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Kinship care and Fostering Panel(18 Posts)
Hi there we really hope there is someone who will read this and can offer some advice. Thank you in advance.
Here are our two questions and what follows provides context:
1.How will Panel react to the huge disagreement between us and the independent SW (ISW) on the legitimacy of the Report?
2.When we get called in would it be best for the ISW to remain or should we request she leave?
We are at out wits end and our Panel is on Thursday. We are looking after our grand-daughter (gd) in an illegal foster placement for the last 20 months, since she was 1 year. She is with us under a section 20. It is an extremely complicated case but we have just finished our kinship care fostering assessment by an ISW brought in by the LA on instructions from the Court. She was given 8 weeks to complete the assessment. We have always got on with our gd?s SWs and they think we are great. Our gd?s Court Guardian also supports us to go for SG after this assessment. The ISW is not recommending us to Panel and her report is a total character assassination. She believes we have no attachment to our gd, however she states earlier in the report that we are our gd?s world. She only ever saw our gd when interviewing us, at no time did she specifically spend time with our gd. Her argument is all about lack of attachment and my emotional instability shown when I got upset discussed past events in my life (reliving painful memories). She gave us 1 day to get our inaccuracies back to her before it had to be filed with Court. We gave her 4 A4 pages of factual inaccuracies within the report these were not things we just disagreed with but rather things that were untrue ? like I brought up my siblings which I didn?t because my grandparents looked after us when my mother worked. Or our gd has a paternal great grandmother name? No the name is my husband mother so she has another maternal great grandmother. She refused to change 3 out of the 4 pages of errors (two examples included) because she had ?checked her notes?. She has only contacted us by email but has offered to see us about the report. When she refused to put right all the inaccuracies we did not see the point in contacting her. We heard nothing. We found out by ringing the LA that we should still go to panel and when the deadline for our comments about the report had to be with them. We also found out whom to send them to. The day of the deadline she emailed us to say she had sent the report to Panel and told us we needed our comments in today. Again offered to see us about the report before panel ? she also said she would tell us the time of the panel when she knew. We replied giving her our comments and also saying that we would see her if it was in our gd?s best interests. We have heard nothing.
She has quoted sources to back up her argument but not cited them (pretending the words are hers). She has used other court documents to quote sections to back up her argument but left out key words/sentences in retyping them to alter the meaning given. We do not want the Panel to just throw the case out as this delays us even further as we are likely to lose the current backing we have by the LA if we are not approved and they may remove our gd from our care. This is a nightmare.
As you can imagine we are petrified about Panel. We have been warned by our gd?s SW and our solicitor that Panel is unlikely to go against the ISW?s assessment. We do not want to turn this into a slanging match. Any advice as to how we handle panel would be most welcome. Sorry for the very long post.
I'm sorry to hear about this, it sounds a complete mess. I'm afraid I haven't got anything helpful to add except to say a) our SW got loads of details wrong in writing up our report for adoption panel (though corrected them when asked); and b) you might like to re-post this in "Adoptions" too to get some more traffic
I have no words of wisdom but do wish you well. Sadly we have found that social workers in whatever position cannot write their notes as well as listen to you and so, so, so often misconstrue and misquote what is said.
I am sorry for your situation and do wish you a good outcome. I hope that the panel are sensible and child loving people which I am sure they are and you can speak to them as an equal and as someone who loves their gd very much.
Do let us know how you get on. Thinking of you. xx
Hmm you are in a very difficult position Prinizzi I was a sw and tm mgr of a fostering and adoption team for 25 years before I retired. Then I worked independently for 5 years, mostly carrying out kinship care assessments. I met some wonderful people caring for their relatives, and thankfully mostly I was only too happy to recommend them to Panel, especially as the outcome for kinship placements are very good.
I have also been a Fostering Panel advisor for the LA that I worked for. In a case like this I would have a meeting with the panel manager and the ISW and see if we could find some middle ground. We would certainly not go ahead until we were clear about all the facts. As you quite rightly say there is little point in quoting sources if you do not include a bibliography at the end of the report. Without that these "sources" are meaningless. Can I ask how you know she has copied things from other court documents but altered the meaning to back up her assessment.
You say her main criticism seems to be around attachment. She clearly knows little about attachment theory if she says you have no attachment to your gr dghtr. Children have secure attachments to carers when their needs are met in a nurturing and loving way, insecure when their needs are not met, and ambivalent if sometimes their needs are met and not others. Sometimes children have attachment disorder if they are abused or severely neglected, but you can't have no attachment. Many sws misunderstand the attachment theory and she sounds like one of them.
The other thing is that an attchment between a child and parents/carers can only be observed by the interaction between the child and adult concerned. There is no other way of diagnosing attachment behaviour and you say the ISW has not seen you with your grdghtr for any length of time. To be honest it doesn't take long to observe a secure attachment - it can be seen by the way a child turns to the parent or carer, puts out her arms to be held, climbs on the parent's lap and asks for (even if non verbal) attention and that is given.
You won't have the option to ask that the ISW is not in the room for panel. Anyone who has carried out an assessment has to be part of the process. She can be asked questions by panel members. I honestly can't say how this process will go for you. Legally if the panel turn you down as kinship carers, the child should be removed, but given that this child has already been with you for so long illegally as you say (and this is very often the case) this hardly seems likely.
You have the support of the child's sw and the guardian so that is a good thing. It does seem from that that this ISW has got it wrong. I think your best move is to consult a solicitor (someone who is experienced in child care law because a lot of them aren't) and if you are turned down by the panel, the lawyer may be able to go to court to request an Interim Residence Order which would mean that the child could not be moved from you if the court were in your favour. I have known of a case like this before when the LA tried to move an aunt's 2 children for no real reason and the lawyer immediately put in an application for an Interim Residence Order and was sucessful.
You can google ROs, and Special Guardianship Orders (they are also routes to permanency) and most LAs will expect a kinship carer to apply for an SGO rather than a young child be in foster care. It's also cheaper for them because they don't have to pay fostering allowances and can close the case.
Finally IF this panel goes ahead, and I suspect it could be postponed, do try to keep calm and be factual rather than critical of the ISW. This will mean that you will show yourselves in a good light to panel. Actually the more I think about this the more I am wondering why the LA didn't ask you to apply for an SGO. which would be a far better way of achieving permanency. Mind they could have asked for an ISW to carry out the SGO assessment.
PM me if you need to and keep me posted. Happy to help further if I can.
Dear Nananina, Fosterangel and FamiliesShareGerms - thank you for taking the time to post, it means a lot.
To answer your first question Nananina we were given a copy of our daughter's assessment by our daughter and so looked the quote up and found out that several words/sentences were missing which made the situation sound far more serious than it actually was. In this instance she did quote the source which is how we were able to find it. The other quotes are from a paper by Jim Walker on attachment theory which we found simply by my husband being an academic who can recognise a citation when he sees one. These were not cited at all but rather started "in my opinion" . . . then the quote.
As far as SGO is concerned - we (via our solicitor) have told the LA that we are happy to go for an SGO and in fact the ISW verbally told us that we would pass one which is why we were so shocked when we got her report which did not recommend us. We did argue at the time over the differences stating that either we were good enough to raise our gd or we were not - there should not be different levels. Our main concern here is that the LA could remove our gd before we finally get approved under an SGO especially as we are currently paying our own legal costs which we cannot afford to do through SGO - we were relying on getting LA funding for our legal costs as suggested by both our gd's SW and her Guardian. We understand this will not be possible if we are not recommended by panel.
Our solicitor advised us to wait and see the Panel's reaction before trying to get ourselves attached to the proceedings in order to go for SGO. We do understand that we can represent ourselves which if we are not successful at Panel we might have to do.
Thank you for the heads up that the ISW will be in with us at Panel and so we will practice making our answers non-confrontational.
Just a final question? If the Panel throw our case out due to the huge disparity between our response and the initial report - there is a court hearing early in December - is that likely to be cancelled too or might it go ahead even though there is no outcome from the Panel?
Thank you, Prinizzi
It sounds as though the LA are in care proceedings with this case. It seems that the child's sw and the guardian are satisfied that you are able to meet your gr/dghtrs needs in all respects. You mentioned that the court requested an ISW assess you as kinship carers. I am confused as to why, the LA did not assess you as SGOs in the first place. You don't need to be legally represented to aply for an SGO, as you can only do so with a positive recommendation from the LA. Am I missing something here?
However you have a lawyer so presumably he/she will advise on the best course of action. If the panel turn you down, the lawyer seems to be suggesting that you are made a party to the proceedings and the court can hear of your wish to apply for an SGO.
I'm sorry I can't advise you about the Fostering Panel as all panels operate differently.
Thank you we will let you know how Panel goes on Thursday.
Sorry I might have given you incorrect advice in saying that you can only apply for an SGO with the support of the LA. I don't think that is the case bu do check it out.
Yes be interested to hear how you get on. The thing is panels are always very busy and it depends on the agenda really. In the LA that I worked for we would ensure that sufficient time was put aside to deal with this complicated matter, but as I said so much depends on the way LAs run their panels.
One of our main problems has been getting the LA to agree to anything. They verbally give agreement but we have had nothing in writing over the whole 20 months.
One question we just through of as no-one has told us - do we take our gd to panel? Will the Panel want to see her? Anyone know?
Sorry I really should proof read - I meant 'thought of'.
No, the guardian is not usually part of the panel process as her brief is to ensure (as an idependent person, an employee of CAFCASS, that the child's best interests are served. She/he will produce a report to the court, with a recommendation. Guardians are usually very influential in court, but they are overloaded with work, and so their reports may not be as comprehensive as the ones I recall.
I think it's important that you don't confuse the Fostering Panel with legal proceedings in court. The Fostering Panel's duty is of course to study the assessment very carefully, and take up any issues they need to clarify with the writer of the report. This is done by the Panel Manager and the Panel Advisor. The panel is multi disciplinary, so there will be a Chair, minute taker, Advisor, rep from Health, rep from Education, a fostering social worker, a social worker for children, an independent member (possibly 2) SO it is a lot of people seated around a table. The writer of the report will be there too. Normally there is a positive recommendation and the Panel will raise certain issues with the applicants - it's not meant to be a Q and A session but it is a bit like that. Some applicants are nervous and the panel do their best to put them at ease. I somehow don't think you will be in that caregory! The applicants have a chance to raise any issues with the panel members and the usual process is then for the panel to recommend approval. I say recommend because as a formality the papers have to be passed to the Agency Decision Maker (A senior Manager designated for this task) and then a letter goes out to the applicants confirming their approval.
I honestly have no idea how the LA will proceed with your case. I only know how it would be dealt with in the LA for which I worked.
Still wonder why the LA didn't assess you for an SGO, rather than messing about a kinship care application. The thing is LAs now will almost always press relatives into applying for an SGO, for the reasons I've already said...........curious!
Yes we agree curious. Sorry I should not have used abbreviations. I wanted to know if we should take our grand-daughter to panel with us? No-one has given us any advice whatsoever so we have assumed not but don't know officially and would hate to leave her at home if it was expected that we take her.
No you won't be expected to take the child with you. Sorry I got it wrong!
Well no surprises we did not get approved. Interestingly the Panel did not refer to the Report at all. They failed us because they felt we could not guarantee or explain in detail how we were going to bring up our gd different to how we brought up her mother. I will be making a separate post called "Parenting Questions Help" here and in Adoptions to ask for help if anyone has any ideas as we will get the same questions asked at Court.
Are you aware that the panel can only recommend to the Agency Decision Maker (a Senior Manager) and he/she can agree or not. They almost always agree but that doesn't mean you can't have a meeting with the snr mgr to put your point of view across. That business about how your own son or daughter was brought up, I thought had been "kicked into the long grass" as it is now recognised that over a generation families can change a lot and with age you can become more mature, settled, maybe in a better financial position etc. I think most grandparents (myself included) have far more patience with out gr chdrn than with our own kids.
The other thing is You could find a lawyer to apply for an interim Residence Order for you before they move the child. A lawyer can get into court very quickly for an Interim REsidence Order and if agreed this takes the Parental Reponsbility away from the LA and you share PR with the birthparents. I worked on a case where I had assessed the aunt and uncle and they had been approved and had the children for 2 years and then the LA had some notion that the children had to be moved because the school report said the kids were often late for school! The aunt was on the ball and got hold of a lawyer and they got an IRO agreed by the court the day the LA confirmed they were moving the children. Time is of the essence here.
If it is granted then the usual step is to proceed to apply for a Residence Order and the LA have to do a report for the court on you. You have the child's sw on your side and the guardian, but the guardian wouldn't do a report for a RO and probably not the child's sw either, although some do - depends on the LA. I wouldn't normally recommend a Residence Order because the better Order is the Special Guardianship Order, which gives greater security to the child. I can explain all that if necessary at a later stage.
Hope you can get something sorted out. I think it is terrible to turn you down on the basis that they did, and this child has been with you for 20 months, and they want to move her again. The most important time in a child's life is the first 3 years of life, which lays the foundation for later life. Hope you can put up a fight to keep her.
Sorry I have just re read your post. You mention adoption and "getting the same questions asked in court" - I'm not sure what you mean by this. YOu did say this was a complicated case. Is there more to it - PM me if you like.
Just a quick note to say we've edited out the real-life name from Prinizzi's post.
Thanks. I noticed the name too - I think it's easily done when you are tapping away!
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