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SS 95-97 of the Adoption and Children Scotland Act 2007 make specific provision for the variation of the CSO where the PO or POA is already lodged in Court. The social worker should request that the Reporter arranges a Hearing to review the CSO. The procedure in terms of notification and submission of reports is exactly as it would be for any other review. The Hearing will also proceed as usual. It is only at the point where the panel members are making their decisions that there is any difference. Rather than varying the CSO, the panel members will ask the Reporter to write to the Court so that the Court can give permission for the next Hearing to make the variation. This decision is not appealable. Whether or not the Court agrees with the recommendation of the Hearing, the case will be referred back to a Hearing for those panel members to make a substantive decision in relation to the CSO. This decision can be appealed.
It depends. The principle consideration is a thorough assessment based on the individual circumstances of the foster children; the 4th child and the foster carer.
In December 2014, Regulations came into force which amend the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 (“the 2009 Regulations”) to make provision for a placement limit in relation to the number of children that may be placed with a foster carer at any one time.
Regulation 2(5) inserts regulation 27A into the 2009 Regulations to provide that a local authority must not place a child with a foster carer where the placement would result in more than 3 children being placed with that foster carer at any one time.
The limit does not apply when a group of more than 3 siblings are being placed by a local authority or when an emergency placement of a child with a foster carer in accordance with regulation 36 of the 2009 Regulations or a short–term placement of less than 4 weeks would result in more than 3 children being placed with that carer.
The exceptions to the rule are where related children are involved but also appear to enable a child to be placed on an emergency basis, ie where a CPO has been taken and the child needs to be placed somewhere until the 2nd Working Day Hearing occurs. The other exception of 4 weeks would allow a child to be placed with a family perhaps under an Interim Compulsory Supervision Order or where there has been a placement breakdown and the child must be accommodated. The Regulation does not specifically refer to these instances but the exceptions would make sense in the circumstances.
If we look at the purpose of the Regulation we can see that it was put in place following consultation and broad agreement for its need. It was to ensure that the carer was not overwhelmed with the needs of multiple children and placed under too much stress. This would be unfair on the carer, but also reduce the likelihood of her being able to meet the individual and often complex needs of each child, whether or not they were related.
In the respite situation, the child's placement would remain unaltered, whereas in the scenarios above, the child's main place of residence, albeit for the short-term, would be with a foster carer. The Regs refer to " placement" and the controversy is whether a respite placement is in fact a "placement" in terms of the rule given that the child's permanent place of residence would be the parental. The 4th child's main place of residence would not be with the foster carers. They therefore presumably will not have the additional work of attending LAC reviews, Hearings, being involved in planning for the child etc.
It may be wise to speak directly to the Care Commission and seek their advice about a particular situation, specifying the reason why the plan represents the best needs of the child and what supports you undertake to put in place. That way, you can achieve what you want to but do so with peace of mind.
What the Care Commission will look at are the supports being offered to the carer to enable them to meet the needs of each child within their care, which is in line with the ethos of the Regs, namely to support the carer to provide all children with the best care experience. They will also look at what an alternative arrangement would mean for the child. For example, if the child knew the respite carer, perhaps having been fostered there and they were used to meeting his additional needs, then placing him with unfamiliar carers could very well result in confusion for the child and worry for the birth parents. It could be argued that the consequent unnecessary worry and strain might undermine the likelihood of success of the rehabilitation plan.
The Care Commission will most likely want to look carefully at the assessment process to see evidence of the preparation and review done to ensure that the respite arrangement serves the needs of the child, the other children in the home and importantly that the carer feels adequately supported.
So to recap, each case will be looked at individually. The agency should carry out a thorough assessment of the needs of each child and the capacity of the carer to meet the needs of each child and the agency’s commitment to supporting everyone, then the Care Commission may well look favourably on the decision to have 4 children in a placement at the one time.