for this lies with the child's social worker. A copy to be placed on foster carer/ adopter's file record.

3.3 Post Disruption Contact

Following on from Disruption Meetings, a recommendation may be made regarding future contact arrangements and who receives information regarding the disruption (e.g. birth parents in relation to adoptive breakdowns). Legal advice may need to be taken and the recommendations will need to be part of the review discussion.

3.4 Reporting Disruptions to Adoption Panel or Fostering Panel

The child's social worker and the prospective adopters' social worker should attend the Adoption Panel to present a report from the Disruption Meeting regarding pre order disruption. When this is considered, the Panel should also receive copies of the Panel minutes recommending the adoption plan for the child, the prospective adopters' approval and the placement with the particular prospective adopters, to enable learning points to be shared.

The child's social worker should contact the Panel Administrator to book a date for the Adoption Panel to consider the matter and the relevant documents should be sent to the Panel Administrator 10 working days before the Panel meeting.

Where an Adoption Placement Plan is terminated before the adoptive placement takes place (i.e. during introductions), the adoption social worker for an in-house approved family, or the child's social worker in the case of an inter-agency placement, will prepare a report for the Adoption Panel. The report must outline the reasons for the breakdown.

In all such cases, the Adoption Panel may consider whether the plan for the child should be reviewed and/or whether the prospective adopters' approval should be reconsidered, and these issues may need to be further investigated and reports be presented to a subsequent meeting.

In relation to the disruption of a permanent foster placement, where the foster carers are in-house approved carers, consideration should be given to holding an early Foster Carer Review to consider the foster carer's approval - see Review and Termination of Approval of Foster Carers Procedure.

3.5 Post Disruption Care Planning and Statutory Requirements for CLA Review for Pre-Adoptive Placements

All children in pre-adoptive placements must have a LAC Review within 20 working days after the child has moved from a pre-adoptive placement. In addition to the usual agenda, the LAC Review must consider the current placement and placement arrangements, contact issues with the pre-adoptive parents and who will inform the birth family about the disruption, when and how this will be undertaken.

All disruption meetings must lead to a reappraisal of the care plan. Therefore on completion of the disruption meeting/reporting process the social worker should convene another LAC Review, within 4 weeks of the process above, which may be 8 weeks after the Disruption Meeting. This is to consider the action plan emanating from the Disruption Meeting and any changes required in the care plan or the implementation of the care plan.  Where a significant changes has been agreed, to the child’s care plan the IRO must ensure that these are reflected in the child’s Permanence Plan (i.e. the minute of the Permanence Planning Meeting).