Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Early permanence: the partner policy of GIRFEC

We`ve had warnings in the Scottish Daily Mail that parents who reject Named Persons could face a visit from a social worker but dig back through the documents and the early warnings were there that social workers were going to get more involved.

For instance, from the Education and Culture Committee, November 2013, we have How could decision-making processes be improved?

The committee`s view is that GIRFEC principles make the difference to outcomes - whatever that means to real families in practice - but do admit that this can lead to earlier and more frequent interventions that result in more children coming into care. In other words, they are well aware of the implications.

As a way to address these issues the committee believes that  GIRFEC should have a partner policy: early permanence.

`Permanence` is a term that covers legal orders which fix children firmly in a `forever family` with no way back. That could be `reunification with the family` of concern, kinship care or adoption which is the preferred arrangement since once that is done no judge in the land will undo it. Another way to look at this is to see that procedures have to be managed `early` because adopters for older children are thin on the ground.

If you want early interventions such as these, joining pieces of low level wellbeing concerns together in a report, that has the result of amplifying potential problems, in theory at least, is one of the best ways to go about it. So is parallel planning.

Parallel planning
"We want to promote parallel planning, where local authorities start to plan for potential permanence at the same time as working with families towards reunification. This does not prejudge the outcome but it does mean that if reunification is not possible a plan is already in place to help ensure the child has a permanent home as quickly as possible."
 Parallel planning originated in America as many of these schemes do. What happens is that a potential adopter becomes the foster carer of the baby/child  while the team that wraps around the birth family decides whether or not the child should be returned to their care. Parents in this situation haven`t a hope of that happening. The bottom line is to say: the child has settled well with the foster carer; it would not be in the child`s best interest to return it to what may be a precarious situation. It`s a rigged system. 

The committee also say:
"Both early intervention and early permanence are needed to meet our aims of reducing the number of children on long term supervision requirements and increasing the numbers finding secure legal permanence. Focusing on these two areas in the years ahead, and through the shared actions set out in this response, will lead to a system of intervention and substitute care that wraps around the child and is effective, affordable and swift."
Since more children are going to be taken into care, processing the cases faster, looks like the answer. It is understandable that cash strapped local authorities want to reduce the amount of time they spend working with families, that is, the amount of time they spend with children on long term supervision requirements. But that thinking looks more like an attempt to improve the situation for the system [reducing costs] rather than improving it for families. Given that many cases will begin with low level wellbeing concerns the amount of false positives are bound to increase. Rushing these cases through the system, with no way back, will be an injustice for many families. That does not worry Aileen Campbell.
 "In oral evidence, the Minister described ‘tangible progress’ in terms of adoptions from care doubling; and large increases in the proportion of younger children becoming looked after." [That is, on supervision requirements which must be processed swiftly.]

What does Promoting adoption positively actually mean in these circumstances?

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