In general terms permanence is the long-term plan for the upbringing of a child who has been or is in the care system. Article 20 of the Convention on the Right of the Child requires due regard to be paid to the desirability for continuity in a child’s upbringing.
In England and Wales permanence has been defined in legislation as
“The long-term plan for the child’s upbringing and provides an underpinning framework for all social work with children and their families from family support through to adoption. The objective of planning for permanence is therefore to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond and to give them a sense of security.”
Children Act 1989, Guidance and Regulations Vol. II: care planning, placement, and case review (June 2015).
The evidence base that stability is central to improving outcomes for children and young people is well established and successive governments across the UK have promoted permanence as a key objective in child care policy and practice across the UK. In the context of children in care managing membership of multiple families brings additional complexity in efforts to provide long-term stability.
The main permanence options, in- no order of preference, are
- Long-term foster care
- Permanence orders [Scotland]
- Special Guardianship orders [England and Wales]
- Child Arrangement Orders [England and Wales]
- Residential care
For an overview of these options visit here.
Key principles of permanence
The key principles around which permanence can be built include:
- The welfare of the child is paramount and the voice of the child/young person and those committed to providing long term care for them should be at the forefront of the decision making process alongside the principle ‘is this proposed placement good enough for my child’ 1.11 The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3 Planning Transitions to Adulthood for Care Leavers
- Children and young people develop best when they are brought up in stable loving homes that care for and nurture them through childhood and beyond and fostering services have a responsibility to provide options for this to happen. Policy should be directed at creating a secure base as a fundamental element in children/young people’s experience of permanence.
- Positive relationships are crucial in enabling children/young people to achieve stability; this includes the establishment of ‘emotional permanence. Fostering services must prioritise the development of such relationship between children/young people and their carers
- Local authorities should ensure staff are trained, equipped and supported to prioritise and select appropriate permanence options, using evidence based assessment, planning and decision making tools.
- Policy and practice should include the development of training and other resources tailored to helping build resilience and support the creation of a secure base to promote security and a sense of belonging for both children and those that care for them.
- Achieving permanence is best effected through early planning, robust preparation good communications and partnership working. Successful permanence placements are – timely, well matched and appropriately supported.
- There is a need for effective decision making at the earliest stage possible , permanence planning must be prioritised; delays impact negatively on outcomes for children and young people
- Fostering services should have in place robust recruitment, retention and support packages to ensure a sufficient pool of people able to offer permanence
Fostering services must recognise and deal sensitively and appropriately with the additional complexities that managing membership of multiple families brings in efforts to provide long term stability.