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3.6.1 Short Stays Away


  1. Principles Behind the Policy
  2. Legal Duties
  3. Occasional Overnight Stays
  4. Children in Foster Care Staying with Foster Carers' Extended Family
  5. Planned Longer Term Stays
  6. Stays for Friends at the Home of the Child/Young Person

1. Principles Behind the Policy

1.1 Children looked after want their lives to be as normal as possible and do not want to be seen as being different from their friends.
1.2 The Children and Families Service has a responsibility to promote a policy that complies with its statutory obligations, but enables children it looks after to enjoy normal childhood pastimes without the need to follow unnecessarily restrictive procedures.
1.3 This policy concerns Children/Young People aged 5 to 18 years in Foster Care or Residential Establishments. Generally these stays away will be with children/young people close in age to the Looked After child.

This policy covers stays up to a maximum of 3 nights.

  1. A single overnight stay can be agreed by a Carer;
  2. A stay of 2-3 nights needs to be agreed in consultation with a Social Worker (and wherever possible with the Child/Young Person’s parents). 
1.5 This is guidance. There remains a need to exercise professional judgement (e.g. Consideration of Age, Maturity, any particular vulnerability of the Child/Young Person, Relationship of child/young person with whom s/he is staying).

Caption: terms table
Carer Means Foster Carer or Residential Social Worker
Social Worker Means

The Child or Young Person’s Social Worker; or

His/her manager; or

His/her Team’s Duty or Cover Social Worker; or

The Emergency Social Work Team.

2. Legal Duties

2.1 The Children Act and accompanying Regulations made no provision for the possibility of children 'looked after' staying overnight with friends. Therefore there is no provision under that Act for Disclosure and Barring Service checks (police checks) to be carried out before a 'looked after' child can stay with someone other than their appointed carer.
2.2 A Carer has a duty “to care for the child as if he were a member of the Carer’s family, and to promote his welfare.”  Family Proceedings (Children) Regs. 1991 Reg. 3(6), Sch 2(7).
2.3 The Local Authority  has a duty “to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child.” Children Act 1989 S.22 (3) (a).
2.4 Implicit within these duties is the need for children to be encouraged to pursue a full social life without unnecessary barriers being put in the way.

3. Occasional Overnight Stays

3.1 The duty placed on a Carer presumes that they will act as a “reasonable parent”. It will therefore be a matter for the Carer to decide if a child in their care can stay at another address overnight, e.g. at a school-friend’s home.

The Carer as a “reasonable parent” will be expected to make all reasonable enquiries to satisfy himself or herself that good care will be provided for the child. 

These would include:

  • Knowing the address at which the child will be staying;
  • Knowing who will have responsibility for caring for the child; and
  • Having personally spoken with that responsible adult, to satisfy themselves of their suitability as a temporary carer.
3.3 If parents of an Accommodated child make a request for an overnight stay away which they specify, the child/young person will be considered to be the responsibility of her/his parent. This must be explained to the parent(s) by the Social Worker if possible and the carer if not.
3.4 In some instances parents will not give consent for an overnight stay for their Accommodated Child.  In exceptional circumstances, the Social Worker might decide that the parent is acting unreasonably and go ahead and agree the short stay (the parent has the option to remove the child/young person from Accommodation). Agreeing a stay against the expressed wishes of the parent would occur only in very exceptional circumstances and will be authorised by the worker’s line manager (Team Manager/Principal Officer or Chief Officer). Parents’ views will always be considered and almost always followed.
3.5 The Care Plan and Placement Agreement for a Looked After Child/Young Person should detail the proposed arrangements for Contact including overnight stays, who is consulted and who gives consent. These plans should be available at the statutory reviews.
3.6 For Children on Interim Care Orders or Care Orders, there may be specific conditions regarding Contact with other people. This protocol does not override such conditions. (Similarly if Children/Young People are subject to criminal proceedings, this protocol does not override any conditions made by the court about where the young person should be).
3.7 The Carer should, as a matter of good practice, notify the child’s social worker of any overnight stays beforehand unless there are exceptional circumstances which prevail in which case the worker will be told as soon after the stay as practicable.
3.8 Similarly, the Carer and/or Social Worker will make every effort to inform the parents of the child or young person of any proposed overnight stay as soon as possible. The possibility of overnight stays will be discussed at statutory reviews.
3.9 If the Social Worker in consultation with her/his Supervisor feels that a pattern of frequent or regular overnight contact has developed, the process for longer term stays away should be implemented e.g. Disclosure and Barring Service checks etc.
3.10 The Carers will “check in” with the child/young person and/or his carers during their stay away (i.e. make a Telephone Call to where s/he is staying to ensure s/he is happy and well).
3.11 The Social Worker should record the decision to agree or not to agree an overnight stay and any important considerations in reaching the decision. This record to be added to the Child/Young Person’s file.
3.12 The Carer should also record, that s/he consulted with the Social Worker and the decision reached.
3.13 The carer should keep records of the numbers of occasional overnight stays for each child/young person in their care, including stays with birth/foster carers family members.

4. Children in Foster Care Staying with Foster Carers' Extended Family

4.1 There are situations where a child/young person in a well established foster placement may wish to stay with members of his/her carers’ close extended family. This may be to accompany the carers’ own children.
4.2 In such situations, the same process as outlined in 3 will apply. Agreement of the Parents will be obtained and Social Worker will be  consulted, if possible, before the overnight stay, covering a stay of 2-3 nights.
4.3 Repeated or longer stays are not covered by this protocol.

5. Planned Longer Term Stays

5.1 If an opportunity arises, or there is a need for a child to stay elsewhere for a longer period of time (more than 3 nights), such a placement needs to be agreed with the Child/Young person’s Social Worker and the checks detailed below need to be made.

All the checks detailed in Paragraph 3.2 should be met, as well as the following:

  • An enhanced disclosure check via the Disclosure and Barring Service to be undertaken on all those over 16 years old living in the household;
  • A Children’s/Social Services records check;
  • Consultation with Parents wherever possible - this requirement only being waived in exceptional circumstances e.g. if their whereabouts are unknown;
  • A social worker must also exercise his or her professional opinion as to other people that need consulting, e.g. independent visitors, extended family member etc; and
  • If a holiday involves travel abroad, written consent of the Chief Children and Families Officer is needed beforehand based on the recommendation of the Principal Officer (functional unit manager);
  • School Trips or outings must have written consent from the Principal Officer, unless child/young person is accommodated under Section 20, when parental permission must be sought, in writing where possible. If the parent is deemed to be acting unreasonably then the Chief Officer should provide consent.

6. Stays for Friends at the Home of the Child/Young Person

6.1 Carers can make their own judgements about who they have to stay with them including friends of the children or young people that they foster.
6.2 Children and Young People who live in Residential Establishments should be able to have their friends/family members stay with them subject to the policies and procedures which are contained within the homes registration with the Care Standards authority. Each Residential Establishment should have their own guidelines on this.