Overnight stays for looked after children

Overnight stays for looked after children – guidance for social workers and carers



This guidance will lead to an improvement in how children and young people experience being looked after by Brighton and Hove City Council. We recognise that overnight stays can promote friendships and links in the local community and help to normalise the experience of being in care. The aim of this guidance is to provide detailed advice to social workers and carers about the law and good practice in relation to looked after children staying away from their placements overnight. Definitions of different overnight stays will be provided. See Statutory Guidance below.



Children/young people staying overnight with their friends

Definition of Overnight Stays:

One-off stays with non-relatives, eg birthday parties, sleepovers and to promote developing friendships, for a maximum of 2 nights.

Children in permanent placements, ie long term fostering or adoptive placements approved by the Permanence Panel

The authority to approve this should normally be delegated to the carer. There should be agreement at the Foster Placement Agreement/matching stage if there are circumstances whereby the child’s social worker should be informed.

Children in mainstream foster placements/supported lodgings placements

This should be dealt with at the Placement Plan stage. Normally, the ability to agree overnight stays should be delegated to the foster carer who would notify the child or young person’s social worker, but there will be instances where reference must be made back to the child or young person’s social worker before a decision is made. Examples of such circumstances would be: children the subject of care proceedings; children with a history of absconding or other risky behaviours; children with links to risky networks. In addition the age and length of time the child has been in the placement would be relevant. The situation should be modified as necessary through the review process.

Family and Friends Carers

The authority to agree overnight stays should normally be delegated to carers. Agreement should be reached at the Placement Plan stage as to whether the child or young person’s social worker needs to be informed.

In all cases where the decision is delegated to the carer, they ‘should exercise the same level of care in making a judgement about the safety of the fostered child/young person, as they do in respect of their own children’ (Fostering Network Guidelines 2002).

Other circumstances where the child/young person stays away from the placement

Children staying overnight with parents

Overnight stays with anyone who has, or has had parental responsibility for a child is governed by the Placement with Parents Regulations, where a child is subject to a care order or interim care order, and these should be applied.

Children staying overnight with friends/relatives of their carers as a form of babysitting

We accept that children will stay overnight with friends and relatives as a form of babysitting from time to time. This is a normal part of family life. However, the approach will be different depending on the type of placement.

In approved permanent placements, we would expect that carers should be able to make their own decisions about this. Issues about individual children’s needs and attachment issues should have been addressed through the assessment and matching process.

For mainstream foster placements, children or young people may stay up to 2 nights with other adults without an enhanced DBS check provided that the carers have satisfied themselves that all adults in the other household are of good character. If the children or young people are staying on a regular overnight basis with other adults, all adults should have been enhanced DBS checked, and the stays should only happen following consultation by the carer with the child’s social worker and the supervising social worker as to the appropriateness of this.

For family and friends carers, the supervising social worker (where there is a separate social worker for the carer) and child’s social worker should be consulted by the carers. Where they have a network of friends/relatives who are likely to provide care, this should be discussed during the assessment and agreed as part of the Placement Plan. Any adults likely to provide regular babysitting should be enhanced DBS checked.

For all types of placements, it will be important for social workers and managers to monitor the pattern of such stays and ensure they do not become a regular respite arrangement by default. If respite care is formally arranged as part of the care package,  a formal assessment of the respite carers should have take place, and it should be subject to the appropriate monitoring and review arrangements that apply to respite care. The child’s social worker and practice manager should always agree respite care arrangements for children already in foster care.

Children staying away from the placement as part of contact arrangements with other family members

These arrangements should be referred back to the child’s social worker by the carer. The social worker should carry out appropriate checks (enhanced DBS, visit to house, interview of carer), depending on the individual circumstances of the case; eg relationship, age of child, overall plan, one-off overnight or ongoing arrangement.

The contact arrangements will be subject to a risk assessment under the Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 2011 (Standard 9)- except where an overriding requirement exists, eg a court order, the regulations require the fostering service to ensure that contact does not take place until the child’s social worker has carried out a risk assessment and made arrangements for any necessary supervision.

Role of birth parents in decision making

This should be dealt with in the Placement Plan meeting and modified through the review process as necessary, taking account of the child’s legal status.

Monitoring and review

The aim of the policy is to support carers and children and young people to have as normal a life as possible. Where the decision to agree overnight stays has been delegated to the carer, it is expected that social workers would support carers in carrying this out.

The pattern of overnight stays should be considered within the review process and any issues could be discussed.

In all cases, carers must keep written records of overnight stays away from the placement. In addition, these should be brought to the LAC review. Supervising social workers and the child’s social worker may ask to see the records at any time.

In exceptional circumstances the child or young person may wish to use the Complaints Procedure or consult the Children’s Rights Service.

The pattern of overnight stays will also be looked at through the carer’s review process and internal and external inspections.

The Fieldwork Management and Fostering and Adoption Service Management Teams will review the operation of the policy when necessary, in consultation with children and young people, carers and staff.


Overnight stays – updated 01 April 2011

 “This guidance supersedes and replaces LAC (2004)4 ‘Guidance on the delegation of decision making on overnight stays for looked after children’ (CA89 Vol 4)

 Foster carers’ delegated authority


3.9       Delays and missed opportunities for looked children as a result of poor planning around delegation of authority can be a bar to children experiencing a fulfilled childhood and feeling part of the foster carer’s family. Looked after children say that problems obtaining parents’ and local authorities’ consent to everyday activities can make them feel different from their peers, causing them embarrassment and upset. It is therefore very important to agree upfront who can make which decisions about a looked after child, and that this is understood by all key parties and reviewed regularly.


3.10     Foster carers should be given the maximum appropriate flexibility to take decisions relating to children in their care, within the framework of the agreed placement plan and the law governing parental responsibility (PR). Except where there are particular identified factors which dictate to the contrary, foster carers should be given delegated authority to make day to day decisions regarding health, education, leisure.


3.11     Those with PR for a child (the mother will have PR, the father might do too) retain their PR once a child becomes looked after. If a child is placed voluntarily under section 20 of the 1989 Act, the local authority does not have PR and so agreement must be reached about what decision-making the parents will delegate to the local authority. The local authority should work with the parent(s) as far as possible to help them understand the benefits to their child of appropriate delegation to the local authority and foster carers.


3.12     If a child is subject to a care order, interim care order or emergency protection order, the parent(s) share PR with the local authority and the local authority can limit the extent to which the parent(s) can exercise their PR if this is necessary to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. As far as possible, however, parents whose child is subject to a care, interim or emergency protection order should be consulted about their child’s care and their views taken into account. Whatever the legal status of a child’s placement, parents should be helped to understand the role of foster carers and the relevance of appropriate delegated authority, in order that they can support the foster carers.


3.13     It is important that foster carers know what authority they have to make decisions about everyday matters involving the child. Arrangements for delegating authority from the parents to the local authority and/or from the local authority to the foster carers, must be discussed and agreed as part of the care planning process, particularly at placement planning meetings, and agreements should be recorded in the placement plan.


3.14     Paragraph 3(4) of Schedule 2 of the 2010 Regulations, as amended by regulation 43(5) of the 2011 Regulations, requires that the placement plan set out any circumstances in which the foster carer must obtain the prior approval of the responsible authority or the parent/s before making decisions in relation to the child or the child’s care. More generally, the placement plan should provide clarity about what authority the parents have delegated to the local authority, and how the day to day parenting tasks will be shared between the foster carer(s) and the local authority. The person(s) with the authority to take a particular decision or give a particular consent must be clearly named on the placement plan and any associated actions (e.g. a requirement for the foster carer to notify the local authority that a particular decision has been made) should be clearly set out.


3.15     Arrangements for delegated authority should be given particular scrutiny when children are confirmed in long term or permanent placements, and attention given to how responsibilities are shared in order to reinforce and support the long terms bonds and attachments which foster carers will be expected to build with the child. In all placements, particularly those that are long term or permanent, what is appropriate to delegate to the foster carer, and what the parent(s) are prepared to delegate to the local authority, may change. Agreements about delegation of authority should therefore be regularly reviewed through care planning and review meetings, taking into account the views of birth parent(s), the child, the foster carer and the legal status of the placement; any changes should be recorded in the placement plan.


3.16     Where a child is placed with foster carers approved by a fostering agency or another local authority, the responsible authority should consult the fostering service provider about what authority should be delegated to the foster carer. Where authority for a particular decision or consent lies with the responsible authority, that authority should ensure that decisions are made in the same timely way whether or not the foster carer has been approved by themselves, and the responsible authority should ensure that any information that may be required to enable a foster carer to take a decision about a child is provided promptly.


3.17     Difficulties obtaining permission for sleep-overs is often highlighted as a particular concern by looked after children. Looked after children should as far as possible be granted the same permissions to take part in normal and acceptable age appropriate peer activities as would reasonably be granted by the parents of their peers. It should be normal practice for the responsible authority, in agreement with those with PR, to delegate to the child’s foster carer day to day decision making about allowing a looked after child to stay overnight with friends, and to state this in the placement plan. Parents make judgements on whether or not there are known risks to staying in a particular household or visiting relatives, and similar judgements should normally be made for children in foster care by their responsible carers. Judgements should be based on a reasonable assessment of risks. In all cases foster carers should be made urgently aware of any individuals, addresses or areas which may place a child at risk, and this should also be included in the placement plan.


3.18     There may sometimes be exceptional reasons to require foster carers to seek the permission of either the responsible authority or a person with parental responsibility for the child, or to place specific restrictions on permitting a child to stay overnight with friends. When this is the situation it should be based on clearly stated reasons which are necessary to safeguard and promote the child’s safety or welfare in that child’s particular circumstances. In such cases, the restriction should be clearly stated in the child’s placement plan. Wherever practicable the child should be consulted over the issue and their views and feelings taken into account in reaching the decision. The restriction and the reasons for it should be fully explained to the child concerned unless, exceptionally, this would not be consistent with the child’s welfare. Any restrictions should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they remain relevant.


3.19     In making decisions about whether or not to permit a looked after child to stay overnight with a friend or to have a holiday with their friends or with relatives of their foster carers, or to go on a school trip, foster carers and responsible authorities should consider the following factors:


  • Whether there are any relevant restrictions contained for exceptional reasons in the child’s care plan, including the placement plan;


  • Whether there are any court orders which restrict the child from making a particular overnight stay, visit or holiday;


  • Whether there are any factors in the child’s past experiences or behaviour which would preclude the overnight stay, visit or holiday;


  • Whether there are any grounds for concern that the child may be at significant risk in the household concerned or from the activities proposed;


  • The age and level of understanding of the child concerned;


  • What is known about the reasons for the overnight stay, visit or holiday;


  • The length of the stay.


3.20     If in doubt about the appropriate decision or if there is reason to consider that a child may be at specific risk in staying in a particular household, the foster carers should consult the responsible authority for advice. The child and their carers should always be told of the criteria that will be used to make decisions about overnight stays, visits and holidays.


3.21     Foster carers should always have contact details for the household in which the child will be staying. They should also make contact with the household beforehand, as would any good parent, to assist in assessing the request and to confirm arrangements and to ensure that the household where the child will be staying have, in turn, the contact details of the foster carer(s).


3.22     There is no statutory duty for an enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) disclosure to be sought in relation to adults in a private household where a child may stay overnight or visit, or who the child may accompany on a holiday or on a school trip. Enhanced DBS checks should not normally be sought as a precondition.


3.23     There is no requirement that where a looked after child visits or spends a holiday with their foster carer’s friends or relative that the individual must be approved as a local authority foster carer, as the child will remain formally placed with their usual foster carers.


3.24     More detailed guidance about care planning and the placement plan can be found in Chapter 3 of Volume 2.


Contact with family and friends


3.25     Children and young people who are looked after often, for a variety of reasons, live away from their family, community and friends. For the majority it is in their best interests to sustain, reinforce or create links with their birth family. The responsibility of the local authority in relation to this are set out in Volume 2.


3.26     Subject to any court order and the contents of the placement plan, the fostering service has a duty to promote contact between a child placed with a foster carer and his parents, relatives and friends, unless such contact is not practicable or consistent with the child’s welfare. This duty does not apply to children receiving short breaks who are not looked after. However, the short break care plan should address any requirements around a child’s contact with their family during a short break, such as phone calls or postcards. (regulations 14 and 42 and standard 9).


3.27     Subject to the child’s care plan, foster carers and fostering service staff must help to promote, support and encourage children to maintain positive and constructive contact with their parents and wider family, friends and others who are important to them. Foster carers must be clear from the placement plan what delegated authority they have to make day to day decisions about contact arrangements. “



Like this site?

Like us on Facebook!



Text Size