Not all children who come into care can return to live with their parents. In these cases the courts will decide the best option to make sure they are safe, stable and can grow throughout their childhood in a ‘permanent’ home. There are a number of different permanence options for looked after children including permanence orders in Scotland.
Permanence orders were introduced by the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007. Permanence orders can only be applied for by the local authority and are designed to safeguard a child who will not be returning home. A permanence order will remove the child from the children’s hearing system and can last until the child reaches the age of 18. A permanence order can allow foster carers (and others caring for children) to have some or all of the parental rights and responsibilities needed to make day-to-day decisions affecting the child.
Permanence orders consist of two parts:
- Mandatory provisions – this gives the local authority the parental responsibility to provide the child with guidance and the parental right to control where the child lives.
Ancillary provisions – the ancillary provisions are particular to each individual child and their circumstances. The local authority and/or any other person may be given some or all of the parental responsibilities, including responsibility of guidance (except the mandatory right of residence). Ancillary provisions can include contact arrangements, matters in relation to passport applications or foreign travel, and issues relative to medical consent for the child. The main guideline is that they should always be in the best interests of the child. Parents may have some or all responsibilities and/or rights removed but not necessarily.
It is important to note, however, that the child may not be living in their permanent placement while permanence is being sought by the local authority. Where a permanent placement for the child is still being sought, it is very important that the focus continues on completing the permanence plan. An application for a permanence order may also include a request for authority for the child to be adopted. Court rules ask the local authority which sort of permanence order they are applying for, but thereafter the timescales for the process are the same whether the aim is to obtain a permanence order as the means of securing the plan for the child or a permanence order with authority for adoption.
Key points about permanence orders
- A permanence order may be a destination order in itself or it may be a route to adoption.
- Both types are very flexible and signal that a child is not going home.
- Every permanence order gives the local authority the mandatory provision.
- Every permanence order may also have ‘extras’ called ancillary provisions.
- The consent of a child of 12 or over is required unless the child is incapable of consenting for any reason.
- The child’s welfare throughout childhood is the paramount consideration for the court.
- The child’s views must be considered by the court.
- When the permanence order is granted the court or a children’s hearing may terminate the supervision requirement.
- The permanence order may be varied or revoked.
- It does not last beyond 18.
- The child is a looked after child.
- It doesn’t extinguish the child’s legal identity as a member of her/his birth family, unless it is a permanence order with authority for adoption.
It can only be applied for by a local authority.
For more information or advice on permanence orders, contact Fosterline Scotland.